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Blockchain Basics: Global Regulations

Blockchain’s regulatory landscape is unsettled and constantly shifting. Here's what to watch on the horizon. Read


California AB 51 Bans Mandatory Employment Arbitration Agreements

Wide in scope but short on certainty, this law raises several questions and will likely face legal challenges. Read


Around the World: Disability Law Changes

Globally, more than 100 million people live with a major disability. Here's an overview of new disability laws. Read


Deal or No Deal, Brexit is a Big Loss for Privilege in the European Union

How will Brexit affect UK in-house counsel who practice in EU courts? Read


Is Your Website at Risk for ADA Litigation in the United States?

Here’s how your company’s website can better accommodate people with disabilities. Read


In Brief

Today's Top Story

Transport Chaos as Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two

France faced a second day of travel chaos and understaffed schools and hospitals on Friday as unions said workers would not relent on their strikes until President Emmanuel Macron backed down on his pension reform, reports Reuters (6 December, Felix, Salaün). Transport workers, teachers, doctors, police, firemen, and civil servants all began their strikes on Thursday, grinding many essential operations throughout France to a halt. Protests in Paris and Nantes turned violent, and tear gas was deployed in both places. In Paris, popular tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre closed as a result of the protests. There were cancellations of rush-hour trains into Paris on Friday, and 10 out of 16 metro lines were closed while others ran limited services. The restricted public transportation operations led to workers driving their cars to the office, and traffic in Paris completely clogged the city's roads. The main trade unions are set to meet Friday to work out a plan for the foreseeable future. The outcome depends on who blinks first—the unions who risk losing public support if the disruption goes on for too long, or the president whose two-and-a-half years in office have been rocked by waves of social unrest. Workers have interpreted Macron's pension reform plan as dismantling worker protections, but he has said he is simplifying the complicated current system.

From "Transport Chaos as Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two"
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Regulatory Developments

Huawei Launches New Legal Challenge Against US Ban

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has launched a legal challenge to a decision by US regulators to classify it as a national security threat, according to the BBC (5 December). Huawei's challenge comes after the US Federal Communications Commission put curbs on rural mobile providers using an US$8.5 billion government fund to buy Huawei equipment. Huawei denied that it poses a security threat, and asked the US Court of Appeals to overturn the FCC decision. This is the second such challenge from Huawei in a matter of months. In May of this year, Huawei challenged a decision to ban US government agencies from buying its equipment. But Washington has remained resolute that Huawei poses a security threat to the United States, and has asked other countries to not allow Huawei to build their critical 5G telecoms infrastructure.

From "Huawei Launches New Legal Challenge Against US Ban"
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EU Agrees on Steps Toward Tighter Money Laundering Supervision

European Union finance ministers on Thursday backed plans for greater powers to combat money laundering, reports Reuters (5 December, Guarascio). Last year, it emerged that US$220 billion in suspicious payments were made between 2007 and 2015 through Danske Bank's Estonian branch. Several other cases have emerged since then, the latest involving Malta's largest lender, Bank of Valletta, which the European Central Bank said had for years failed to address suspicious money risks. In a joint statement, ministers called on the European Commission to explore the possibility of transferring supervisory powers to an EU body and to amend rules to strengthen coordination among national authorities. Currently, the fight against financial crime in the bloc is mostly handled by national authorities.

From "EU Agrees on Steps Toward Tighter Money Laundering Supervision"
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Glencore Probed by UK Fraud Watchdog Over 'Suspicions of Bribery'

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has opened an investigation into Glencore over "suspicions of bribery," dealing a significant blow to the world's most powerful commodities trader. The SFO did not provide details on specific allegations, but confirmed that it was investigating the "conduct of business by the Glencore group of companies, its officials, employees, agents, and associated persons." Glencore said it would cooperate with the probe, but did not comment further on the news, reports the Financial Times (5 December, Beioley, Hume). Media reports emerged last year claiming that the SFO was scrutinizing Glencore and its dealings with Dan Gertler, the company's former business partner in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Glencore is already facing investigations in the United States and Brazil over its business practices. News of the SFO investigation came just after longtime Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg hinted he could step down next year.

From "Glencore Probed by UK Fraud Watchdog Over 'Suspicions of Bribery'"
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Governance

Companies Are Fixing Accounting Errors Quietly

US companies are increasingly likely to correct accounting problems by quietly updating past numbers, rather than alerting investors and reissuing financial statements, reports the Wall Street Journal (5 December, Eaglesham). Financial blowups in the early 2000s led to a widely-adopted rule of thumb that financial statements should be reissued and investors notified if numbers are off by more than 5 percent. The industry generally refers to such action as Big R restatements. The number of Big R restatements, according to the research firm Audit Analytics, has fallen from a peak of 973 in 2005, just after the requirement to alert investors began, to 119 last year. Research suggests that companies are increasingly eschewing Big R restatements because they tend to correlate with share price falls, instead turning to Little R revisions, which do not require them to notify investors. Rachel Thompson, an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Texas at El Paso, found that almost 45 percent of Little R revisions from August 2004 through 2015 that she analyzed met at least one of the guidelines for them to be considered Big R restatements. Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rarely uses its power to push back on companies' avoidance of Big R restatements, though it did recently question Papa John's over a related issue.

