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Singapore International Arbitration Centre Launches its First Representative Office in the United States

Located in New York City, the new SIAC office will provide a neutral and confidential forum for US-based arbitration parties. Read


Well-being During the Pandemic: Establish Your Priorities and Boundaries by Putting on Your (Oxygen) Mask First

Like airplane oxygen masks, our top priority must be our own well-being before helping others. Read


Final Countdown to Brexit

Follow this guide to double-check your company’s readiness to do business with the United Kingdom in 2021. Read


10 Insights In-house Counsel Learned in 2020

ACC Docket is flipping (and clicking) through this year’s past issues for the most indispensable pieces of advice. Read


5 Lessons Learned from 2020 ACC Virtual Annual Meeting

A recent law school graduate shares his experience at ACC's first virtual Annual Meeting. Read


In Brief

Today's Top Story

Apple Set to Call Tim Cook Soon to Witness Stand to Fight Monopoly Claims

Apple this week has the opportunity to mount a courtroom defense against Epic Games’ antitrust claims, reports the Wall Street Journal (17 May, Higgins), and is preparing to bring in its most powerful spokesman: CEO Tim Cook. Cook is set to testify in a trial that, regardless of the verdict, could prove to be one of the most consequential for the iPhone maker as it faces accusations it denies of abusing its market power. During his decade at the helm of the tech giant, Cook has made multiple high-profile, make-or-break appearances for Apple. A polished public speaker, he has twice testified before the US Congress but never appeared on a witness stand in a trial where his words could sway a judge for or against the company. A source with knowledge of the matter said Cook has been preparing for the trial, including hours of practice rounds from former prosecutors chosen by his legal team to simulate the witness stand. Cook's testimony is likely to be the most detailed public discussion he will give on the antitrust allegations. He is expected to reinforce Apple's argument that it isn’t a monopoly in a case that threatens to unravel its control over the App Store, a key part of Apple’s services business that generated almost US$54 billion last year.

From "Apple Set to Call Tim Cook Soon to Witness Stand to Fight Monopoly Claims"
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Regulatory Developments

UK Serious Fraud Office Probes Sanjeev Gupta's GFG as Rescue Talks Collapse

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has initiated an investigation into suspected fraud, fraudulent trading, and money laundering at Sanjeev Gupta's metals empire, according to the Financial Times (14 May, Beioley, Pfeifer). The SFO confirmed it is scrutinizing "the financing and conduct of the business of companies within the Gupta Family Group Alliance (GFG), including its financing arrangements with Greensill Capital UK." Hours later, White Oak Global Advisors, which had agreed to provide an estimated £236 million in emergency funding to GFG's Australian steelworks and was in talks to provide a £200 million loan to its UK operations, said it could not continue with the deal in light of the investigation. The SFO probe and the collapse of the White Oak talks have plunged GFG into crisis.

From "UK Serious Fraud Office Probes Sanjeev Gupta's GFG as Rescue Talks Collapse"
Abstract News © 2021 SmithBucklin Read  


Ride-hailing Companies Become New Target of Chinese Regulators

China's State Administration for Market Regulation has expanded its scrutiny of the country's tech companies to the ride-hailing sector, reports the Financial Times (14 May, Shepherd). The watchdog on Friday called in executives from 10 companies for a meeting with seven other government agencies, where the executives were warned against price-fixing and monopolizing data. The platforms were instructed to address several issues, including overly-high costs for drivers, opaque mechanisms for sharing profits, and arbitrary changes to pricing. Friday's summons was the latest step in China's campaign to rein in its internet giants. The companies involved in the meeting include Didi Chuxing, Meituan Chuxing, and Cao Cao Mobility.

From "Ride-hailing Companies Become New Target of Chinese Regulators"
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Governance

Ford Shareholders OK New Generation of Family Members for Board

Ford Motor Co. shareholders last week approved the appointment of two new Ford family members to the automaker's board of directors, reports the Detroit News (13 May, Grzelewski), welcoming a new generation of family involvement for the 118-year-old company. The new directors are Henry Ford III, son of Edsel Ford II, and Alexandra Ford English, daughter of Executive Chair Bill Ford. With these elections, Ford's 14-member board now includes four women and two people who identify as members of minority groups. Meanwhile, shareholders defeated a proposal that would give each share equal voting power. Ford family members have outsize voting power under the current two-tiered stock structure. In other business, shareholders moved to reinstate Ford's quarterly dividend after it was suspended in the early days of the pandemic.

From "Ford Shareholders OK New Generation of Family Members for Board"
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Labor and Employment

Accountancy Firm BDO Tells Staff to Work Where They Want After Pandemic

The accountancy firm BDO has told its employees to decide for themselves when to come into the office after the COVID-19 pandemic, reports the Financial Times (16 May, O'Dwyer), adopting a more flexible approach than banks and professional services groups that have told employees how often they should expect to commute. BDO, the fifth-largest accountant in the United Kingdom, has a staff of 5,500 people across 18 offices. The company wants its employees to work wherever is most productive based on the tasks they are doing. BDO expects that for most people, this will involve a mixture of working at home, in the office, and at client sites. "I can't give you a barcode or an algorithm to tell each person exactly where they need to be and what they need to do, but the trust that we can carry forward from the pandemic is that each individual human probably knows what they've got to do," said Paul Eagland, BDO's UK managing partner.

