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The Reading List The list of must-reads for corporate executives this month touch on four areas of great concern to people doing business in Texas � layoffs of white-collar workers, mergers and acquisitions, the fight against terrorism and Texas justice. In one book, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich writes a first-person account of her experiences as an unemployed, middle-aged, white-collar worker and her frustrations with the career-counseling industry. In the second book, a business professor analyzes reasons why some big, recent corporate deals went bad. A third book is a readable history of counterterrorism in the United States, while the fourth book is the sad story of drug prosecutions in the small Panhandle town of Tulia. “Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream” by Barbara Ehrenreich Metropolitan Books/2005/256 pages In 2001, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote “Nickel and Dimed,” an enlightening account of the hard life of minimum-wage workers. In research for this book, Ehrenreich poses as a middle-aged public relations professional seeking a corporate job. But after a months-long job search, she was still unemployed, and this book recounts her frustrations with the job hunt and her experiences with career counselors and with networking. The book is an often funny, eye-opening account of what happens to white-collar workers when they lose their jobs and their security. “Deals From Hell: M&A Lessons That Rise Above the Ashes” by Robert F. Bruner John Wiley & Sons Inc./2005/420 pages Corporate executives involved in a merger or acquisition � or contemplating one � should read this book for some advice on how to avoid pitfalls that make a potentially good deal turn bad. Author Robert F. Bruner, a professor at the University of Virginia, uses case studies of 10 recent, unsuccessful deals to illustrate potential problems. He pairs them with 10 similar, but successful, deals. The case studies include Houston-based Dynegy Inc.’s proposed acquisition of rival Enron Corp., which fell through in late 2001, just before Enron filed for bankruptcy. Bruner suggests that all 10 of the failures could have been avoided, or the problems mitigated, and he explains how and why. His short list for the causes of failed deals: The buyer and the target company did business in unrelated areas or weren’t a good fit, and the deals took place in a hot market such as the late 1990s technology boom. Bruner also writes that, generally, the best deals involve payment by cash and the worst call for payment in stock. This book is a useful manual for executives, lawyers and students of the deal. “Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism” by Timothy Naftali Basic Books/2005/399 pages Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, the fear of terrorism on U.S. soil is a constant worry for most Americans. But domestic terrorism is nothing new, as the author, a professor at the University of Virginia, describes in an interesting history of counterterrorism efforts by the U.S. government over the past several decades. Timothy Naftali suggests the United States once knew how to combat terrorism � an example is successful efforts against threats by Nazis during World War II � but counterterrorism moved to the back-burner until the early 1970s, when hostage-taking on aircraft woke up government officials. The book is a good read, not a technical domestic policy account, and one that’s thought-provoking for corporate executives who want to know more about what the country is doing to combat terrorism. “Tulia: Race, Cocaine and Corruption in a Small Texas Town” by Nate Blakeslee PublicAffairs/2005/450 pages The Texas Panhandle town of Tulia has been in the news since shortly after 46 people in Tulia, most of them African-Americans, were arrested on drug-trafficking charges. Many were convicted of the drug charges, but those convictions started a firestorm in the wake of news that the prosecutor used uncorroborated testimony from a controversial undercover officer. In 2003, Gov. Rick Perry pardoned those convicted, but the story of the Tulia debacle casts a poor light on justice in Texas. This book, written by a Texas journalist who has been writing about Tulia since 2000, recounts the whole sad tale of the Tulia drug prosecution and its aftereffects. It’s a must-read for corporate executives interested in knowing how justice, or injustice, works in Texas. — Brenda Sapino Jeffreys
Plan for the Day the Lights Go Out For business executives along the Gulf Coast, disaster planning became more than an academic pursuit in recent months. Some companies managed to move to alternate locations, set up new communications systems and find accommodations for relocated employees, thanks to detailed plans. Others learned that failure to plan can lead to failure of the business. Here are some Web sources that can help an executive create or refine a plan for a disaster: FEMA www.fema.gov/library/biz2.shtm This article, “Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry,” is a detailed guide to planning for and dealing with a disaster. “You can assume that not every key person will be readily available or physically at the facility after an emergency. Ensure that recovery decisions can be made without undue delay. Consult your legal department regarding laws and corporate bylaws governing continuity of management,” the guide explains. It points out the need for assuring the chain of command, maintaining lines of succession for key personnel and moving to alternate headquarters FindArticles.com www.findarticles.com A search for “disaster plan” on this site calls up a list of items, beginning with “Law Firm Test Drives Disaster Recovery Plan,” which tells how a firm managed to test its emergency communication plan during a relocation. And a search for “business continuation” yields “Effective Approaches to Disaster Recovery and Business Continuation Planning.” That article outlines a plan for IT departments to plan for emergencies and explains the importance of involving personnel from other departments in the process. “It is also common for organizations to look toward IT and network managers to write these plans although, ultimately, disaster recovery is everybody’s business,” the article says. Business Executive www.busexec.com/index.php?link=Busco1 Scroll down the page to the section titled “Developing a Business Continuation Plan” by Dan Lawrie. The report outlines the steps to take to develop a business continuation plan and answers such questions as “Should a planning template be used?” and “What are the appropriate roles of the client, insurance broker, and professional consultant?” Small Business Administration www.sba.gov/library/pubs/mp-20.txt This article � part of a management and planning series � is titled “Insurance Options for Business Continuation.” It covers the life insurance angle of planning for the loss of a key employee, partner, sole proprietor or stockholder. Ezine Articles www.ezinearticles.com A search for “business continuation” on this site yields three articles: “Business Continuation Planning,” “Key Person Life Insurance” and “Disaster Recovery � Managing the Risk.” — Joe Borders
Litigation Costs Eighty-seven percent of U.S. companies are involved in litigation in the United States, according to a recent survey of 304 in-house lawyers in the United States and 50 in the United Kingdom. On average, the U.S. companies had a docket of 37 suits, and companies with $1 billion or more in yearly revenues face 147 suits on average. Broken down by industry, health care companies report an average of 48 suits, the highest average number, and energy companies aren’t far behind with 43 suits on average. But even with all that litigation, nearly four of every 10 of those U.S. in-house lawyers could not say how much of their legal department’s budget is spent on litigation, according to the 2005 Fulbright & Jaworski Survey of Litigation Trends. The survey was conducted by the Houston-based firm in June and July; it’s the second annual survey. About 12 percent of the in-house lawyers at U.S. companies say litigation expenses eat up more than 50 percent of their total legal budget. For the companies that do track legal costs, 10 percent report their legal spending represents a hefty 5 percent or more of the company’s gross revenue. To put that into perspective, that’s $50 million for a company with revenue of $1 billion a year. The vast majority of the U.S. companies, 92 percent of them, assign an in-house lawyer to manage litigation, and 44 percent of the companies have at least one trial lawyer on staff, according to the survey. The two biggest areas for litigation are contract claims and labor and employment matters, but the in-house lawyers report that they are most concerned about securities suits. In last year’s version of the survey, the in-house lawyers were most concerned about bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the in-house lawyers report that the corporate executives they work with use results as the ultimate measure of their success � more than 50 percent of the lawyers say a good result is the No. 1 determinant of their success on the job. Other considerations are cost efficiency, with 36 percent of the lawyers saying that’s most valued by executives at their company, and avoiding trials, which 14 percent of the in-house lawyers say is most important to their corporate executives. Details of the survey are available at the firm’s Web site at www.fulbright.com . — Brenda Sapino Jeffreys

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