In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

July 2017 Archives

eDiscovery Mistake Leads to 'Nightmare' for Wells Fargo Lawyer

Ever had that nightmare where you pushed the wrong button and suddenly your career was over?

That's gotta be the real-life nightmare Angela Turiano is having. In an eDiscovery response, Truiano accidentally turned over confidential client information to opposing counsel.

But this wasn't just some embarrassing email; it was confidential information about thousands of Wells Fargo's wealthiest clients -- names, Social Security numbers, and billions of dollars. If only there were an undo button.

Snopes Survives Legal 'Hostage' Crisis

Fact or fiction: Snopes is in danger of shutting down?

It's a fact, according to Snopes, the internet's fact-checking website.

The story goes that Snopes had contracted with an outside vendor, but the vendor will not relinquish control of the website, including advertising. That means Snopes is running out of money.

Elon Musk Needs In-House Counsel for The Boring Company

Elon Musk, the futurist and founder of SpaceX, has a job opening: in-house counsel at The Boring Company.

If the name sounds like a joke, maybe it is. The "boring" company is supposed to build transportation tunnels -- not exactly reaching for the stars.

But maybe Musk is offering a real job. After all, tunnels have serviced commuters for ages and the Tesla founder already has the cars.

ExxonMobil Case Fans Fire Around Ex-CEO

President Trump's Russia affair just got more complicated, but the latest twist is turning into a nightmare for a major corporation and its former chief executive officer.

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, was head of ExxonMobil three years ago. The company struck a deal with Russian oligarch Igor Sechin on behalf of Rosneft oil, but then the United States sanctioned Sechin for backing Russia when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine a year later.

Now the U.S. has fined ExxonMobil $2 million for violating the sanctions orders, the oil company is suing the government back, and Tillerson is about to quit his job.

You don't even need to spend a minute in virtual reality to know that the future is here. And with all the new technology, as always, there are new challenges.

RFID implants, while not so new anymore, have still not been utilized to their fullest potential, especially by employers in the U.S. However, one employer in Wisconsin is looking to change that by setting an example.

Three Square Media rolled out a program for employees to get implanted with an RFID device. The implant, which is about the size of a grain of rice, can serve as an ID badge, a key card, a way to bypass multi-step authentication on computers, or other devices, and can even be used for electronic payments like a smart phone.

While the program is voluntary, the company hopes their own example will allow its customers to see what's possible. Three Square Media sells technology for self-service style marketplaces and kiosks for private enterprises.

GC Fashion Tips: How to Dress Like a Boss

When in Rome, do as the Romans. But what to wear if you're the emperor?

No, you don't put on a toga and laurels. That might work at a frat party in 1978, but we're talking about dressing for a law department in 2017.

When it's business casual for most workers, the boss has to stand apart. For general counsel, sometimes it comes down to a tie.

When a call comes in requesting an employment reference, employers often say too little out of fear of lawsuits. To make matters worse, gone are the days of writing your worst employee a glowing reference, a la Bartleby, the Scrivener, so you don't have to feel guilty about kicking them to the curb for poor performance.

Believe it or not, providing a good reference for a bad employee can get you sued. Have you heard the one about the company that failed to disclose during a reference check that the employee in question was fired for drug use on the job? That company got sued.

So what's a company to do? Change their policy?

GC Tips for Serving as an Expert Witness

Marc Firestone, general counsel for Phillip Morris, told Congressional representatives that illegal tobacco dealers rob governments of up to $50 billion in tax revenue each year.

"Criminals are the only promoters of the global illegal tobacco trade," he reported to the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

His expert testimony highlighted a serious problem in the industry, but it also underscored a challenge that general counsel face when called upon to testify: what can you actually say?

Professional development is a major key to success, not just for lawyers, but also across many industries. Many firms and organizations happily pay for professional development that is related to your position, or to help you advance within the firm or company. Some will even provide employees with their own budget for any kind of education.

But, when your firm or company won't foot the bill for courses to help you advance, let alone your CLEs, do you really owe it to them to do job-related development? What about when they're only willing to pay for job-related courses?

Corporate Work Available: Encryption Required

Peter Beshar, general counsel at Marsh & McLennan Companies, won't shake hands with just any lawyer.

