ALM Properties, Inc.
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A couple of fridays ago, I got on my usual ferry heading home. I bumped into one of my commuting buddies, who was traveling with this guy he knew. My friend Gerard is a recording engineer, and a lot of our commuting conversations revolve around music and the antics of the producers he works with. (No, not that crashing plate sound! I want something crunchier but rounder!) His friend, who looked around the same age as us, was dressed down for Friday, and he fell easily into the conversation. We talked about guitars, MIDI controllers, and Apple Inc.'s app GarageBand, and how we wished that stuff had been around when we were kids.
I saw that guy again the following week. Only this time, he was wearing a crisp suit. We exchanged nods from across the boat, then he came over and introduced himself a little more formally, telling me about his day job this time. What followed was a friendly chat, and I'm sure it wasn't intended to be on the record, so I won't reveal who he is. But suffice it to say he's a chief counsel at a sizable multinational corporation.
I did what any journalist would do—I asked Kevin (as we'll call him here) questions. He told me he recognized me from the photo that appears on this page, of all things. I was curious about what he reads in Corporate Counsel —we don't get much of an opportunity to talk at length with regular readers, and a half-hour ride with a captive wasn't something I was going to pass up. He told me which sections he looks at first—it's pretty haphazard, and he goes by subject matter more than anything—and then I started asking him about what interested him the most.
Surprisingly, he said he was into compliance (rather than, say, outside fee control) and really interested in stories about bribery control efforts for companies working abroad. I didn't expect him to say that—I saw a similar sentiment at a gathering of international in-house counsel a while back, but attributed their interest to the audience, composed of clients of a U.K. law firm.
Which brings me to this month's cover feature by our newest reporter, Catherine Dunn. We've been covering the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and its British equivalent off and on for the past few years. The biggest story, of course, was the Siemens AG case, as senior international correspondent Michael D. Goldhaber has reported, but there have been others.
Lately, there's another wrinkle in what corporate counsel must face, and it's down to a good thing—increased scrutiny by more and more governments of bribes abroad. The problem, according to many in the field, is that there's little coordination among nations. There is a treaty that's supposed to govern which country gets to lead a probe and the resulting prosecution, but so far, it hasn't really been honored. What's more, the antibribery laws differ in what is and isn't allowed, and other details.
Dunn threw herself into the story with relish. She's got a thing for international coverage—she lived in and reported from Mexico City for a few years. It's her first cover story for the magazine—if you're a regular reader of our Web site CorpCounsel.com (and you should be), you're probably more than familiar with her byline and her work. In reporting this story, she called many of those same people who might have attended the conference I briefly described above. And the cover shot is of a general counsel, Massimo Mantovani of the Italian energy company Eni S.p.A., who has become outspoken on the need to harmonize antibribery laws and procedures.
As for all of you non-Kevins out there, let me know what you think about this, and about other issues.