In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

February 2011 Archives

Viacom Hires Top MPAA Lawyer for Anti Piracy Fight

Viacom is bringing in a new general for reinforcements in its ongoing anti piracy fight. The company hired Daniel Mandil, who was the Motion Pictures Association of America's top antipiracy executive. Mandil had played a major role in helping the MPAA fight movie piracy and counterfeiting worldwide, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

According to a source with connections to the MPAA, Mandil was not pushed out and the "organization is sad to see him go," reports. Prior to joining the MPAA Mandil held a top legal position at Sony BMG. Before that, Mandil and was a partner at Covington & Burling. Representatives for the Motion Picture Association of America, as well as Viacom have yet to comment on the move.

Borders Bankruptcy: Meet the Lawyers Handling the Case

The year didn't start out on a high note for Borders executives and shareholders. At the beginning of January, the bookseller was in discussions with publishers about deferring payments, as well as talking to lenders about refinancing its debt. Not only that, Borders began bleeding executives--vice presidents, the chief information officer, and even the general counsel. It was thus expected when the company filed for bankruptcy last week in a Manhattan court.

Borders blames the economic downturn and online competition for its predicament, and plans to close 200 of its 642 stores in the next few weeks. It's hoping that it can run the remaining locations more efficiently and competitively.

Social Media, Video Games: Areas Ripe for Mergers

If your company is involved in social media or video games, it could be a busy year for you as they are ripe for mergers. That's always a double-edged sword, but in this economy, most attorneys are thrilled to see some action. Especially compared to the cost cutting we saw in 2010.

Entertainment and media companies are likely to go looking for deals in 2011, according to a recently-released report. "With the industry's fast-paced shift to digital -- and attractive levels of corporate cash reserves and private equity dry powder, (we believe) the catalysts are in place for more E&M deal activity" this year, says a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, reports.

Did Best Buy Steal Trade Secrets for its Bieber Buy Back Program?

What's a Bieber?!

Those who used commercial breaks during the Super Bowl to stock up on snacks may have missed Best Buy's first-ever Super Bowl ad. Featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber, the commercial introduced the company's new Buy Back Program.

The Buy Back Program seems pretty simple--you pay a little money upfront, and in turn receive a partial refund when you decide to trade the item in for an upgrade. The amount of money you receive depends on how long you've had the gadget. While this concept seems pretty obvious, according to TechCrunch, it was anything but.

California Merchants Can't Ask for Customer Zip Codes

Does your company ask customers for their ZIP code? If so, you might want to take a look at the practice and consider whether it is worth the risk. The Supreme Court of California just ruled that it is a violation of state law to collect ZIP codes from customers.

The court ruled that Williams Sonoma violated the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971. Under the Act, California merchants cannot record "personal identification information." The court found that when Williams Sonoma collected the ZIP code of Jessica Pineda it crossed the line. After receiving the ZIP code, the store used a database to locate her address for marketing purposes. Retail stores are prohibited from asking a customer to provide a ZIP code in the during a credit card transaction, Reuters Legal reports.

ABA Debuts Data Breach and Encryption Handbook

An increase in data breaches had led to the creation of a Data Breach and Encryption Handbook published by the American Bar Association Section of Science & Technology Law. The handbook takes an in-depth look at some of the cybersecurity risks present in the 21st century. With escalating data breaches and their series legal ramifications, it is essential that attorneys become well versed on the topic.

It was once true that safeguarding information meant keeping it in a locked cabinet. In the digital age, obviously things are far more complicated. It is now crucial that every attorney understand how to protect sensitive information.

The Data Breach and Encryption Handbook has 19 chapters, which cover topics including:

Former Ohio In House Counsel Gets Prison for Tax Fraud

Here is something to mark down on your list of things not to do: orchestrate an elaborate tax fraud scheme.

Alan Koehler, the former in house counsel of Buddy's Carpet was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for doing just that, according to the U.S. Justice Department. In addition, Koehler was given a three-year period of supervised release, and a $20,000 fine and a special assessment. Prosecutors had originally sought eight years in prison for Koehler. Koehler's attorneys had sought probation with house arrest.

A jury found Koehler guilty of conspiracy and assisting in the filing of a false federal income tax return. During trial, the evidence demonstrated that Koehler conspired to defraud the United States by having Rozin, Inc., dba Buddy's Carpet, purchase sham "Loss of Income" insurance policies from an insurance company in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What to Expect as a New In House Counsel

Avoiding Big Law? Running from Big Law? Not so fast. Just because you're tired of working long hours for partners who don't appreciate your brilliance, doesn't mean a job as in house counsel won't make you plain old tired.

Going in-house can offer a lot of benefits (read: normal hours), but it may not offer the kind of legal work you're looking for. An overwhelming amount of the practice involves the two C's: contracts and compliance.

NFL General Counsel to Lose Millions if There's a Lockout

How much would you stand to lose if you lost your in-house position? If the NFL has a lockout next season, Jeff Pash, the National Football League's top lawyer and chief labor negotiator, stands to lose nearly $5 million if a deal is not reached by the March 4 deadline. Pash is the NFL general counsel.

Pash, along with Commissioner Roger Goodell, have pledged to take a $1 annual salary if the lockout occurs. Not to be outdone, DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association tweeted that he will take 68 cents if the lockout is avoided.