In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Recently in Corporate Governance Category

DOJ Has a New Rule on Corporate Compliance

Brian Benczkowski, an assistant U.S. attorney general, didn't expect everybody to applaud his speech on corporate monitors.

After all, he was speaking to students at New York University School of Law. They don't usually follow the nuances of corporate compliance.

But business leaders around the country virtually gave him a standing ovation when he announced a change: the Justice Department is cutting back on using corporate monitors.

In these wild times of the current executive administration of the country making a massive push for federal deregulation, compliance industry insiders might be a bit nervous. Even popular media isn't holding back making compliance officers seem to be the worst of the worst and smuggest of the smug, and deserving of having their Porsches intentionally demolished by spiteful Wall Street traders.

Sure, there will always be compliance jobs, but with less regulation, comes less work for the compliance crews, which for in-house lawyers and those aspiring to go in house, is not good news. Earlier this year, a Reuters report explained that bonuses and hiring in the compliance industry, which had been booming post-financial crisis, have stagnated and significantly slowed down.

Microsoft's newest requirements for providers of contract employment services, such as for the company's building services, and other operational roles, is making a bit of a stir.

Microsoft will require all contract employee providers that provide more than 50 positions to agree to giving their employees 12 full weeks of (60 percent) paid parental leave in order to renew contracts. Notably, the new policy does not extend to all of Microsoft's suppliers, but rather just the company's partners that fulfill the staffing needs for janitorial, culinary, and/or reception roles.

Does Your Legal Department Need a Code of Conduct?

Without a code of conduct in its legal department, a company is like a rudderless ship.

The rudder, a relatively small device on a ship, dictates its direction. In a storm, a rudderless ship will flounder and likely capsize.

Likewise, a company will fail without a corporate legal department guided by a code of conduct. It gives lawyers direction and a moral compass in troubled times.

The GC's Choice: Compliance or Self-Governance?

John Stuart Mill, the political philosopher, wrote about Hobson's choice: either voting for a candidate or not voting at all.

But Thomas Hobson was not a politician. He owned horses, and offered customers the horses nearest to the stable door or none at all.

That's just a bit of history to give context to the general counsel's choice: compliance or self-governance? Is that really a choice after all?

Coal Lawyer Convicted of Bribing Alabama Lawmaker

There is a line between advocacy and criminality, and some lawyers cross it.

Joel Gilbert, a partner at Balch & Bingham, is one of those lawyers. According to a jury, Gilbert is guilty of helping bribe a government official for a client.

The client, an Alabama coal company, said it did nothing wrong. The company didn't quite throw the lawyer under the bus, but he definitely got caught on the wrong side of the deal.

Uber Executive Quits Amidst Racial Discrimination Probe

Liane Hornsey, head of human resources at Uber, abruptly quit following an investigation about how she handled racial discrimination claims there.

According to reports, Hornsey dismissed internal complaints of racial discrimination and retaliated against whistleblowers at the company. Reuters, which broke the story, said it "raises questions about Uber's ability to reform its culture and change some of its toxic behaviours."

Although Uber cleaned house after widespread sexual harassment claims last year, it's hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel for the ride-sharing company.

For general counsel, when lawsuits get filed by and/or against subsidiaries, it's usually no laughing matter. However, when subsidiaries of the same parent corporation sue each other, it's easy to see how a GC might just step back and have a little chuckle.

And while this is a rare occurrence, it is not that uncommon for companies that have the same shareholders to find themselves at odds in the courtroom. Recently, Epic Games, makers of the popular game Fortnite were sued by PUBG Corp., makers of the popular game PlayerUnknown Battleground, in a Korean court. Not surprisingly the case was dismissed with neither company saying much of anything about it.

Though most in house and general counsel hate to admit it, there is a really simple way for any company to get ahead of bad legal press: settle early and confidentially as soon as that first pre-litigation demand letter arrives. Legally, that might not be the best move, but corporations have more to worry about than just what's the best legal move.

As recently displayed by Politico, the media thirsts for sensational legal news and will even present an internal legal hold as some sort of proverbial nail in the they-must've-done-something-wrong-coffin. However, as any litigation attorney knows, a litigation hold is nothing really to write home about, though when a company receives a demand letter, or just a demand for the preservation of evidence, sending out the type of notice Politico reported on is par for the course.

As we enter summertime, general counsel may want to consider requiring a bit of annual preventative maintenance (or confirming that it has been done) to avoid exposure and annoying headaches.

Yes, technically, whoever is in charge of facilities should have already done so, but making sure that your employees have a climate controlled environment, in some places, is absolutely critical, before summertime is fully underway. And, while that facilities manager might try to give you some line about how you don't need a professional to come out an inspect your AC system every year, they don't know the waste of time you'll be faced with if an employee files an OSHA complaint, or worse, someone passes out cause the AC breaks during a heatwave.

Below are a few reasons why you should always make sure your office's AC is in tip-top shape before the summer heatwaves hit.