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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?

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.

After Nevada Win, Is Wells Fargo on Comeback Trail?

Wells Fargo stock ticked up another percent after the U.S. Supreme Court handed a significant win to the bank at the close of the summer session.

The decision, along with other recent developments at the company, pushed the bank slowly upward since its fall from grace several years ago. Shares climbed a modest three percent in the past twelve months, holding its spot as the nation's third largest bank.

Wells Fargo has survived the Wild West since 1852, but can the company really bounce back from an expose that has cost the bank billions? For some shareholders -- especially executives and corporate counsel -- their fate may rise or fall with the bank's legal challenges.

Controlling Outside Counsel: Micromanage or Hands Off?

As the allied forces stormed Normandy on June 6, 1944, Hitler slept.

His generals were afraid to wake him, and they were not allowed to make decisions on their own. Their delay -- and the victory on D-Day -- marked the beginning of the end for the Germans.

General counsel should take a lesson from their history, says attorney and leadership consultant Ken Grady. Rather than follow flawed practices, they should empower outside counsel to win more battles in the courtroom.

Airline Complaints Rise, Image Going Down

If the tail seems to be wagging the plane, it's something airlines must be getting used to.

A blind man says Frontier Airlines refused to let him board with his granddaughter because he was a "liability." It wasn't a "no shoes, no shirt, no service" policy, but it just sounds wrong.

If there were a video -- like the cell phone video that pinned United Airlines for dragging a passenger off the plane -- this case would have settled already. For now, it's the kind of public relations problem that forces policy changes.

Another Uber Lesson: Firing an Employee at the Center of Scandal

Uber has more problems than an old car and it's starting to break down -- legally.

Drivers have sued the company for overtime and other complaints. Contractors have sued for unpaid bills. A competitor has sued for stealing technology.

But if ever there were a legal spot between a rock and a hard place for Uber, it's between the company and its engineer Anthony Levandowski. The former Google worker allegedly stole self-driving technology and took it to Uber, and a judge is not happy about it.

Judge Questions Wells Fargo Executives' Knowledge of Scandal

If your company's problems make the news, remember, judges read newspapers, too.

It has turned out to be an ongoing problem for Wells Fargo, still reeling from a scandal exposed by the Los Angeles Times in December 2013. The newspaper told the story about how the bank pressured employees to create fake accounts to generate fees, resulting in more than $300 million in penalties against the company to date.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who read the article, was unimpressed by arguments from the bank's attorneys about it. In a motion to dismiss a shareholder class action, Wells Fargo attorney Brendan Cullen tried to downplay the widespread nature of the scandal.

"I find it very difficult to read this article and conclude the conduct was geographically limited and not about the unauthorized opening of accounts," Tigar said.

Theranos Threatens Bankruptcy; Judge Stops Proposed Deal

Theranos played the bankruptcy card in a class-action against the company, but it was a bad play that derailed a proposed deal.

In documents unsealed in Delaware Chancery Court, investors said the company threatened to file for bankruptcy protection if they didn't accept a deal to dismiss their claims. A Theranos lawyer tried to pressure Partner Investments LP and two other funds, which invested more than $96 million in the company, to accept more equity instead.

According to reports, the plaintiffs said Theranos' attorney "sent the unmistakable message" that the company would declare bankruptcy if the investors turned down the deal. The plaintiffs then discovered that Theranos engineered the deal to make it impossible for the funds to obtain "any recovery."

Judge Travis Laster has stopped the proposed deal for now and set a hearing on the matter for June 26.

When Litigation Financing Makes No Cents

Mark Herrmann, a veteran of BigLaw litigation, says that litigation financing makes no sense for rich companies.

They can afford the attorneys fees to litigate, but they borrow the money and lose more even if they win. In a $20 million fee case, for example, they will pay twice that for borrowing. So even if they win $100 million, they will pay $40 million for financing when they could have paid only $20 million out-of-pocket.

Now why would they do that? For once, let's not blame the lawyers. It's the stock analysts.

In January, the Department of Labor sued Google, accusing it of withholding information on pay disparities from federal regulators. Then, last Friday, the DOL accused Google of "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce."

Now, Google is pushing back, arguing that its internal analyses ensure that "our pay practices remain aligned with our commitment to equal pay."