5 notable GCs in the news

General counsel sound off on banking regulation, credit card settlements and more

Bank Regulation

 

“We've come off three years of an extraordinary amount of rule making. I think we are going into a period of ever more intense scrutiny from shareholders, from the investor community, from regulators and from our customers.”

 - Simon Fish, Bank of Montreal general counsel

 

Think JPMorgan Chase is the only financial institution focused on increasing its risk and compliance concern? Think again. With the Volcker rule set to change many governmental regulations in the financial field, and with the government cracking down with high penalties on financial lawbreakers, financial institutions such as the Bank of Montreal are beginning to see risk and compliance as absolutely necessary to be successful (and avoid huge fines) moving forward. There’s a reason, after all, that risk and compliance officers have seen a huge pay increase in the past year alone.

Robert Litt

 

“This incident shows the difficulty of discussing classified information in an unclassified setting and the danger of inferring a person’s state of mind from extemporaneous answers given under pressure. Indeed, it would have been irrational for Mr. Clapper to lie at this hearing, since every member of the committee was already aware of the program.”

- Robert Litt, Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel

 

The editorial board of The New York Times has been in Edward Snowden’s corner since the whistleblower first revealed the extent of the National Security Agency’s spying in May 2013. In a Jan. 2 editorial, the board wrote, among other charges against the U.S. government, “His leaks revealed that James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans. (There has been no discussion of punishment for that lie.)”

Needless to say, Clapper’s office did not appreciate the accusation. In a scathing letter back to the board, Litt, the GC of Clapper’s office, refuted all of the Times’ charges. In his letter, Litt claimed that Clapper had no reason to lie to Congress and said, “As a witness to the relevant events and a participant in them, I know that allegation is not true.”

Steve Zipperstein 

 

 “[Typo’s design is] blatant infringement against BlackBerry's iconic keyboard. We will vigorously protect our intellectual property against any company that attempts to copy our unique design.”

 - Steve Zipperstein, BlackBerry general counsel

 

Although Apple and Samsung currently hold the bulk of the current smartphone market, BlackBerry has been fighting back to reclaim the share that was once theirs. A big portion of that strategy is the business-friendly keyboard that comes with each phone… and BlackBerry intends to keep that intellectual property theirs at all costs.

In a lawsuit against Ryan Seacrest-backed startup Typo, BlackBerry claims that the small company’s iPhone keyboard attachment is a blatant rip off of their own design. While the lawsuit does not name any specific design similarities, the company says that Typo should be barred from selling the accessory, which was scheduled to be released later this month. Typo claims it did nothing wrong, with CEO Laurence Hallier saying, “We checked out the patents. We have been working on this keyboard for two years. We developed this from the ground up.”

Kent Walker

 

“We asked around: are there any surreptitious ways of getting information? No.”

- Kent Walker, Google general counsel

 

Did the NSA nearly “destroy the Internet,” as Wired claims in a recent article? If the panicked conversations in the exec offices of Microsoft, Facebook and Google are any indication, it seems that it may be true. According to Wired, the Washington Post first broke the news of PRISM to these companies, giving them 90 minutes to respond to allegations that the companies collaborated with the government to supply information.

The companies, however, claimed no knowledge of PRISM in internal communications. And since that time, many technology companies have come out strongly against the government’s information gathering tactics. Google privacy chief Peter Fleischer has bashed data protection reforms both in the U.S. and abroad, while Google was one of the technology giants that called on Congress to enact government surveillance reform. Courts have gone back and forth over whether the NSA’s data collection violates the Constitution.

Mallory Duncan

 

“Instead of lowering fees, the card industry’s settlement proposes that merchants pass them along to consumers in the form of surcharges. That is absolutely the opposite of what retailers sought, and major retailers have soundly rejected surcharging.”

 - Mallory Duncan, National Retail Federation general counsel

 

Visa and MasterCard may be happy with the multibillion dollar settlement from a class action antitrust suit brought by major retailers, but many retailers feel the settlement isn’t enough. Major retailers such as Walmart have pulled out of the settlement, initially estimated at $7.25 billion, which stems from a lawsuit that claims that the credit card companies fixed rates on the interchange fees paid by card-accepting retailers.

Now, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is fighting back. After a lower court upheld the settlement, the NRF has filed an appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that the settlement is unfair because it does not bar Visa and MasterCard from performing the same actions again once the suit is settled. “The only people pleased with this settlement are Visa and MasterCard, because it means they can continue collecting tens of billions of dollars in hidden fees,” Duncan said in the appeal.

Assistant Editor

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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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