In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

April 2016 Archives

Ex-Vanguard In-House Gets Backing From the SEC in Whistleblower Case

A former in-house lawyer for Vanguard group has a friend in the SEC in his wrongful termination battle against the giant mutual fund. It is a great example of the sort of whistleblower situation that no lawyer should wish on another.

This is one more case in a recent series of relator suits against large financial institutions that've been accused to tax-shenanigans.

Tax day has come and gone. But that doesn't mean in-house counsel can stop worrying about the IRS. Helping to keep the company on the right side of the tax code, while helping minimize its tax burden, is a year-round job.

To help you out, here are our five top tax tips for in-house counsel, from FindLaw's archives.

Women In-House Lawyers Make 15 Percent Less Than Men, Study Finds

According to Canada's Canadian Corporate Counsel Association and Counsel Network, female in-house lawyers are earning about 15 percent less than their average randomly selected male colleagues. The results of the survey were reported by Canadian Lawyer magazine.

But the numbers can hardly qualify as news. The fifteen percent number was apparently evident about four years ago.

Is the budget for your intellectual property legal team too high? Are you overspending on legal while your competitors get by with leaner teams? Or is it too low, destining you to go over budget?

How can you tell, anyway? By looking to a few key performance indicators to see if your IP legal spending lines up with industry practice.

No company likes to lose its valuable employees to the competition. But there are things you can do to help increase employee retention. Keeping workers engaged and satisfied is your best bet, but it's common to make use of non-compete clauses and other post-employment restrictions as well.

But, because non-competes are, well, a bit anti-competitive, they have to be crafted with care, if they're going to withstand scrutiny. Here's our best strategies to help you out, from the FindLaw archives.

Airbnb Hires New General Counsel in Time for Worldwide Legal Headaches

The room rental company Airbnb, Inc. has just hired a new general counsel right in time to respond to an increasing number of legal headaches coming the company's way.

As Airbnb falls under the umbrella of the new "gig" economy, many of the legal issues will be new for in-house counsel.

In early April, the Department of Labor issued its long-awaited final rules for financial advisors handling retirement accounts. And you don't have to work for a large investor for the rules to affect you. We all, after all, have a 401(k) or IRA. And now the rules governing how advisors handle those accounts -- worth trillions of dollars -- are a bit more complicated.

Here's what you need to know.

When it comes to patents and intellectual property, the techies down in Silicon Valley often repeat a familiar mantra: patents are anticompetitive, anti-innovation, just plain bad. But that simplistic outlook was challenged, a bit, in a recent talk by Ted Ullyot, former general counsel for Facebook.

In a presentation entitled "Innovation, Disruption and Intellectual Property: A View From Silicon Valley," Ullyot told students and professors at Marquette Law School that the relationship between technological innovation and intellectual property law was slightly more complicated than typical dogma allows.

You don't have to be an Internet giant to have a presence on the web. And the web has long been considered relatively lawless when it comes to government regulations -- think hacking, illegal trade and streaming, the lack of sales tax. But that sort of lawlessness doesn't apply to you.

There are, indeed, significant legal issues involving your company's website. Here's what every in-house counsel needs to know.

When it comes to life science companies, compliance is starting to play a greater role. Where attorneys in medical, health care, pharmaceutical, and biotech companies were once focused almost exclusively on government rules, their responsibilities now extend far beyond regulatory compliance.

And the shift isn't isolated to major medical companies with robust legal and compliance departments. Even companies with as few as 25 employees are building up their compliance teams, according to the Wall Street Journal.

EEOC Assists Small Businesses That Can't Afford Lawyers

As any corporate lawyer knows, compliance can be a major business expense -- one so big that many businesses simply shoot first and pray for the best. The fact that federal employment and discrimination laws are so expansive means guaranteed job security for corporate lawyers.

But last month, the EEOC released a single page fact sheet that helps small start-ups get compliant quickly without the help of lawyers. Corporate lawyers may commence grumbling.

Privacy and data security are some of the most significant emerging legal issues of our day. (If you don't believe us, check out the continued fallout from the Panama Papers, or the OPM hack, or the billions of dollars spent on corporate cyber insurance policies.)

And when it comes to dealing with privacy and data security issues, companies turn to outside counsel, according to a new survey.

Do your protective orders, settlement agreements, and confidentiality provisions constrain information that might otherwise be reported to the government? Well, the feds would like you to knock it off.

In March, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration became the newest federal agency to bar gag provisions and confidentiality requirements that might prohibit information gained in litigation from being shared with the federal government. NHTSA now joins the SEC and OSHA in barring gag clauses and anti-whistleblowing provisions.

American businesses are undergoing a major consolidation period as mergers and acquisitions continue to fuel business growth. 2015 was the biggest year ever for mergers and acquisitions, with $4.7 trillion in mergers and acquisitions, according to Thomson Reuters. And the trend doesn't show signs of reversing anytime soon.

Mergers and acquisitions put in-house attorneys in a unique position. They're deal makers, negotiators, and compliance experts -- yet they might also need to polish up their resumes, should legal departments be consolidated. Here's what in-house counsel need to know about dealing with mergers and acquisitions.

Should You Fire Your Employee for Gambling? Can You?

Several JPMorgan employees were fired from their positions at the company after it was revealed that they were involved in gambling ring. They were fired shortly after when their activities started to raise the suspicions of Chase bank.

Vices are to be expected with employees sooner or later. But what should you do about it? Or more importantly, what can you do about it?

The federal minimum wage stands at a paltry $7.25 an hour. But while the federal government might be fine with you paying so little, some states recently have instituted drastic increases to their minimum wages.

Just last week, California and New York both adopted new laws setting a $15 minimum wage. That's a major change to the status quo -- an almost livable minimum wage, set to roll out over the next few years. Here's what you need to know.

Ruby Tuesday Hit With Unappetizing Wage and Hour Class Action

Wage and hour class actions are about as appealing as a bland, chain restaurant burger. And Ruby Tuesday just got served with an extra helping of hard to swallow litigation, now that a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of every single tipped worker who worked at Ruby Tuesday locations in the last three years. If things go really badly for the restaurant chain, workers could be entitled up to $10.24 per hour of back pay -- across thousands of workers and 650-something locations, mind you.

And Ruby Tuesday isn't alone. Employment suits have been coming from multiple directions making the business of dining a complicated one indeed.

You have contracts with vendors and employees. You have trade secrets agreements and domestic patent protections. You're even pursing individual foreign patents. But, if you're not filing an application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, you're overlooking an important tool to protect your company's intellectual property internationally.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty creates a unified procedure for patenting inventions internationally. And while a PCT application doesn't actually result in an international patent, it does have numerous benefits, including reducing patent examination work and giving you an extra 18 months to file for patent protection in foreign jurisdictions.