7 legal stories every inside counsel should know right now

Here are top stories in IP, compliance, litigation and more

If you are interested in the law, specifically intellectual property, compliance, litigation, technology and what is going on inside the boardroom, look no further. Here at InsideCounsel, we have all the news you need to know about these topics and more. Here, then, are seven of the biggest stories we have covered recently so you can keep up with all the news that is fit to print!

 

Target

Target

For the first time in the company’s history, Target has appointed an outsider as its CEO. Effective August 12, Brian Cornell, a former PepsiCo Inc. executive, will try to turn around Target’s year of lost customer confidence and store traffic. During the holiday season of 2013, a massive data breach caused the theft of over 40 million payment card numbers and 70 million other pieces of customer data. The event unsurprisingly had a chilling effect on business. Cornell will also attempt to pick up Target’s failed expansion into Canada. Last year, Target opened over 120 stores and three distribution centers in Canada, which has already cost the company over $1.6 billion in damages. Cornell has already met top executives. Afterwards, Cornell expressed, “Target is full of talented individuals, and Target guests routinely share stories of their personal love of the brand. These are powerful assets.” 

Compliance

Evolution of regulation

The financial crisis of 2008 had a tremendous impact on the political and business landscape. James Odell, now a partner at Blank Rome LLP had a front row seat for these events, as he held high-ranking positions in the legal departments of various large international banks during the collapse. Odell recently spoke with InsideCounsel to discuss the changes he has seen in the regulatory landscape over the past 14 years. “What characterized 2001-2005,” he says, “was that other regulators and law enforcement folks were stepping into a vacuum. State attorneys general were ramping up their focus, really for the first time, and we were dealing with people outside of normal regulatory relationships.”

And now, six years later, Odell sees a strong focus on financial services. “From where I sit, there is continued focus on the fallout from the financial crisis, continued rulemaking that has to be done as a result of Dodd-Frank.” He sees higher stakes, including anti-money laundering sanctions, regulations on international banks and more. Odell sees some of the overriding principles, such as better transparency and disclosure in the marketplace, as beneficial, as banks did not have the information they needed during the crisis, and transparency and disclosure should help improve that situation. Odell also points out that communication between banks and regulators is essential, as is education about regulatory trends and changes. With proper cooperation between regulators and banks, there is a good chance that the kind of crisis seen in 2008 will not happen again.

ACA

Conflicting rulings on Obamacare q’s

Conflicting rulings related to the Affordable Care Act from two neighboring federal appeals courts may put Obamacare at further risk. The two decisions were both released in July, and the conflict may eventually make its way to the Supreme Court. When asked about the decisions, Steve Friedman, a healthcare attorney and co-chair of the Employee Benefits Practice Group at Littler Mendelson, said, “Wait and see is probably what the best advice … right now.” “It remains to be seen what types of rulings we’re going to see down the road,” Friedman added. “A large part of the Affordable Care Act becomes inoperative if other circuits [or the Supreme Court] rule this way.” For instance, it was striking that just a few hours after Halbig was released, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Richmond, Va., upheld the IRS rule in King v. Burwell. Meanwhile, it was reported that Obama administration lawyers will appeal the decision in Halbig v. Burwell to the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. When it comes to advice to general counsel, Larry Vernaglia, a health care lawyer with Foley & Lardner, said, they should be “following these cases – at least for their broad impact.  If the DC Court of Appeals decision ultimately stands, it could mean, at least, that there will be an increase in the number of uninsured, low-income patients in markets where the states have not implemented an exchange.  Of course, this outcome could be some time in the future.  Until that time, health care organizations should also be prepared to submit friend of the court (“amicus”) briefs detailing both the legal and practical impact of these decisions.”

McD

McDonald’s joint employment

Following allegations that the franchises of parent company McDonalds USA LLC violated the rights of employees to protest employment conditions, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that McDonald’s, USA, LLC is a joint employer and bears some responsibility for the complaints. The move could have wide-ranging implications on the potential unionization of fast food workers, and authorizes complaints against the multibillion-dollar McDonald’s parent company rather than individual franchisers. McDonald’s has previously contended that because many of those employed under the company’s name are on the books as workers of the franchise rather than the parent company, they are not responsible for labor issues at individual locations. According to the New York Times, roughly 90 percent of the workers at McDonald’s restaurants are employed by franchises, temp agencies or contractors. This move could make workers employees of a single corporation, and theoretically pave the way for unionization.

Supes

Comic-con clash

Comic Con International: San Diego (known colloquially as the San Diego Comic-Con or SDCC) just wrapped up after four days of intense pop culture insanity, including movie trailers, comic announcements and celebrity appearances. While SDCC is the best known such event on the planet, the event, which has been held annually for over 40 years, is certainly not the only comic book convention in the country. Comic cons (as they are known) are held almost every weekend. Some are small enough to fit in a Knights of Columbus hall, while others, like New York Comic Con, attract over a hundred thousand fans. Now, though, the lawyers who represent SDCC have decided to send a cease and desist letter to the organizers of the Salt Lake Comic Con (SLCC), accusing them of trademark infringement. The attorneys representing SDCC are asking for damages and an injunction forbidding the future use of the term “Comic Con,” though they are reportedly willing to forgo the damages if SLCC drops the term. The US Patent and Trademark Office denied SDCC a trademark for “Comic Con” though they did approve “Comic-Con.” SDCC also tried and failed to block the Chicago Comic Con from using the term.

break

Apple illegally forgoes work breaks

On July 21, Judge Ronald S. Prager of the Superior Court of California granted class action status in a labor and employment case for nearly 21,000 retail employees and workers at Apple’s California corporate headquarters. The employees had complained that the tech giant had not provided timely meal and rest breaks, and often, employees were denied breaks at all. California law stipulates that employers are required to offer a 30-minute meal break within the first five hours of a worker’s day, a 10-minute rest break every four hours, and a second rest break for shifts that run between six and 10 hours. The suit claimed that Apple’s working conditions “allow Apple to invoke fear” in employees so that “if they so much as discuss the various labor policies, they run the risk of being fired, sued or disciplined.” The class has not yet made financial demands in the case, and Apple has issued no comment on the pending litigation.

Data

FCC troubled by Verizon

On July 30, consumers received support from perhaps an unexpected place: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In a letter to Verizon, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler questioned part of Verizon’s plan to cap speeds for heavy data users during times of high demand. In the letter, Wheeler questioned why Verizon’s current plan only applies to customers on an unlimited data plan. Recently, many network carriers, including Verizon, have turned away from unlimited data plans in favor of data caps or usage-based pricing. Wheeler said that this move could unfairly steer customers from the unlimited plans they have held for so long, forcing them to select data caps in order to maintain Internet speed. The FCC is still currently devising rules concerning how network providers can manage data on their networks. Although many technology companies have called for net neutrality, Verizon and other providers seek the ability to make deals and provide some companies with a speedier service.

Contributing Author

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Jessica Liu

Jessica Liu is a sophomore at Haverford College, where she is majoring in political science. At InsideCounsel, she reports on news for the Women, Influence,...

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