6 notable GCs in the news

General counsel sound off about Navy SEALs, Mark Zuckerberg’s stock, NCAA sanctions and more

 

“In some ways, it’s a tax for being on the Internet. Millions and millions of dollars collectively is going out of the pockets of people who earned it to people who, in my opinion, didn’t do anything.”

--Kenneth Richieri, GC of the New York Times Co.

Sending a text message seems cheap, but the New York Times Co. is facing a potentially costly lawsuit over the use of texting technology. Inventor Richard Helferich holds several patents on technology that enables HTML links in text messages, and he offers use of the system to companies for a one-time fee of $750,000. Roughly 100 companies have already accepted his offer, but he has sued 23 others for infringement since 2008. The Times says it is prepared to defend a lawsuit from Helferich, arguing that his patents will become increasingly burdensome in the digital age.

 

“As of the date of this report, Mark Zuckerberg … has informed us that he has no intention to conduct any sale transactions in our securities for at least 12 months.”

--Ted Ullyot, general counsel of Facebook Inc., in a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

Facebook’s IPO has been a disappointment to many investors, some of whom have even taken their grievances to court. But they got a bit of reassuring news earlier this week, as an SEC filing revealed that CEO Mark Zuckerberg will not sell any of his roughly 444 shares in the company for at least a year. Fellow Facebook board members Marc Andreessen and Donald Graham will only sell enough shares to cover tax liabilities.

 

“The Superior Court dismissed a case that should never have been brought in the first place. There is simply no reliable scientific basis for alleged injuries from the agricultural field application of DBCP, and the fraudulent claims in Macasa were no different than other similar cases.”

--C. Michael Carter, general counsel of Dole Foods Co.

Dole Food Co. is celebrating after a Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed a lawsuit brought against the company by 2,935 Filipino workers. The former employees filed the suit in 2011, claiming that they suffered serious health problems, including cancer and sterility, after being exposed to the agricultural chemical DBCP on a Dole banana plantation. Attorneys for the workers say that the case was dismissed on a technicality, but the agricultural corporation argues that the allegations were fraudulent.

 

"The actions which led to this resolution were disappointing. But the openness and speed with which Pfizer voluntarily disclosed and addressed them reflects our true culture and the real value we place on integrity and meeting commitments.”

--Amy Schulman, general counsel of Pfizer Inc.

Pfizer agreed to pay $60 million to settle government investigations into allegations that many of the company’s foreign subsidiaries violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice were both probing reports that, for more than a decade, overseas employees paid foreign officials and doctors to endorse the company’s products and speed up regulatory approval. Pfizer, which informed regulators of several improper payments itself, reportedly cooperated with the investigation.

 

“In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the nondisclosure agreements you signed. Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements.”

--Jeh Johnson, general counsel of the Department of Defense (DOD), in a letter

It was Amazon’s #1 bestseller nearly two weeks before its release date, but the Pentagon isn’t among those excited about the publication of “No Easy Day.” The book, billed as “the firsthand account of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden,” was penned by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette. In a letter, Johnson warned Bissonnette that the DOD is considering legal action against him. But the former SEAL’s lawyer says that the book does not contain any classified information and does not violate any non-disclosure agreements.

 

“This was not an afterthought in response to concerns raised by others. It was part of our analysis from the beginning.”

--Stephen Dunham, general counsel of Pennsylvania State University

Penn State University has been no stranger to controversy during the past year. The latest debate centers on President Rodney Erickson’s decision to accept harsh sanctions from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), without a ratification vote from the university’s board. At least one university trustee has expressed dissatisfaction with the acceptance process. Dunham, however, says that in the week leading up to the consent agreement, the university’s legal counsel verified that Erickson had the authority to forego a board vote.

Alanna Byrne

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