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Showing 13 posts from 2017.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission Launches Cooperation Initiative

When investigating potential wrongdoing, government investigators have powerful tools that they can use to obtain information. As the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual explains, one such tool is the ability to enter into non-prosecution agreements (NPAs) in exchange for cooperation from companies and individuals.

For example, if a corporate executive has valuable information to offer in a criminal investigation of his employer or other employees, the DOJ can enter into an NPA with that exec, agreeing not to prosecute him or her in order to secure the information. Read More ›

Supreme Court Will Decide Whether Internal Whistleblowers Can Bring Dodd-Frank Retaliation Claims

The Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010, includes a new cause of action for whistleblowers who claim that their employer retaliated against them for reporting wrongdoing. But it’s not yet certain whether a whistleblower who blew the whistle internally, but not to the Securities & Exchange Commission, can bring a Dodd-Frank claim. As we covered in this post, federal judges have issued conflicting decisions on this issue.

The Supreme Court is now ready to resolve this conflict. Today, the Court granted certiorari in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Paul Somers, which presents the question of whether the Dodd-Frank protection extends to an internal whistleblower. Read More ›

Cardiac Arrest: A CEO’s Story of Criminal Jeopardy

When an executive becomes embroiled in a dispute with an employer, the executive tends to take it personally. And when the executive’s conflict is with the government, the executive’s sense of outrage ratchets up even more.

Case in point: the new book from former Vascular Solutions, Inc., CEO Howard Root, titled Cardiac Arrest: Five Heart-Stopping Years as a CEO On the Feds' Hit-List. As the subtitle suggests, Root spent five years under investigation by the Department of Justice in connection with allegations that his company, VSI, engaged in off-label marketing of a medical device for the treatment of varicose veins known as the “Short Kit.” Read More ›

How Do You Prove Damages When Executives Breach A Non-Solicit Provision?

In 2011, a group of executives left Horizon Health Corporation for a competitor, Acadia, but they didn’t leave everything behind. Horizon’s president took a “massive, massive amount” of Horizon documents with him on an external hard drive. And despite provisions in their contracts prohibiting them from soliciting Horizon’s employees, the executives recruited a key member of Horizon’s sales team, John Piechocki, who copied lists of sales leads and added them to his new company’s “master contact list.” Read More ›

What Makes a Work Environment “Hostile”?

Federal employment law protects against a number of different types of discrimination, including treating employees differently because of age, gender, or race. 

More and more often, employees bring discrimination claims based on harassment, rather than (or in addition to) claims based on employer decisions that appear to be discriminatory. 

However, an employee can only bring a harassment claim under federal law if the employer has engaged in "discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult" that was "sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment." See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993). Read More ›

California Court Refuses to Shelve Barnes & Noble Manager’s Termination Claim

An employee without an employment contract is typically deemed to be an at-will employee. In an at-will employment relationship, the employer has the right to terminate the employee for any reason permitted by law, with or without cause.

Moreover, when employers write their employee handbooks, they frequently adopt strong language describing this at-will employment structure and warning employees of this termination right. But sometimes even this handbook language isn’t enough to protect an employer from a claim that an employee is exempt from termination without good cause.

That’s exactly what happened to Barnes & Noble in Oakes v. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, a recent decision from the California Court of Appeal. Read More ›

Can Employers Discriminate Against Employees Based on Sexual Orientation? No, According to this Key Court

Federal law—specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on a number of protected characteristics, including sex, race, national origin, and religion.

One major open question, however, is whether Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation. For example, if a job candidate is openly gay, can the employee refuse to hire that person because of his sexual orientation without violating federal law?

The Supreme Court has never spoken on the issue. Read More ›

Ex-General Counsel Dodged Privilege Claims Before $14.5 Million Verdict (pt 2)

In our last post, we detailed how Sanford Wadler, the former general counsel of Bio-Rad Laboratories, won a $14.5 million verdict against Bio-Rad.

Before Wadler could get to a jury, however, he had to surmount a significant hurdle: Bio-Rad asked the judge to exclude any testimony based on information Wadler learned in his role as in-house counsel. Bio-Rad relied on an attorney’s ethical duty to protect client confidences unless the client is threatening criminal activity that could lead to death or serious bodily harm. Read More ›

How Did This Ex-General Counsel Win $14.5 Million From His Former Employer? (pt 1)

Companies entrust their in-house attorneys with sensitive and confidential information in order to obtain legal advice on important matters. Thus, when an in-house attorney turns on his or her employer, the repercussions can be significant.

In a recent case involving just this situation, a jury awarded Sanford Wadler, the former general counsel for Bio-Rad Laboratories, an $8 million verdict for wrongful termination. The jury found that Wadler raised concerns about violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) at Bio-Rad, and that the company violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and California public policy when it terminated him after he raised those concerns. Read More ›

Beware the Deadlock: Delaware Courts Step in on Corporate Dysfunction

The board of directors controls a corporation, but individual directors don’t always agree on the future direction of the company. Sometimes, boards can split into factions. A company’s CEO may align himself with one side and oppose the other.

In rarer circumstances, these disagreements can develop into corporate gridlock. This happens when the warring factions on a board are equally divided.

What can a court do to fix this situation? Read More ›