From "Accountancy Firm BDO Tells Staff to Work Where They Want After Pandemic"
Abstract News © 2021 SmithBucklin Read  


Diversity Issues

Boards Are Adding More Women and Minorities Ahead of Nasdaq Rule

Since last June, 145 S&P 500 companies have added at least one Black director, a much faster pace than past years, reports Bloomberg (14 May, Green), citing recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates. Meanwhile, Latino board appointments at public companies quadrupled from a year ago, and — for the first time — women hold almost one-third of all seats on the S&P 500. Keith Meyer, the co-head of board and chief executive for recruiting at Allegis Partners, said as recently as a year ago, only around half of his clients asked about finding women and minority candidates. Now, "90+ percent of every board search that we’ve been asked to execute in the last nine months has had a strong focus on diversity, especially ethnic diversity," Meyer said. The momentum has largely been driven by quotas, like Nasdaq's proposal for listed companies to have at least one female and one underrepresented director. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will decide by August whether to approve Nasdaq’s proposal.

From "Boards Are Adding More Women and Minorities Ahead of Nasdaq Rule"
Abstract News © 2021 SmithBucklin Read  


Technology

IBM Says Chip Shortage Could Last Two Years

IBM President Jim Whitehurst told BBC News (14 May) the computer chip shortage could linger for two years. Many firms have seen production delayed because of the pandemic-triggered semiconductor shortage. The situation has been exacerbated by surging demand for TVs, phones, and gaming consoles, all of which use the chips. Whitehurst said there can be "a big lag between when a technology is developed and when [a fabrication plant] goes into construction and when chips come out," adding that it could be a "couple of years" before the situation improves. In the meantime, Whitehurst revealed IBM is exploring alternative ways to meet consumer demand.

From "IBM Says Chip Shortage Could Last Two Years"
Abstract News © 2021 SmithBucklin Read  


Legislation

Australian Insolvency Laws Set for Reform, Just Months After Introduction

Months after sweeping changes to Australian insolvency laws, the budget revealed Canberra will reexamine what should happen when businesses go bust, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (14 May, Ziffer). That could be highly significant for businesses facing financial troubles. Robyn Erskine, partner at insolvency firm Brooke Bird, expressed dismay that Canberra is doubling back to look at insolvency laws again. "They're back having a look at that regime, only months after the introduction, and that creates uncertainty in the marketplace," Erskine said. The budget does not indicate the Australian government will change the minimum threshold where creditors can issue proceedings to wind up a company. Instead, it indicates Canberra will examine the treatment of trusts under the insolvency law and review so-called "safe harbor" provisions for insolvent trading.

From "Australian Insolvency Laws Set for Reform, Just Months After Introduction"
Abstract News © 2021 SmithBucklin Read  


Data Privacy

Facebook Loses Bid to Block Ruling on European Union-United States Data Flows

The Wall Street Journal (14 May, Schechner) reports Facebook lost a bid to block a European Union privacy decision that could suspend its ability to send information about European users to US computer servers. Ireland’s High Court on Friday dismissed all of Facebook’s procedural complaints about a preliminary decision on data flows that it received in August from the country’s Data Protection Commission. The court rejected Facebook’s claims that the privacy regulator had given it too little time to respond or issued a judgment prematurely. The decision opens a pathway toward a precedent-setting interruption of the social media giant's data flows. Legal experts believe the decision also has ramifications for other tech giants. According to the experts, the logic in Ireland’s order could apply to other large tech companies that are subject to US surveillance laws, such as cloud services and email providers — potentially leading to widespread disruption of transatlantic data flows.

From "Facebook Loses Bid to Block Ruling on European Union-United States Data Flows"
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Cybersecurity

DarkSide Hacking Group Says It Is Closing

The criminal group linked to the cyberattack against Colonial Pipeline has told hacking associates that it is shutting down, according to the Wall Street Journal (14 May, McMillan). A website operated by the ransomware group DarkSide, which US officials believe is based in eastern Europe, has been down since Thursday. The security firms FireEye and Intel 471 reported that DarkSide told associates it has lost access to the infrastructure it uses to run its operation and would be shutting down amid pressure from law enforcement and the United States. It is not uncommon for cybercriminal groups to disband and later pop up under a different name. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

From "DarkSide Hacking Group Says It Is Closing"
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Software Industry Awaits Details on Biden's Order to Report Hacks

US President Joe Biden's executive order last Wednesday to shore up US cybersecurity will force many companies selling software to the government to report attacks on their systems, reports the Wall Street Journal (14 May, Uberti, Stupp), sharing information that officials and cyber experts say is increasingly important to US security. The obligations represent a significant shift for the private sector, which has largely resisted such reporting requirements for fear of financial and reputational damage resulting from the release of sensitive information about breaches. The US government is still determining which vendors the new rules will cover, what data about threats they will require, and how quickly companies will need to report. Cybersecurity experts and software industry lobbyists believe regulators' approach to specific rules in the coming months will determine the order's full impact on the private sector.

From "Software Industry Awaits Details on Biden’s Order to Report Hacks"
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Retail

CDC U-turn Puts Businesses in Tricky Position

US companies are rushing to assess their mandatory mask policies after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instituted newly-relaxed federal guidelines on the matter, Bloomberg (14 May, Clough, Boyle, Court) reports. Many companies were caught off guard Thursday when the CDC said fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Some retail chains, like Home Depot and TJX, said they do not plan to immediately change their policies. Others, like Macy's, Levi Strauss, and Gap, said they are reviewing the new guidance.

From "CDC U-turn Puts Businesses in Tricky Position"
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