In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

December 2017 Archives

NLRB Decisions Tip the Balance in Favor of Employers

Changes in the law often occur more subtly through administrative processes than through the legislative or judicial branches of government. In 2017, that happened in employment law.

While President Trump wrestled with the courts over his executive orders, a change was taking place at the National Labor Relations Board. As Senators scrutinized the president's picks for the judiciary, a new general counsel quietly took over at the NLRB.

Peter B. Robb began a four-year-term in November, and already the NLRB Board has reversed eight years of employment developments under President Obama. The changes will affect more than 100 million workers and 60 million independent contractors.

Putting Together Top Legal Teams

"By their fruits ye shall know them," Jesus said almost one Christmas and 2,000 years ago.

He was talking about how to know the difference between true prophets and false ones. True ones produce good things; false ones, not so much.

Although Jesus wasn't a big fan of lawyers, his analogy could be a how-to on putting together a good legal department. Otherwise, as Forrest Gump said with a holiday box of chocolates, "you never know what you're gonna get."

In the wake of the recent Apple iPhone throttling scandal, it is clear that even the most loved companies need to ensure that certain actions are not just transparent, but rather crystal clear.

If you are in the dark about the Apple controversy, and you use an iPhone 6, 6S, 7, or SE, you may want to turn your screen brightness down for this: Last year, Apple started throttling (or slowing down) older iPhones (the 7 was only recently added to the list of throttled devices) on purpose. This move has a perfectly rational explanation, but unfortunately when tech geeks discovered the slow down was intentionally caused by Apple, the conspiracy theories began flying, and Apple had a bit of a PR debacle.

Pizza Chief Steps Down Over NFL Speech; Should Companies Just Stuff It?

Football players kneel during the national anthem; you criticize the NFL for mishandling it; and people don't buy pizza.

That's the reality that led the founder of Papa John's Pizza to step down as chief executive officer. John Schnatter blamed slowing sales on the outcry surrounding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

If the head cook thinks like that, maybe it is time to get out of the kitchen. And if you are the general counsel, you might want to say something about it.

Pros and Cons of Unlimited Vacation Policies

Everybody loves vacation time, so what possibly could be the downside of unlimited vacation?

Actually, it's not quite so simple. Employers need workers to do their jobs and they can't do it on vacation.

So with unlimited vacation time, everybody has to work together or it won't work. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Women GCs Making It Rain in 2017

Let's face it, counsel: it is about the money.

Especially when it comes to compensation, few professions rank as high as the legal profession in bowing to the almighty dollar. Make that at least a million dollars.

The homage goes for men and women alike, but this post is just about female lawyers. Here's to the highest-paid women general counsel:

When it comes to the holidays, it seems that more and more employers are taking a relaxed approach to employees that do a little (or a lot) of online shopping at work. While online shopping on company time used to be so taboo that you had try to hide your screen when the boss walked by, now those sweet holiday shopping deals are like officially sanctioned hot office gossip.

Times have changed since online shopping first debuted. It is a lot more secure than it once was. Office networking and cybersecurity is also a lot better than it used to be, such that a lot of the "dangers" that employers used to worry about really aren't a factor anymore. Also, it has gotten so easy that on many sites, all it takes is a few clicks and you're done. In most office settings, it is surprising some employers consider it a fireable offense.

Three Bad Reasons to Stay When You Want to Quit

You know you want to quit, but something is holding you back.

Is it that you are afraid of an uncertain future? Maybe you're worried about making less money? You think people will look down at you for getting out of the business?

These may be the reasons you aren't leaving, but they are bad reasons for staying in a job you can't stand. Here's why:

There is no doubt that the current executive administration is doing what it can to rollback government regulations, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to get away with avoiding all your compliance related activities for 2017.

If you're an in house or GC, you're probably still buried in some of it right now. In fact, most of the laws that require some form of federal corporate compliance and reporting are still intact, and if your company does business in Europe, you're probably gearing up for a challenging 2018 for regulatory compliance already.

Here are three tips to make you compliance and reporting duties easier at the end of 2018:

Navajos Say Wells Fargo Defrauded Them

In the 1800s, Wells Fargo usually knew when its stage coaches were crossing Indian territory.

Today, the bank says its representatives have done nothing to cross the Navajo Nation. Only that was a lie, the tribe says in a federal complaint.

The Navajo Nation alleges that Wells Fargo targeted its people with "predatory sales tactics" to create unnecessary accounts. For the nation's third-largest bank, it is an attack at the worst possible time.

Target Buys Food-Delivery Service for $550 Million

You just can't find a local grocery anymore, and it's going to get even harder to find one soon.

