In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

May 2012 Archives

European Regulators Give Google Antitrust Ultimatum

As U.S. regulators continue to investigate antitrust allegations against Google, EU regulators are getting down to business. The European Commission has publicly released a letter that gives Google only a few weeks to come up with remedies to its antitrust concerns.

However, Google has remained steadfast in its belief that these concerns are unfounded. Chairman Eric Schmidt has even gone so far as to reject suggestions that the company will need to alter the way it handles search results in the EU.

Law Schools Offering In House Counsel Classes to Train Future GCs

With the legal job market looking more and more dismal for new graduates, some law schools are changing up their curriculum. Instead of preparing students for law firm life, some are offering in house counsel classes.

Catholic University's Columbus School of Law is one such institution. Last spring it invited Bruno Bich to teach a course on how to practice law for a corporation. Bich is chairman of Bic, as in the French company that makes pens and razors. Bich isn't a lawyer. In fact, his background is in business.

So why would a law school want a non-lawyer to give a lecture to law students?

Facebook IPO Lawsuits Starting to Pile Up

Facebook may have just set a record. In the seven days since the company went public, it's managed to become the subject of two congressional investigations and at least three lawsuits.

One Facebook IPO lawsuit wouldn't have been a surprise -- with an offering this large, there was bound to be a disgruntled investor or two. But between the 2-hour NASDAQ delay and the falling stock prices, few can say they are shocked about the current state of Facebook's legal affairs.

Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn Gets $6.6M Severance Package After Scandal

Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn may have stepped down in early April, but we're only now learning about the intimate details of his relationship with a 29-year-old employee. And the amount of his severance package, of course.

Despite engaging in a relationship that "negatively impacted the work environment," Dunn will receive approximately $6.6 million. That's a lot when compared to disgraced Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson. He never opened the company up to a sexual harassment lawsuit, yet he got nothing.

Bank lenders can't be put first by companies headed towards Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling has set an important new precedent bound to send ripples through the lending industry.

The decision came following a long legal battle between homebuilding company TOUSA, its hedge fund debt holders, and Citigroup. The case had been heard by a bankruptcy judge and a district court. There was $421 million hanging in the balance. In the end, the appeals court ruled the Citigroup loans incurred by TOUSA to fight off bankruptcy were avoidable as fraudulent transfers.

It was a complicated fight, to say the least, but what does it mean for companies facing Chapter 11 and creditors?

Athletic apparel maker Adidas is suing a competitor for allegedly stepping on its trademark with a new line of sneakers.

Germany-based Adidas, whose U.S. operations are headquartered in Portland, Ore., asserts trademark infringement by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based World Industries because of a design on a line of skate shoes, The Oregonian reports.

World Industries' "Major" skate shoe depicts an oversized "W," much like the company's other sneakers. But Adidas' lawyers say the design crosses the line into infringement.

Facebook IPO Legal Fees Hit $2.6M for Fenwick and West

Ever wonder what it cost to take a company public? Well, if it's of the same size and notoriety as Facebook, roughly $2.6 million.

Fenwick & West's Silicon Valley office was tapped to head Facebook's initial public offering back in February, and according to new regulatory figures, the social network expects to pay the firm approximately $2.6 million.

Partners Gordon Davidson and Jeffrey Vetter and associate James Evans must be very happy.

New NLRB Union Election Rules Tossed by Federal Judge

Union elections are officially in a state of flux. Just two weeks after becoming effective, a federal judge has tossed out the National Labor Relations Board's "quickie election rule." The rule, which business groups vehemently oppose, cuts the election timeline in half.

But instead of focusing on the substance of these changes, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia focused on a procedural technicality. The quickie election rule is invalid because the Board failed to follow proper voting protocols.

Return of the MAC: Material Adverse Change Can Break a Deal

In-house counsel, beware of the MAC. No, we're not talking about the computer. We're talking about the deal-breaker clause in a merger.

It's not always easy for an investor or a potential buyer to walk away from a deal. But with material adverse change, or MAC, there is a loophole for the buyer in a deal to walk away.

Is Microsoft Headed for Another Internet Explorer Antitrust Suit?

History repeats itself, or so they say. And it looks like it might be repeating itself with none other than Microsoft.

Microsoft has been working on Windows RT, which is a version of Windows 8 made for ARM-based touch screen tablets and laptops. As ZDNet explains it, Windows RT has two interfaces: Metro and a Windows 7-style desktop. The desktop interface has been designed to run only Microsoft applications, including Internet Explorer.

Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox web browser, and Google, which owns Chrome, have raised concerns about this limitation.

Honk if you like small-claims appeals.

Lawyers for Honda have reason to toot their own horns after a judge overturned a nearly $10,000 small-claims award against the automaker, in a much-publicized case about their hybrids' fuel economy.

Heather Peters, a California hybrid owner who's also a former lawyer, sued Honda in small claims court for alleged false advertising about her hybrid's fuel economy. She won a $9,867 judgment in February, the Associated Press reports.

But Honda's lawyers have now successfully prevented Peters from taking a victory lap.

A former in-house attorney is suing insurance giant AIG over allegedly racist in-house jokes that likened him to the 1970s cartoon character Fat Albert.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" was the title character's catch phrase on "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," a Saturday morning cartoon that ran from 1972 to the mid-1980s. Comedian Bill Cosby voiced Fat Albert, an obese black kid who ended each episode with a rock song.

But when uttered in the workplace, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" took on a totally different and offensive tone, the former assistant general counsel's Fat Albert lawsuit asserts.

Looking to fill job vacancies at your in-house department? Look no further than promoting your current employees, who will likely outperform external hires and can save you money, a new study suggests.

"My research documents some quite substantial costs to external hires and some substantial benefits to internal mobility," the study's author, Matthew Bidwell of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, said in a statement.

External hires may seem more attractive because they bring new skills or a new perspective to your in-house operation. But those benefits may not outweigh the costs, Bidwell warns. For example:

Yahoo's CEO Caught Resume Padding: Whose Head Should Roll?

Just months after he joined the company, investors are publicly calling for Yahoo to fire CEO Scott Thompson. Thompson, who has been touted for his technological experience, appears to have claimed that he had degrees in both accounting and computer science. His computer science degree doesn't actually exist.

Dan Loeb, whose company ThirdPoint holds a 5.8% stake in the company, broke the story when he released a scathing letter sent to the Board of Directors. Though the letter certainly calls into question Thompson's reputation, it also makes you wonder what Yahoo's legal department has been doing during these past few months.

New NLRB 'Quickie Election' Rule for Unions Goes into Effect

Now that the Senate has failed to pass a resolution and a judge has refused to issue an injunction, American businesses are officially subject to the National Labor Relations Board's new "quickie election" rule. As of Monday April 30, the rule became law.

The provisions are expected to shorten the time between the filing of a representation petition and a union election. Experts are predicting that the timeframe will drop from 56 days to about 30.

Will Mad Cow Disease in California Lead to Bankruptcies?

As reports continue to stream in regarding the California dairy cow infected with mad cow disease, American consumers are second-guessing their meat choices. The news has even caused two major South Korean stores to pull U.S. beef from their shelves. Could bankruptcy announcements follow?

While the USDA investigates the circumstances surrounding the tainted cow, the only thing certain is that the beef industry will likely suffer from the press.

But how much damage could the negative coverage do to beef producers and could it be enough to force bankruptcies?