6 notable GCs in the news

General counsel sound off on the Petraeus affair, Obamacare, falsified drug tests and more

Inappropriate Emails

"To the extent there are questions about certain communications by General Allen, he shares in the desire to resolve those questions as completely and quickly as possible."

--John G. Baker, general counsel of the U.S. Marine Corps

The revelation of the extramarital affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, quickly grew to ensnare others, among them General John Allen, the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Officials at the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that they were investigating 20,000-30,000 pages of communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who initially notified authorities about threatening emails from Paula Broadwell.

Officials have described several of the emails between Kelley and Allen as “flirtatious” and “suggestive,” although some have said that only a small number of the communications are problematic. Allen has denied any wrongdoing.

Criminal Chemist

“There are a lot of really, really massive problems with this situation.”

--Lisa Hewitt, general counsel of The Committee for Public Counsel Services

Thousands of criminal prosecutions have been called into question by the revelation that a chemist at a Massachusetts state drug laboratory reportedly falsified test results for years. According to authorities, Annie Dookhan reported results for samples that she had never tested and contaminated samples with other drugs to cover up inconsistent results.

At least 10,000 people were reportedly prosecuted based on Dookhan’s drug testing. Hewitt, who represents the state’s public defender agency, told the Boston Globe that it would take as much as $332 million to retry all of the cases that the lab handled during Dookhan’s tenure.

Abysmal Acquirement

“They used low-end hardware sales, but put out that it was a pure software company. They put this into their growth calculation.”

--John Schultz, general counsel of Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP)

HP investors got an unwelcome surprise this month, as the technology company announced that it would take an $8.8 billion charge, largely as a result of alleged financial misrepresentations at Autonomy, which HP acquired for $11.1 billion last year.

According to HP, “some members of Autonomy’s former management team used accounting improprieties, misrepresentations and disclosure failures to inflate the underlying financial metrics of the company” prior to the acquisition. One of these misrepresentations included counting hardware sales as software sales, which typically have a larger profit margin, Schultz said in an interview with the New York Times.


Counterfeit Coach

"The magnitude of this judgment underscores the severity and illegality of counterfeiting, and sends a clear message that our courts will enforce the law."

--Todd Kahn, general counsel of Coach Inc.

Luxury retailer Coach scored a major victory against counterfeiters selling knock-off goods online, when a judge awarded the company $257 million in damages, along with ownership of 573 Internet domain names that contained the word “Coach” in the title. The case is part of a larger anti-counterfeiting campaign, Operation Turnlock, which the company launched in 2009.

Since starting the program, Coach has sued a variety of counterfeit manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, as well as landlords who provide an outlet from which to sell fake merchandise.

Angry at Obamacare

“Every American, including family business owners like the Greens, should be free to live and do business according to their religious beliefs.  The Green family needs relief now and we will seek it immediately from the federal appeals court in Denver.”

--Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

The deadline for companies to comply with Obamacare’s employer mandate is fast approaching, but some companies aren’t happy with the impending reforms—and they’re taking their fight to court. Among those companies is Hobby Lobby Inc., whose founder, David Green, argues that the mandate violates his Christian beliefs by requiring the company to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after and week-after contraceptives.

Green contends that these medications are tantamount to abortion pills, and sued to block the mandate. An Oklahoma judge, however, found that the company does not qualify for an exemption from the law, as it is not a religious organization.


Fee Fight

“As we have said from the beginning, this settlement is a fair and reasonable compromise for all parties. It is the result of two years of negotiation between retailers, their legal counsel, the networks, financial institutions and two highly regarded mediators under the supervision of the court.”

--Josh Floum, general counsel of Visa Inc.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson granted preliminary approval to a $7.2 billion settlement between Visa, MasterCard Inc. and several banks and a class of merchants angry over swipe fees. The retailers argue that the card companies and banks fixed swipe fees, which cost retailers whenever a customer buys anything using a credit or debit card. Gleeson granted preliminary approval to the deal, which would be the largest antitrust settlement in U.S. history, over the objections of retailers, who claim that it does nothing to prevent credit card companies from raising fees in the future.

Floum lauded the settlement in a statement, but 10 stores and trade groups apparently aren’t so thrilled: They appealed the settlement to the 2nd Circuit on Nov. 27, arguing that it violates their due process rights because they cannot opt out of the agreement.

 

 

 

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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