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Alan J. Amico, unlike many of the general counsels hired at Internet companies the last few years, still has a job at a thriving concern. As GC at PeopleFirst.com, the largest Internet provider of vehicle loans, business increased 300 percent in 2000 and he enlarged his department from one to five lawyers. A main concern is collection litigation. TITLE: General counsel and chief privacy officer AGE: 41 RESPONSIBILITY: Alan J. Amico reports directly to Chief Executive Officer Gary J. Miller and consults with other senior managers on transactional matters, acquisitions, loan securitizations and agreements with lending partners. As the company’s legal department has expanded from one to four lawyers, Amico has become more of a supervisor and less of a practitioner, developing expertise among his staff. Associate General Counsel Martha Joiner King handles transactions and compliance with truth-in-lending, equal credit opportunity and other state and federal laws regulating lenders. Associate GC Helen Chao manages collection lawsuits nationwide, overseeing outside firms and handling some cases on her own. She also handles financing and loan-securitization deals, and agreements with Internet partners. Amico has just hired a third associate GC, Young Moon, to handle transactional matters. “The challenge when the client is growing so rapidly is to manage the legal work and the people,” he says. “I can’t be involved in every legal decision for the company.” He works closely with outside counsel, reviewing all documents they prepare. PRIVACY MATTERS: Amico added “chief privacy officer” (CPO) to his title in January, making him formally responsible for implementing PeopleFirst.com’s customer privacy policy. The appointment underscores his company’s commitment to protecting personal information provided by loan applicants, says Amico. “Customers aren’t going to want to do business with companies that are regularly selling confidential customer information to other companies or marketing outfits,” he says. As CPO, Amico has to keep current with federal and state privacy laws, including the Financial Service Modernization Act of 1999. This federal statute — called the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act after its main sponsors — requires financial institutions to revise and publicize their privacy policies by July 1. PeopleFirst.com exceeds Gramm-Leach-Bliley requirements, he says. The company’s privacy policy says that financial information may be shared with credit agencies but assures customers that personally identifiable data will never be disclosed to marketing organizations. The company uses data encryption and secure connections and servers to prevent unauthorized access to personal accounts. Amico may be the first CPO among online vehicle lenders, but he is hardly a pioneer in the corporate privacy business. In the last two years, CPOs have been appointed at dozens of firms — ranging from corporate behemoths such as Verizon, Microsoft and General Motors to tech startups like Web advertiser Doubleclick and broadband provider [email protected] REPO MAN: As a lender, PeopleFirst.com is inevitably involved in collection litigation. The company first deals with defaulting borrowers on its own. “We try to get the issue resolved quickly by following up with our customer and writing demand letters early on,” he says. If that fails, Amico quickly refers the file to a collection agency or law firm. Amico has built an informal network of collection law firms in the states where the company writes loans. Auto loan collections are not typically big ticket items, he explains, with claims often less than $20,000. He therefore looks for firms with the expertise and infrastructure needed to move these cases efficiently. Aside from collections, the company has not been involved in significant litigation since he joined the company in February 2000, Amico says. The 240-employee firm has escaped any employment lawsuits, he claims, with the few workplace disputes resolved through mediation or arbitration. PeopleFirst.com has had arbitration clauses in its employee agreements since 1998, Amico says, explaining that California case law requires that arbitration provisions apply equally to employers and workers. According to Amico, CEO Miller is a big believer in alternative dispute resolution, and the company presses for arbitration clauses in its marketing agreements and other contracts. GIGGO: In September 2000, PeopleFirst.com bought Giggo.com, a competing online auto loan company owned by DaimlerChrysler. Amico worked with PeopleFirst’s chief financial officer and outside counsel to structure and negotiate the stock-based transaction, which was completed in two and a half months. PeopleFirst.com acquired all outstanding shares of Giggo.com, with DaimlerChrysler holding 23 percent of the common-stock equity interest in the merged company. The German auto company also provided $20 million in subordinated debt over a five-year term. (Amico refused to disclose the purchase price between PeopleFirst and Giggo, two privately held companies.) After closing the deal, integrating Giggo.com employees into the PeopleFirst.com work force caused a brief flurry of employment-law and tax work for Amico and his staff. But merging with another online lender did not push Amico into any unfamiliar legal territory, he says. PRINCIPAL OUTSIDE COUNSEL: Amico uses Weil, Gotschal & Manges’ office in Menlo Park, Calif., for general corporate and acquisition matters, including the Giggo.com buyout. He calls on New York’s Brown & Wood and Chicago’s Mayer, Brown & Platt for help on loan securitization, warehouse line of credit and other financial work. In San Diego, Amico relies on Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear as the company’s intellectual property counsel, with Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps handling trademark and Internet law. Saxon, Barry, Gardner & Kincannon does litigation and works on regulatory and contract work. ROUTE TO THE TOP: Amico graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 1981 with an accounting degree and earned a J.D. in 1984 from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. During and after law school, Amico crunched numbers as a staff tax accountant in the L.A. office of Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young). In 1985, he joined San Diego’s Saxon, Brewer, Solomon & Kincannon, eventually heading the firm’s tax department. He represented lenders, financial institutions and high-tech and construction companies in corporate and tax matters, financing transactions and mergers and acquisitions. In 1995, Amico went to Renaissance Pharmaceutical, where he served as vice president and general counsel. The next year, he became general counsel of Solid State Stamping Inc., an auto parts manufacturer and supplier based in Temecula, Calif., and then in 2000, joined PeopleFirst.com. PET PEEVE: Amico gets annoyed by law firms that have problems providing or keeping within a budget, or that don’t warn him that their bill will be higher than forecast. “I have to live on a budget here. I expect our outside counsel to do so too,” he says. FAMILY: Amico, his wife, a “finance person by training,” and three school-age children live in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad, Calif. Citing his own privacy concerns, Amico asked that the names of his family members not be mentioned in this article. LAST BOOK READ: “Forbes Great Success Stories: Twelve Tales of Victory Wrested from Defeat,” by Alan Farnham.

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