From "Companies Are Fixing Accounting Errors Quietly"
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Board/Management Relations

OneMain Hires Successor to General Counsel

Corporate Secretary (5 December, Maiden) reports that Adam Rosman is set to join OneMain Financial as executive vice president and general counsel on 2 January, succeeding the outgoing John Anderson. Anderson will step down as general counsel at the start of 2020 and take up a senior advisory role with the company until midyear, at which point he will officially retire. Rosman is departing his current role as executive vice president and general counsel for Fiserv to make the move to OneMain. Before joining First Data, Rosman spent five years at insurer Willis Group Holdings, including two years as executive vice principal and group general counsel, and he also previously worked as a government attorney during the Clinton administration.

From "OneMain Hires Successor to General Counsel"
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Principal Names Chris Littlefield as New General Counsel

Principal Financial Group announced Wednesday that Chris Littlefield is set to step into the general counsel position on 13 January. Business Wire (5 December) reports that longtime Principal employee and current general counsel Karen Shaff will retire from the company on 1 July. As executive vice president and general counsel, Littlefield will have responsibility for the law department and oversight of government relations, community relations, and the Principal Foundation. Starting in March 2020, he will also become the corporate secretary. Principal CEO Dan Houston praised Shaff for her service to the company over almost 40 years, and said he is excited for Littlefield to join the Principal team. "“Chris brings not only his expertise as a general counsel, but as a CEO and business leader," Houston said, adding that Littlefield will contribute "a welcomed perspective to the team."

From "Principal Names Chris Littlefield as New General Counsel"
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Technology

Outcry as Google Bans Political Advertising in Singapore as Election Looms

The BBC (5 December) reports that Google's announcement that it will no longer accept political ads in Singapore as of 2 December has sparked outrage as the city-state is likely to hold an election in the next year. The tech giant justified its actions by saying political ads are now regulated under Singapore's strict "fake news" law, but an opposition political party said the move would "deprive" Singapore voters of information. Singapore's local media environment is tightly controlled, making it difficult for opposition political parties to break through and reach voters. As such, the Singapore Democratic Party said it typically relies on the Internet to reach voters, and the Google ban poses a severe threat to that outreach. The next general election in Singapore must be held by April 2021, but is widely expected to take place in 2020. Meanwhile, Google has begun to restrict its political ad offerings worldwide, including more outright bans in Canada and Taiwan.

From "Outcry as Google Bans Political Advertising in Singapore as Election Looms"
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Cybersecurity

Ransomware Attack Hits Major US Data Center Provider

CyrusOne, one of the biggest data center providers in the United States, has suffered a ransomware attack, reports ZDNet (5 December, Cimpau). CyrusOne was hit early this month by a version of the REvil (Sodinokibi) ransomware, which is from the same ransomware family that hit hundreds of organizations earlier this year. Though CyrusOne has not publicly disclosed the incident, the company is reportedly working with law enforcement and forensics firms to investigate the attack. The REvil ransomware family hit several managed service providers in June, over 20 Texas local governments in early August, and over 400 US dentist offices in late August.

From "Ransomware Attack Hits Major US Data Center Provider"
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Telecommunications

Italy Finance Police Probe Telecom Companies on Maritime Roaming

Italy’s antitrust authority announced that it is investigating telecommunications operators over practices involving roaming charges at sea, reports Bloomberg (5 December, Colten). The regulator announced earlier this week that it plans to probe Telecom Italia and other phone carriers for possible unclear or incorrect charges. Customers may get hit with these when, for example, they are aboard ferries operating in the Mediterranean. According to the regulator, finance police have already carried out inspections at the offices of the telecommunication companies. The regulator said it is also examining possible "aggressive" practices by the phone carriers of providing clients with services they didn’t request, and a possible failure by the ferry operators to give passengers relevant information on phone charges.

From "Italy Finance Police Probe Telecom Companies on Maritime Roaming"
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Transportation

Media

BuzzFeed Case Shows Dublin's Draw for Foreign Libel Claimants

Ireland has long held a reputation as a hub for tech companies, but some observers have said Dublin is now known for something else: defamation cases. Ireland's claimant-friendly defamation laws have attracted a number of high-profile individuals, who have filed suit in Ireland to maximize their chances of winning cases, reports the Financial Times (4 December, Beioley). Most recently, lifestyle guru Tony Robbins hired Belfast-based attorney Paul Tweed to represent him in his defamation case against Buzzfeed. Tweed has previously represented Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, Britney Spears, Harvey Weinstein, and more. Tweed denied engaging in a sort of libel tourism, arguing that it makes sense to bring defamation cases in Ireland because it is the European headquarters for Twitter and other tech firms who may have disseminated the allegedly defamatory material. But press freedom campaigners contended that Ireland's lax defamation standards have encouraged the wealthy to pursue cases there even if they have not experienced meaningful damage in the country. According to attorney Mark Stephens, "If you have a libel case you don't think you'll win in the US or your home jurisdiction, Ireland is where you'll go." Activists and campaigners are now calling on the Irish government to change its libel and defamation laws.

From "BuzzFeed Case Shows Dublin's Draw for Foreign Libel Claimants"
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