In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

October 2016 Archives

Skip the commute. Work in your pajamas. Pass the day in a coffee shop. Spend more time with your kids. These are just a few of the perks of working from home, a trend that's grown so quickly that 20 to 25 percent of the American workforce now telecommutes "at some frequency," according to Global Workplace Analytics. But telecommuters aren't spread out evenly. Working from home has been slow to catch on in corporate legal departments, where working in-house typically requires being in-office.

But can in-house lawyers work successfully from home? The answer, from a former general counsel, is yes, so long as the right systems are in place.

As the election draws ever closer, can corporate leaders round up their workforce and attempt to influence their employees' votes? The answer is, like so many others: maybe.

Federal election law generally restricts companies from communicating with rank-and-file workers about political candidates. But for a special "restricted class" of employees, corporate electoral advocacy and political fundraising is fair game.

Unbeknownst to many (okay, almost everyone), there's a secret club of high-powered in-house attorneys that meets annually to share tips and coordinate strategy. The group, which includes the top lawyers from some of the world's biggest banks, doesn't have a name, or even an official membership list, Bloomberg reports. But at this year's meeting, they had one common foe: consumer class actions.

This year, in-house attorneys from Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and more, gathered at Versailles (yes, the "let them eat cake" Versailles) to share how best to defend against class action suits accusing them of market manipulation. Here's what they came up with.

In April, the Department of Labor finalized rules for financial advisors handling retirement accounts, requiring, for the first time, that broker-dealers and financial advisors act in the best interests of their clients. Choosing suitable investments will no longer be enough; there's now a fiduciary duty to "put the customer first."

So, how are firms preparing for the change? With lawyers. Lots of lawyers. (And a bit of retraining on the side.)

Last December, 195 nations reached a historic agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. The Paris Climate Change Agreement marked the most aggressive, concerted action the international community has taken to addressing the climate crisis, but the agreement didn't go into effect automatically. First, it needed to be ratified by at least 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of global emissions.

That threshold was crossed in early October, as ratification by European countries, India, Canada, Bolivia, and Nepal brought more than 55 percent of global emissions under the agreement's umbrella. As a result, the Paris Agreement will enter into legal effect on November 4th. But what will this intergovernmental accord mean for private businesses?

Employers accused of discriminating on the basis of age in hiring just got some good news from the Eleventh Circuit. Earlier this month, the circuit ruled that only employees, and not job applicants, may bring disparate impact age discrimination claims.

The split en banc decision is a significant blow to applicants (and the plaintiff's bar), limiting the reach of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act protections to current employees only.

The Federal Trade Commission released a study of "Patent Assertion Entities" last week, which provides one of the most comprehensive overviews of PAEs, or, as they're popularly known, patent trolls, based on five years of non-public PAE data.

The FTC's study confirms what most of us have long known: patent trolls be trollin'. But the study doesn't just name the problem; the Commission also has recommendations on how to bring patent trolls to heel.

The company is being accused of wrongdoing. Charges of sexual harassment, regulatory noncompliance, or unfair trade practices have been levied. Litigation has started, or is on the horizon.

Should you turn to a private investigator to help prepare? A private dick can help you find out key facts, Sam Spade style. But they can also land companies in hot water, as a recent lawsuit against Uber illustrates.

The election cycle is in its final throws and things are getting more heated (and more nasty) than ever. There are leaked tapes and hacked emails, old tax returns and Ken Bone, Facebook rants and in-your-face rants. The Lincoln-Douglas debates this election cycle is not.

It's possible that political discussions in your workplace have moved beyond friendly water cooler talk and into more heated territory. What, if anything, should an employer (and their in-house legal team) do?

Does data analytics have a place in the in-house legal department? At more and more companies, the answer is yes.

With increasing frequency, forward thinking in-house attorneys are turning to big data and data analytics to identify risks and ensure compliance. Here's how.

Since the 1960s, people have imagined a future full of virtual reality; headsets that could transport you to fin de siecle Paris, holodecks that could recreate the African savanna. But for so long, nothing happened. It seemed like virtual reality would go the way of hoverboards and flying cars; an exciting idea that would just never happen.

No more. Virtual reality is back and booming, with virtual reality games, virtual reality news apps, and millions of dollars invested in VR startups. So, what's it like to be an in-house attorney on the cutting edge of virtual reality technology?

Your cell phones keep exploding. Your cars have been cheating emissions tests. There's E. coli in your burritos. Whatever the reason, your company needs to recall its products -- and that can cost quite a bit.

Sure, general liability insurance will probably cover you if your product results in injuries before being recalled, but you might need special insurance to deal with the additional damages, like lost profits, reputation damage, and significant disruption to your business, that a product recall can cause.

Bribery costs an estimated $1 trillion a year and U.S. companies that engage in bribery abroad can suffer significant financial penalties under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

But bribery risks aren't spread out evenly; some areas are corruption hotspots, while others are relatively corruption free. Here are some ways to tell the difference.