When it comes to email with outside counsel, he requires an "electronic handshake." It's a form of email encryption, which verifies the domains of two companies communicating with each other.

In a cyber-sensitive world, it's an idea that is catching on at many law firms that want to ensure client information is secure.

Facebookopolis: Legal Issues With Facebook's New Village

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have Zuckerberg money -- $62 billion and counting?

That's not going to happen for many reasons, but it's a segue to this idea: Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be Facebook's general counsel? Alright, that's a stretch, too, but we're getting to the point.

There are a lot of challenges that come with all that money and responsibility, and you may not want them. Just imagine the legal issues with Facebook's new village.

GCs Share Data on Law Firms to Spur Innovation

General counsel from 25 major companies are sharing data about their law firms, including billing rates, practice areas, and other business information.

The companies include Mastercard, Panasonic, Paypal, and others across the corporate spectrum. They are looking for more efficient legal services, and sending a message to outside counsel that times are changing.

Corporate clients have increasingly kept more matters in-house and outsourced work to legal service providers in recent years, and now they want to communicate about the changes. In their open letter, the general counsel said the industry has "struggled to innovate."

Fed Appoints New General Counsel: Meet Mark Van Der Weide

Mark Van Der Weide, a legal star who has been rising for some time, has reached a zenith in the American economy.

The Federal Reserve Board has appointed him as general counsel, following Scott G. Alvarez, a 36-year-veteran of the agency, who is retiring. Van Der Weide beat out many other veteran attorneys for the position, having ascended steadily at the Fed since 2010.

"The Board gave thorough consideration to many highly qualified internal and external candidates and Mr. Van Der Weide was chosen for his exceptional skills and experience," the Fed said in a statement.

Should You Ever Sign Agreements Over Drinks?

Some of the greatest agreements are celebrated with a toast.

But when has a party gotten out of control? When the bride passes out drunk? When a signer spills his drink on the document?

It's not much of a defense to say you were drunk at the time, especially in DUI court, but it could be a defense to enforcing an agreement if a signer loses capacity. So here's to drinking responsibly!

After a Data Breach: What Not to Do

What should you do immediately after a data breach? 1) Erase your browser history. 2) Go out for a few drinks. 3) Look for a new job.

Just kidding. But seriously, there are some common mistakes people make after discovering a data breach. Here are a few things not to do:

Tight Budgets Put Squeeze on IP Firms

When a sandstorm is coming, it's good to be a camel.

In the story, the camel inched its way into an Arab's tent for protection. First its nose, then the front feet, and finally its whole body pushed the Arab out.

Likewise, as intellectual property budgets have shrunk, companies have moved more legal work in-house and outsourced other jobs to legal service providers. In the mix, IP law firms have found themselves even more on the outside looking in.

Can You Use Keylogger Software on Employees?

If you want to spy on your employees, can you consider using keylogger software? The answer is "no" because they have privacy rights.

However, you can use keylogger software if you tell your workers first. That's not spying. That's protecting the company.

Traveling Abroad With a Laptop? Here's What Employees Should Know

Traveling abroad? Don't forget your passport, your laptop, and your export license.

Wh-what export license? Oh, maybe your company attorney didn't tell you that your laptop requires an export license.

That's right, the United States requires a license for certain technology and software going abroad. It's not just to control weapons technology, either.

Will Grubhub Trial Resolve Independent Contractor Question?

Silicon Valley lawyers have their eyes on Grubhub, one of the hottest, publicly traded tech companies on Wall Street.

It's not because the company can get them lunch faster than an elevator on a San Francisco high rise. It's because Grubhub's business model is on trial in a California courtroom.

And the legal question -- whether its drivers are employees or independent contractors -- could redefine the "gig economy."

McDonald's Faces Another Labor Suit

After McDonald's sold its first 100 billion hamburgers, the company stopped counting.

Now the fast-food chain is counting labor law cases it has settled. Last year, it was one.

This year, the business is facing a class action over a policy that keeps its workers from going to competing McDonald's franchises. That's a lot of employees who want to make more money, and they don't want french fries with that.

Tips for Conducting Corporate Internal Investigations

With some problems, you can just throw money at them and they will go away.

But with an internal investigation, spending money is just the beginning of dealing with a problem. In the end, the company may well pay more after the investigation is done.

In any case, there are no real shortcuts to the process. However, there are some tips: