6 notable GCs in the news

General counsel sound off about affirmative action, Twitter censorship, steroid use and more

"We announced the ability to withhold content back in Jan. We're using it now for the first time re: a group deemed illegal in Germany."

--Alex Macgillivray, general counsel of Twitter

With these 133 characters, Macgillivray announced that the microblogging site would use its recently adopted local censorship policy for the first time to block access to the Twitter feed of a German neo-Nazi group. The country’s police reportedly asked Twitter to keep German users from reading any tweets from Besseres Hannover, which has been accused of inciting racial hatred and threatening immigrants.

 

“If you buy a legitimate, authentic good, then you own it, plain and simple.”

--Hillary Brill, global general counsel of eBay Inc.

College textbooks are notoriously expensive, but $75,000 per book is an especially steep price to pay. But that’s the amount Supap Kirtsaeng will be on the hook for if the Supreme Court upholds a lower court’s ruling in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons. While Kirtsaeng was studying at Cornell, friends and family members in his native Thailand sent him cheaper international editions of pricey U.S. textbooks, which he then resold on eBay. Textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons sued the grad student for copyright infringement upon learning of his business.

Kirtsaeng—and some online retailers such as eBay—argue that his actions fall under the “first-sale dotrine,” meaning that once a person lawfully purchases an item, he can give it away or resell it as he sees fit. But a jury found that the doctrine does not apply to imported materials and awarded the publisher $75,000 per edition, a decision that the 2nd Circuit upheld in 2010. The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Monday in the midst of Hurricane Sandy.

 

“The principle that diversity is a compelling interest ... is embedded in our holistic review process, and we believe that the Court should continue to respect our academic freedom to select from among the many thousands of excellent applicants who are qualified for admission.”

--Peter McDonough, general counsel of Princeton University

The Supreme Court took up what is sure to be one of the most contentious cases of this term, when it heard arguments Oct. 10 in the affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Abigail Fisher, a white UT applicant, sued the school after she was rejected from the college, claiming that the school’s race-conscious admissions policy is discriminatory and violates her right to equal protection.

But McDonough—along with the general counsels of Stanford, Yale, Harvard and MIT—submitted an amicus brief in support of UT, arguing that a ruling against the university could potentially “confound and restrict amici’s efforts to assemble diverse student bodies.”

 

“I do believe the relationship with TJFO and its associates is legal, and in fact, not only legal, but legal and appropriate.”

--Rocky Robins, general counsel of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (A&F)

An age discrimination lawsuit against A&F has led to revelations of allegedly bizarre demands by the retailer’s CEO Michael Jeffries. A 40-page employee manual filed in connection with the case laid out detailed requirements for A&F models working on the company’s corporate jet. According to the manual, the male models’ uniform consisted of a hat, sunglasses, gloves, boxer briefs and a “spritz” of A&F41 cologne. In addition, workers had to respond to guests’ requests by saying “No problem,” (rather than “Sure” or “Just a minute”), and were told to play the song “Take Me Home” as guests boarded the plane on return flights.

The manual was produced in conjunction with the Jeffries Family Office (TJFO), a limited liability corporation run by Jeffries’ live-in partner, Michael Smith, that “advocates for the personal interests of Abercrombie’s CEO.” According to the manual, Smith, who does not work for A&F, received copies of non-public company reports on the plane, although the company disputes that the relationship is inappropriate.

 

"He called a teammate in on one occasion when they weren't following the doping program that one of the team doctors had laid out and he required that person to follow the doping program or [his] position on the team might be in jeopardy."

--William Bock, general counsel of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

Last week, the International Cycling Union stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles following the release of a damning USADA report that charged the cyclist with extensive and long-running use of performance-enhancing drugs. According to the report, which draws on testimony from numerous fellow cyclists, Armstrong not only used these drugs himself, but also pressured team mates to follow suit.

 

"It's inexplicable why ownership and its advisors would have engaged in this outrageous and reckless act that endangered our employees, the hotel and its economic prospects."

--Ed Ryan, general counsel of Marriott International Inc.

They’re in the hospitality business, but the owners of the Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel in Miami Beach, Fl. were less than welcoming to their own management company, Marriott International, whom they tried to oust in a surprise takeover attempt. Eden Roc sued Marriott earlier this year, arguing that the latter had breached its contract by failing to maximize profits at the hotel.

Apparently unwilling to wait for a legal resolution to the conflict, Eden Roc allegedly stormed the hotel with security guards in the early morning hours of Oct. 14. Marriott employees thwarted the ouster by calling police, and the company has since won a temporary restraining order again Eden Roc.

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