In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

May 2017 Archives

Corporations: When Is It Time to Speak Up?

One appellate court said President Trump's latest travel ban "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination." It's one thing for a court to say that, but should corporations ever speak up against policies they find destructive?

Major corporations, like Ford, Google, and Facebook, have spoken out loudly against the president's policies. They have become part of a diverse choir for corporate speech, causing companies to consider the difficult question about when to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Who Wants Uber's General Counsel Role?

Looking at Uber's legal organization is a little like looking at an incomplete schematic for a car.

If you are not an electrician or really good at sorting out a tangle, you may have trouble figuring out how the company's legal team even works. There are definitely some missing connections.

Last week, the San Francisco-based company moved its general counsel to chief legal officer. Days later, the company's top attorney for basically the rest of the world quit.

In the meantime, there's a big hole at the general counsel position. Does anybody know where this car is going?

Creativity Required for Creating New Jobs as Robots Take Old Ones

Technology is like an unstoppable wave, rushing upon the shore and scattering countless grains of sand.

In the same way, technology will wash away workers in the coming economic sea change. Smart machines will take their jobs, and they will need new ones.

Darlene Damm, writing for the Harvard Business Review, says it's time for companies to get creative.

Fake Email Puts Barclays CEO on the Spot

At a roast, at least one joke cuts so close that the audience laughs only because people aren't sure how to react.

It happened at a roast recently for Jes Staley, chief executive officer for Barclays. The bank was hosting its annual shareholder meeting, where Staley got the brunt of jokes about a prankster who fooled him with a message posing as the bank's chairman.

Staley had to laugh it off for the shareholders, but the spoofed email was a serious matter. It resulted in a government investigation and a pay cut for Staley over the way he handled it.

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.

Time for Exit Interviews at Uber?

With litigation pending against Uber over its self-driving technology, a group of its engineers are reportedly headed for the doors.

Recode reports that the company is facing an exodus of key talent. Instead of waiting for a court decision that could terminate their division, the engineers are looking elsewhere.

It is another impending problem for Uber, which is already entangled in various lawsuits and barely able to pay its bills. So what is a company attorney to do when facing critical resignations?

When we see a good idea, we sometimes ask ourselves, "Why didn't I think of that?"

Then there are those times we say, "What were they thinking?" This is one of those times because this app is not a good idea.

Feeld, a dating app that can piggyback on many office communication networks, is designed to facilitate hook-ups at work. It is not an innovation as much as it is an invitation to sexual harassment. And so now it is time to think about preventing harassment in the virtual workplace.

This Crime-Fighting Robot Is Ready to Protect Your Business

There's a new sheriff in town, but there's a catch: it's a robot.

K5 is a security robot that works for less than minimum wage, doesn't take breaks, and won't sue for discrimination if you misassign its gender. With laser reflexes and hi-tech cameras for surveillance, the thing can take pictures faster than a teenager with an iPhone at the mall.

So if you need a modern crime-fighter to patrol your parking lot or other business, K5 is ready for work.

Calculating the 'Day of Rest' for Workers in California

When the California Supreme Court said employees are guaranteed a day of rest for each workweek, it left the math up to employers.

It requires some calculations, but on balance it means that full-time workers are entitled to no less than one day's rest for every seven. In Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., the court said the law protects the day of rest for anyone who works more than six hours a day.

"If on any one day an employee works more than six hours, a day of rest must be provided during that workweek," Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote, adding that the rule is subject to some exceptions.

The math really comes in when employers try to figure out the exceptions.

Startup Counsel Salaries Going Up in Silicon Valley

Until a startup is required to disclose compensation details, it's hard to know how much general counsel make there.

But according to reports, in-house counsel salaries are going up in 2017. And in Silicon Valley, the startups are putting it out there.

Julie Brush, writing for the Recorder, says the market has picked up for general counsel in the San Francisco Bay Area. She says the base salary is $250,000 to $300,000.

"Of all the compensation knobs, this one has turned the most in a forward direction for candidates," she wrote. "Rarely will the number exceed $300K or fall below $250K at the offer stage."

Will Pandora Internet Radio Go Up for Sale?

With all the excitement about innovation, sometimes it leaves companies and even industries behind like dead bodies in unmarked graves.

Pandora, the first radio music service online, has fallen victim to innovations by Apple and Spotify. The rumors of its demise are exaggerated, but Pandora may soon be taken over by another company or be forced to borrow more money to survive.

The company reportedly is "confident" that it will be sold in the next 30 days, even as it announced an agreement to take a $150 million investment from a private equity firm. The reports have caused Pandora's stock to rise and fall, and it signals some significant changes ahead.

Uber and Sexual Harassment of 'Independent Contractors'

Uber has fought hard to ensure that its drivers are independent contractors as part of its business model.

Usually, the fight takes place in a lawsuit about overtime and employee benefits. The company will pay a premium to settle cases so long as it can keep drivers going as independent contractors and not as employees.

However, another, uglier "employee v. independent contractor" battle has been working its way to the center of the ring. Are Uber drivers entitled to protections as employees against sexual harassment?

The answer is: don't bet on 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.

Microsoft's Legal Team Adds New Role: Privacy Lawyer

As hackers continue to attack companies everywhere, Microsoft has appointed a privacy lawyer to lead the company in the battle against cybercrime.

Julie Brill, a former Federal Trade Commissioner, will oversee privacy and regulatory affairs for the company. She will have other responsibilities, including telecommunications regulations, corporate standards, and internet governance, but her appointment highlights Microsoft's emphasis on cybersecurity.

"As a company, the problem that perhaps concerns us the most in the cybersecurity space is the growing rise of nation state attacks," said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, during a recent speech in Brussels.

Becoming the Interim General Counsel: Congratulations and Condolences

When a head coach leaves a team or gets sidelined, an assistant coach steps up to become the interim head coach.

Suddenly, you are in charge -- at least until the head coach comes back or a new one takes over. The real challenge is not the job but the sudden spotlight.

It's like when Luke Walton took over as interim head coach for Steve Kerr to lead the world champion Golden State Warriors, which worked out quite well for him. But that's another story. This blog is about being interim general counsel.

Stand Up to Workplace Bullying

When I was in elementary school, I saw a fist-fight between a bully and my friend.

Hundreds of children surrounded them, or at least it seemed like that. Everything seems bigger in the rear-view mirror of life.

I'll never forget how the bully tried to show off, whirling around like a dancer before he threw a punch. It bloodied my friend, a fresh white canvas splashed with angry flares of red paint.

I have always felt bad about not doing anything to stop it. Here's what I have learned since then, and some things to do to stop bullying -- particularly at the workplace: