6 notable GCs in the news

General counsel sound off on the NSA, cigarette settlements, TV negotiations and more

Up in Smoke

 

Up in Smoke

“We are pleased that the arbitration panel found that six jurisdictions failed to meet their diligent enforcement obligations.”

- Martin L. Holton III, executive vice president and general counsel for R.J. Reynolds

 

The state of New York may have won its battle against Big Tobacco, but several other states were not so lucky. An arbitration panel found that six of 15 states failed to uphold obligations related to the protection of market share, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report. R.J. Reynolds says the six states cited are Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

R.J. Reynolds says it won $266 million in future payment reductions as a result of the settlement, while Philip Morris says it won a credit of about $145 million. According to Altaria Group GC Denise Keane, the decision “sends a strong message about the importance of diligently enforcing the laws that apply to non-participating manufacturers.”

Bye Bye Birdie

 

Bye Bye Birdie

“As for me, it has been my privilege to work and fight on behalf of great companies and their users over the last decade. A privilege and a lot of work. So, I’m looking forward to engaging my various internet passions from new and different perspectives, seeing friends and family without distraction, and just goofing off a bit.”

 - Alex Macgillivray, general counsel for Twitter

 

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m slightly disappointed that Alex Macgillivray’s departure blog post upon Twitter was announced in more than 140 characters. As InsideCounsel noted on Sept. 11, Macgillivray is leaving Twitter to pursue other opportunities, and in his place, the company is promoting Vijaya Gadde to its general counsel position.

Gadde, who joined Twitter as legal director in 2011, will likely have a hectic first couple of months on the job. The company announced on Sept. 12 that it will undergo its initial public offering (IPO) at some point in 2014. Twitter boasts over 200 million active users, and its estimated value sits over $10 billion.

Spy Games

 

Spy Games

"The actions and statements of the US government have not adequately addressed the concerns of people around the world about whether their information is safe and secure with internet companies."

 - Colin Stretch, general counsel for Facebook

 

The fight over the NSA's spy tactics isn’t going away any time soon, and the Internet’s biggest companies are speaking out. Yahoo! boss Marissa Mayer says that she feared prison time if she didn’t comply with the NSA. While speaking at a TechCrunch conference, Mayer said, “Releasing classified information is treason, and you are incarcerated. In terms of protecting our users, it makes more sense to work within the system.”

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg agreed that the NSA used fear tactics, but he adopted a more critical tone of the government. “I think they did a bad job balancing those things here,” Zuckerberg said at TechCrunch. “Frankly, I think the government blew it.” Facebook and Google have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for the ability to release more information about the requests they receive from government security agencies.

Bitcoin Blues

 

Bitcoin Blues

“In a decentralized system, people overestimate their ability to make themselves private. I don’t think that many in the sophisticated criminal set would appreciate a permanent paper trail of every transaction that they have ever conducted.”

 - Patrick Murck, general counsel of the Bitcoin Foundation

 

Bitcoin became the Internet trend du jour earlier this year as a way to exchange goods and services online. At one point, the (unregulated) price for Bitcoin skyrocketed above $100 per unit. But when New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) subpoenaed Bitcoin earlier this year, the good feelings came to a screeching halt.

The DFS is worried that Bitcoin will become an attractive way to engage in illegal activity, such as buying and selling narcotics, thanks to its unregulated nature. “If virtual currencies remain a virtual Wild West for narco-traffickers and other criminals, that would not only threaten our country’s national security, but also the very existence of the virtual currency industry as a legitimate business enterprise,” said DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky in a statement.

A Real Pay-Per-View Fight

 

A Real Pay-Per-View Fight

“So in many ways, Dish, DirecTV and Time Warner are the only folks who are able to negotiate effectively with the broadcasters, and thank goodness we’re out there fighting for consumers and lower prices. We, of course, take the view that 100 percent of the blackouts are caused by four companies — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox and their affiliates.”

 - R. Stanton Dodge, executive vice president and general counsel of Dish Network

 

Whether it’s Al Jazeera fighting with AT&T or CBS fighting with Time Warner Cable, TV networks and cable service providers have not been getting along particularly well in 2013. Recently, lawmakers have been getting involved in the dispute, with Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) saying during a congressional hearing, “Our constituents aren’t shy about telling us to do something about problems in the marketplace that deprive them of their favorite shows.”

But the stalemate drags on, with each side blaming the other.  Gerard Waldron, a communications attorney testifying on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters, said in reference to Dish, DirecTV and Time Warner, “We see this frankly as a manufactured crisis. They are deliberately going and playing a game, and frankly in order to get this committee to pay attention to these issues. We actually think in the vast majority of cases, the system is working.”

Phoning It In

 

Phoning It In

“Phones are the most personal of the personal devices people use today and success in phones is important for success in tablets and PCs. We need to move faster.”

 - Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft

 

Microsoft has never been a household name in the smartphone market, despite great efforts advancing its Windows platform on mobile phones within the past two years. Seeing an opportunity, Microsoft acquired smartphone maker Nokia in early September in an attempt to compete with Apple and Samsung. Nokia and Microsoft have worked as a partnership the past two years, with Nokia Lumia phones running Microsoft’s Windows operating software.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that Nokia brings “proven capability and talent in critical areas such as hardware design and engineering, supply chain and manufacturing management, and hardware sales, marketing and distribution.” However, Microsoft currently holds just 3.5 percent of the smartphone market, and some analysts question whether the increased synergy created by bringing Nokia in-house will truly bolster the company’s market share.

Contributing Author

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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