While many attorneys aspire to be a General Counsel, the path to becoming a company’s chief legal officer can be even more convoluted than becoming a partner at a law firm. Recently, it was my pleasure to host an engaging panel discussion about what it takes to become a GC – and what it takes to stay there – amongst three outstanding general counsels: Jason Ellis of Staples, Thanda Fields Brassard of Fiduciary Trust of New England, and Levina Wong of Veson Nautical.
Discussion topics included:
Company leaders—whether the GC, chief executive, or some other officer in charge—often call their outside counsel when a formal claim is made against them, or a dispute appears headed toward formal litigation. What business leaders often don’t think to do is put their insurance carrier on notice as soon as a claim is made. As a recent District of Massachusetts decision related to the heavily publicized Harvard affirmative action lawsuit reinforces, failing to alert your insurance carrier of a claim can have severe consequences.
For Harvard, these consequences materialized as a $15 million loss.
In November 2014, Harvard was sued in connection with rejecting a group of anonymous Asian American students from admission to the university. Still, the school did not provide its insurance carrier, Zurich, a notice of the claim until May 23, 2017. Zurich then denied coverage, relying on its “claims-made” policy, which requires that any claims asserted in the policy period be reported to Zurich no later than 90 days after the expiration of the policy period, i.e., by January 30, 2016. Significantly, that coverage would have applied to the $15 million in legal fees Harvard incurred to defend the lawsuit.
Incredulous by … Keep reading
The default clause of most leases provides that upon the tenant’s material default, the landlord has the right to retake possession, relet the premises at the tenant’s expense and accelerate the tenant’s rent payment obligation. In a recent decision issued by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Cummings Properties, LLC v. Hines, the Court held that a liquidated damages provision that accelerates rent upon a tenant’s default of a lease is unenforceable unless it provides that the tenant will be credited for any rent collected from a new tenant during the balance of the lease term or discounts the stipulated damages to reflect the likelihood of reletting.
In early 2016, Massachusetts Constables Office, Inc. (“MCO”) secured a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (“DOR”), leading Darryl Hines, the owner, sole officer and director of MCO, to seek out office space in Woburn, the town where he thought the majority of his work would occur. On April 15, 2016, MCO entered into a five-year lease with Cummings, a major player in the Massachusetts commercial real estate market, with a base rent of $16,374 per year. The default provision of the lease provided that upon a default in the payment … Keep reading
As discussed in a blog post last year, Uber learned the hard way that with online agreements, it can take more than a simple provision stating “all disputes must be arbitrated” to ensure that your customers cannot sue you in a court of law. In a recent decision issued by the Massachusetts Superior Court (Good v. Uber Technologies, 2022 WL 10448746), Uber was foiled again – even though it had initiated what it must have thought were fool-proof protocols to prevent it from being hauled into court.
William Good had been an Uber user since August 13, 2013, and on April 25, 2021, he tried to order a ride but was blocked by a pop-up message stating: “We’ve updated our terms.” The pop-up message went on to say: “We encourage you to read our updated in Terms in full.” Among those terms was a provision stating that Uber’s customers were “required to resolve any claim against Uber … in arbitration.”
Many states are now enacting laws to further promote pay transparency, and if you have employees in those jurisdictions, you need to take note. Not surprisingly, California’s Pay Transparency Act is a leading example of this and has a number of important and new requirements.
First, California employers with 15 or more employees will be required to include pay scales in new job postings. This obligation extends to employers engaging in a third party for recruiting (e.g., job posting boards). Employers, therefore, should ensure that contracts with third parties include this requirement and appropriate indemnification clauses.
Second, California now – like Massachusetts (see M.G.L. c. 149 § 105A(c)(2)) – prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history or using salary history as a factor in a hiring decision. However, if an applicant voluntarily discloses salary information, employers may consider that information in determining the salary for that applicant. Further, employers may ask about an applicant’s salary expectations – which is a great way to engage in a conversation that might yield information helpful to hiring without risking a statutory violation.
Third, California now requires employers to disclose a position’s pay scale to an applicant … Keep reading
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