Welcome back to another week of Inside Track. I’m Rebekah Mintzer, Law.com’s In-House editor.
This week on Inside Track, we’re taking a look at GCs who have made off like bandits once they leave their posts and the intricacies of recording a conversationat work, a la Omarosa. Plus, on the hiring end, summer hasn’t stopped legal departments from making some major moves announcements.
GCs Who Cash Out Big
According to a recent SEC filing, Kim Sinatra, former general counsel of troubled Wynn Resorts is walking away from her gig with $1.8 million in cash, plus millions more in stock. Her departure is particularly interesting, as she’s been scrutinized over claims that she helped cover up a settlement by former CEO Steve Wynn with a woman who claims Wynn sexually harassed her. Sinatra has denied the allegations.
Whether their companies are scandal-ridden or not, GCs often leave their jobs with a good amount of cash to take into retirement (or to their next gig). Sinatra inspired me to take a look back at some other 2018 top lawyer payouts.
▶ Former JetBlue GC James Hnat flew off into the sunset earlier this year with more than $1.2 million. The pay package includes, but is not limited to, $730,000 to serve as a company adviser through the second half of 2018, a one-time $500,000bonus, $5,000 to pay for Hnat’s CLE needs and of course, some cool flight privileges.
▶ Not everyone was thrilled when Robert Noto, former general counsel of Michigan State University, left his post in February under pressure over the Larry Nassar scandal and still got about $436,000 in severance. Noto, who had been GC since 1995, took a lot of criticism over failing to detect Nassar’s years of sexual abuse at MSU and the apparent department botching of the investigation into a Title IX claim made by an abuse survivor.
Off the Record?
Former Celebrity Apprentice contestant and White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has revealed that she secretly recorded conversations with President Trump. In addition to ticking off the commander-in-chief, my Law.com colleagueRaychel Lean reports that Omarosa’s recordings are a good reminder that employees have more leeway than one might think to hit the record button on workplace conversations.
One Party Only. In most states, Raychel reports, only one party has to consent to the tape recording of a conversation–which can be troubling for employers, especially in the age of social media. As Kendall Coffey, a former federal prosecutor and current partner at Coffey Burlington told Raychel,“There’s precious little that can be done to prevent that tape from being posted on YouTube.”
Reasonable Expectations. Certain states, including Florida, California and Pennsylvania, require two-party consent to record, but even in those jurisdictions the law will often examine whether there is “a reasonable expectation of privacy” in the specific context of the exchange. “If you’re going to have a candid conversation, you need to be in an environment that strongly signals privacy,” Coffey said. “You need to be aware of the fact that people you think you trust might be recording your comments.”
Watching the Big Four
By now we’ve all heard about EY’s acquisition of Riverview Law, which was announced last week to great fanfare. While there was a lot of talk about what this deal, along with other recent legal moves by accounting firms, means for Big Law, it’s been a little less clear how clients feel about it all.
That’s where two in-house reporters, Dan Clark and Phillip Bantz, came in. Dan wrote a piece last week looking at legal department responses to the Riverview deal, while Phillip took a step back to look at whether or not GCs are truly ready to give the Big Four their business.
The overall verdict? Though some in-housers are eager to see the disruption the Big Four might bring to the legal market, many are still a little shy about pulling the trigger when it comes to actually hiring these firms.
➤➤ Here are a few key quotes:
“This is good for the legal industry and clients. Clients are increasingly in need of efficient, flexible service providers of every stripe—accounting, payroll processing, legal—especially for process-heavy work that can be made more efficient (or be outright done) by technology … I also think the idea of legal service providers being owned and operated only by lawyers is narrow-minded and dated.” - Amit Khanna, Knotel GC
“I’m very accustomed to large, international law firms and working with them in the overseas market. Right now my instinct is to always go with those large law firms. It will take a while for me to think or adapt to the Big Four in those areas.” - Steve Beaver, Benchmark Electronics GC
Wednesday, August 22. Mark your calendars, Global Leaders in Law will hold a session titled “The Changing World of Global Trade” in Tokyo. Next month, the organization will hold its Mini MBA for GCs at the Harvard Faculty Club from Tuesday, September 4-Friday, September 7. GLL is an invitation-only membership group offering GCs a global platform for in-person collaboration to exchange ideas and receive advice and guidance from peers. For more information, contact Meena Heathat firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, September 13-Friday, September 14. Prominent in-house lawyers will meet to discuss disruption and the changing role of GCs at Corporate Counsel Forum Europe 2018. The conference, which is co-chaired by two prominent general counsel, Sabine Chalmers of BT and Phillip Bramwell of BAE, will take place in the U.K. at Pennyhill Park, Surrey.
Wednesday, September 26- Thursday, September 27. GCs from all over the country and beyond will gather in New York at the General Counsel Conference.Expect to hear about risk and regulation, executive leadership strategies, cybersecurity and technology and much, much more. Speakers include top-level in-house lawyers from AIG, AT&T and News Corp.
Wednesday, September 26-Thursday, September 27. Or if you’d prefer to network and learn from GCs in the hedge fund space, you might want to attend the Hedge Fund General Counsel and Compliance Officer Summit in New York. Panels include a discussion on AI and machine learning for hedge funds as well as on discussions about corporate governance and regulatory examinations.
Thursday, October 4-Friday, October 5. Where can you find a group of high-powered female in-house legal leaders getting honest about the challenges that women face in the profession? Check out Women, Influence & Power in Law, a summit in Washington, D.C. this fall. There are sure to be plenty of educational and networking opportunities, and speakers include big time in-house leaders from Pfizer, MetLife, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and more.
On the Move-
Deal Star. A company that’s been called the “world’s biggest tech investor”deserves a high-powered chief legal officer to match. SoftBank, which has invested in big names like Uber, Flipkart and SoFi, announced Tuesday it has hired Robert Townsend, a partner and M&A co-chair at Morrison & Foerster. Townsend has represented Softbank more than once before, including in the proposed mega merger between SoftBank-owned Sprint and T-Mobile.
Big Retirement. Agribusiness giant Monsanto will be looking for a new top lawyer, as its longtime legal leader, David Snively, has retired. His exit comes at an interesting time for the company, which was recently on the wrong end of a $289 million verdict in its Roundup weedkiller case. Monsanto was also acquired by German pharma company Bayer earlier this year.
In the Driver’s Seat. Once again, Uber has reached into the ranks of top government lawyers to fill a vacant leadership position. This time it’s former National Security Agency GC Matthew Olsen, who has been tapped to be the company’s new chief trust and security officer. The former top security boss at Uber, Joe Sullivan, was fired last year when it was revealed that the company had covered up a big 2016 data breach.
Search Over. The maker of the Firefox browser, Mozilla, is getting a new GC, straight from Twitter’s legal department. Amy Keating, who has in-house at Twitter since 2012, and deputy GC at the social media platform since October of last year, will be helming the Mozilla legal department, the company announced Tuesday.
Snapped Up. Former head of Snap’s adtech and measurement legal group Thomas Chow has moved over to PubMatic, a California company that creates online advertising software for publishers. Chow is the former GC of ad intelligence companyExponential Interactive and has also worked as GC at Vindicia.