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Coronavirus Crisis Upending In-House Counsels’ Work Routines

March 23, 2020, 11:02 AM

In-house lawyers are dusting off crisis management plans and reading contracts with a different eye as they try to guide U.S. business leaders through all the uncertainty caused by the novel coronavirus.

Leadership Required: “Their CEOs are really depending on them, not just from a legal standpoint, but from a business leadership standpoint,” said Sonya Olds Som, a former Big Law immigration attorney who is now a partner at executive search and consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles International Ltd. “It’s great crisis management experience and a chance to show real leadership and value.”

Acute Challenges: The challenges are acute in the most disrupted industries such as health care, higher education, hospitality, and transportation, many of which are now seeking billions in federal government aid. Brian Baxter has the story.

CORONAVIRUS -- WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

GOP Plan Caps Pay, Severance at Companies Getting Virus Aid
The Senate Republican proposal for aiding businesses harmed by the coronavirus crisis would impose restrictions on executive pay and other limits often sought by Democrats.

Labor Department Working on Rules for Virus-Related Paid Leave
The Labor Department is planning to issue regulations to implement emergency paid sick and family leave requirements under the newly enacted coronavirus relief package, according to an internal email obtained by Bloomberg Law.

Locked-Down Lawyers Warned Alexa Is Hearing Confidential Calls
As law firms urge attorneys to work from home during the global pandemic, their employees’ confidential phone calls with clients run the risk of being heard by Amazon.com Inc. and Google.

Cyber Risks Abound as Employees Shift From Offices to Homes
As companies and government agencies send their employees home to avoid contact with the coronavirus, many cybersecurity teams are facing the unenviable challenge of securing sprawling, vulnerable networks.

Workplace Anti-Bias Agency Eases Medical Exam Guidance for Virus
Employers can ask job applicants if they have symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus, take their body temperatures after making a conditional job offer, and delay a start date or even withdraw a job offer if an individual is exhibiting symptoms, according to new Trump administration guidance.

Companies Seek Leeway on OSHA Filing Deadlines, Requirements
Companies across the country are looking for relief from OSHA over filing deadlines, and industry attorneys are asking federal safety regulators for clarification about when to record Covid-19 on illness and injury logs.

Some Employers Balk at Remote Work; ‘Run Toward the Crisis’
Public-health officials have pleaded for social distancing that can be difficult in corporate settings. But plenty of American workers aren’t being given the option to stay home, even when their duties might be done from outside the workplace—forcing them to choose between the fear of getting sick and the fear of being fired.

BLOOMBERG LAW ANALYSIS

ANALYSIS: Merger Review Slowing, Moving Online With Covid-19
It won’t be business as usual during—or likely after—the coronavirus crisis. For one thing, mergers and acquisitions that require review by the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice are going to take more time and will go through different procedures for the duration of the emergency.

ANALYSIS: “Factoring” In Coronavirus Risk Disclosures, Revisited
The number of companies including Covid-19 risks in Form 10-K reporting is now approaching 2000, and that number will only rise as additional filings are submitted.

PRACTITIONER INSIGHTS

INSIGHT: Delaying Environmental Compliance Because of the Coronavirus Emergency
The new coronavirus may cause environmental compliance challenges for many companies, like supply chain disruptions and the inability for employees to get to work. Arnold & Porter attorneys say most environmental statutes include exemptions that may apply to the pandemic.

INSIGHT: New Covid-19 Guidance for Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage
Covid-19 implications for employer-sponsored group health plans are far reaching and changing. Attorneys from Hall Benefts Law look at recent federal and state guidance issued in response to the pandemic that seeks to address employer and employee concerns regarding coverage of, and cost-sharing for, diagnosis and treatment under group health plans.

INSIGHT: Teleworking Tips During a Crisis—Know When to Walk Away
Ellen McCarthy, a vice president at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions who has spent nearly two decades teleworking, offers essential guidance for attorneys and any others finding themselves now working from home.

For our up-to-the-minute news on the Coronavirus outbreak, check out our Coronavirus Outbreak channel.

COMPLIANCE

Senators’ Stock Sales Raise Corporate Insider Trading Concern
U.S. Senators selling stock after briefings on the coronavirus raises a similar concern for potential insider trading by corporate executives and directors.

KPMG, PwC Work to Repair Reputations Following Scandals, Fines
Two of the largest U.S. accounting firms, rocked by scandal and large SEC fines, are changing course in an effort to bolster their scrutiny of public company finances and repair their reputations.

Forced Worker Microchipping Faces Growing Preemptive Strike
When it comes to implantable devices in the workplace, one person’s high-tech utopia is another’s sign of the apocalypse. Indiana state lawmakers might have had this paradox in mind when they passed legislation aimed at giving workers a choice.

BUSINESS & PRACTICE

Goldman Sachs Paid New Top Lawyer $8.37 Million in 2019
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s top in-house lawyer Karen Seymour earned almost $8.37 million in 2019, putting her among the top five highest-paid executives at the financial services giant.

Wells Fargo’s Top Lawyer Turned CEO Made $9.6 Million in 2019
Former Wells Fargo & Co. general counsel C. Allen Parker Jr. took home outsized pay of more than $9.6 million last year thanks to his elevation to interim CEO.

New Legal Chiefs Rise at Schools Shut Out of Nixed March Madness
New lawyers are moving into top in-house roles at a quartet of schools left out of March Madness, the annual U.S. men’s college basketball tournament canceled this week due to the coronavirus.

Regions Financial Hires General Electric Veteran as Legal Chief
Regions Financial Corp. is preparing for what the future holds by lining up a successor for its longtime top in-house lawyer.

Wireless Charging Startup Hires Ex-Tesla Deputy General Counsel
Aira Inc., an early-stage startup in the wireless technology space whose founders scored big on reality television, has hired Jeffrey Risher as chief strategy officer and general counsel.

Blockchain for Big Law Grabs Gates Industrial General Counsel
Integra Inc., a Denver-based company that provides enterprise blockchain services to law firms and their clients, has hired Jamey Seely to serve as its new president and general counsel.

LEGAL NEWS

Delaware Companies Can Push Securities Suits to Federal Court
Delaware corporations can adopt charter provisions requiring securities claims to be brought in federal court, the state’s top court ruled for the first time, potentially opening the door for companies to add wide-ranging restrictions to their charters and bylaws.

Outside Lawyer Must Face Suit Over Alleged Role in Job Reprisal
An in-house lawyer who says her supervisors sexually harassed her can sue an outside attorney retained by her employer for his alleged role in retaliation she says she experienced for complaining about the abuse, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

For our up-to-the-minute news on corporate governance, check out our Corporate Governance channel.

BLOOMBERG LAW ANALYSIS

ANALYSIS: FinCEN Penalizes Another Compliance Officer
A $450,000 civil money penalty against the former chief risk officer of U.S. Bank National Association, which had been punished for BSA violations in 2018, continues an escalation of enforcement against individual officers of financial institutions.

PRACTITIONER INSIGHTS

INSIGHT: Fitting Contract Attorneys Into Your Long-Term Strategy
Corporate legal departments and law firms looking to save costs and increase value are using contract attorneys—a segment of the alternative service provider industry whose revenues are estimated to reach nearly $20 billion by 2025. Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Matthew Wheatley looks at the plus side of using contract attorneys.

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To contact the reporter on this story: John Nancarrow in Washington at jnancarrow@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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