With mergers and acquisitions, small grocers and even chains have been losing ground to mega stores for years. But a new kind of acquisition is threatening now: the super stores are buying food-delivery businesses.

In an all-cash deal, Target is purchasing a grocery-delivery startup for $550 million. It probably won't get done before Christmas, but soon you'll be able to get their groceries the same day you order.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that as more Millennials enter law school, more Millennials will be seeking and taking every type of legal job out there. After all, Millennials have now beaten baby boomers as America's largest generation, and they are entitled enough to enter one of the worst legal job markets in U.S. history.

To that end, the number of lawyer Millennials that will be disappointed by their careers is bound to be astronomical. If we believe the results of a somewhat recent survey of one "prominent" corporate legal recruiter, close to 19 percent of Millennial lawyers see themselves working in house in the next decade. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that more Millennials are working in house now than ever before, especially with how young startup culture has made the business leaders of today.

Using a ride sharing service is already filled with enough unpleasant surprises that some riders are saying enough is enough. But rather than the ride share services facing the wrath of the riders, this time it's TD Bank, Bank of America, and Bank of the West.

The banks are being sued, in separate lawsuits, due to overdraft charges the banks hit ride share users with, despite the users not agreeing to the banks' overdraft protection services.

Executive Liability for Hiding Data Breaches

As data breaches go, Uber probably set the standard for doing too little too late.

The company recently revealed that hackers got personal information on 57 million riders and drivers -- last year. But instead of alerting Uber users at the time, the company paid the hackers $100,000 to destroy the data and keep it quiet.

The U.S. Senate is now considering a bill to require companies to disclose such breaches within 30 days. But with too many hacks to count, it seems like that horse left the barn a while ago.

Advising the CEO Not to Resign

After Dish Network's Charles Ergen announced his resignation, his personal stock dropped almost $1 billion by the end of the week.

He had started the business almost 40 years earlier, selling satellite dishes out of the back of a truck in rural Colorado. His resignation pushed down the company's value, but he still owns 48 percent of it and has a net worth of almost $15 billion.

Good for him, but no so much for investors. So, for the sake of the company, when should a general counsel advise a CEO not to quit?

VW Exec Gets Maximum Prison Term

Note to client: "When pleading guilty, do not blame someone else for your crime."

Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen executive, apparently didn't get the memo. Not that one anyway.

He was sentenced to the maximum term of seven years and ordered to pay $400,000 for his part in the auto company's scandal. Volkswagen cheated emissions tests, and Schmidt covered it up.

Should Your Business Hire Ex-Convicts?

What do Mark Wahlberg, Martha Stewart, and Tim Allen all have in common?

They are all very successful ex-felons. How did they do so well even after their convictions?

Somebody saw their potential and gave them a chance. So should your company hire ex-convicts or ex-felons, too?

How to Identify High-Risk Employees for Cyberattacks

'We have met the enemy and he is us.'

So said Pogo, or whoever thought of if first. The point is, your own people present the biggest threat of a cyberattack.

That's because they share the malware, leave the back door open, and otherwise invite the enemy in for dinner. Here's who they are and how they do it.

When employees go on vacation, there is often a sense that checking in is required. This is especially true for salaried employees who will find their workload stagnating and stinking upon their return. However, if it becomes part of the company culture that unplugging during vacation is unexpected, it shouldn't be a surprise when a high turnover rate becomes the status quo.

Surprisingly, it's not just employees who often feel pressured into working on vacation, but managers do too, and are often the ones setting the bad precedent. And unfortunately, when a manager plugs in while on vacation, quite a bit of damage can be done to a team's morale as well as the company culture.

CVS to Buy Aetna for $69 Billion

If you thought you saw this movie before, it was actually in a different universe.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Aetna announced that it bought Humana for about $37 billion. That was before a black-robed judge shot the deal down.

Now CVS is buying Aetna in a $69 billion merger. That's what's playing now, and it's probably not a sequel.

Minorities Remain Scarce Among General Counsel

Minorities are definitely in the minority of general counsel, according to a new report.

The Minority Counsel Corporation Association says barely 11 percent of general counsel are minorities. That is slightly better than the statistics for minority partners in law firms, but worse than the percentage of minority attorneys altogether.

The statistics show that things are getting better at the lower levels of the law, but not at the top. So what else is new?

Negotiation Tips From Harvard

Every lawyer is a negotiator, and most have a story to go with it.

Like Jackie, who was working for a financial instituion when she received a job offer from a bank to work in-house. It was for more than she expected, but she was still looking at a pay cut.

"She went in asking for 20K more; they countered at 18K more than the initial offer, and she accepted!" Forbes related, adding, "Simply asking works." It's one of many stories and tips on how to negotiate. Beyond that, Harvard offers a valuable checklist to consider: