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Apple’s Insider Trading Scandal, Australian Financial Regulators Get New Watchdog

F rom insider trading to financial regulators, scandals were cropping up in corporations and governments across the globe. Here’s what you might have missed in the world of corporate law this week.

Apple's insider trader watchdog accused of insider trading

Apple's former senior director of corporate law and the technology company's corporate secretary, Gene Levoff, is accused of insider trading himself. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Levoff, the executive who was in charge of Apple's insider trading policy until he was forced to step down in September 2018, with engaging in insider trading on three occasions in 2015 and 2016.

The SEC's charges allege that Levoff "traded on material nonpublic information about Apple's earnings" three times between 2015 and 2016, and another three times in 2011 and 2012. The 2015 and 2016 incidents were supposedly worth US$382,000. Levoff allegedly relied on unreleased quarterly data, as well as internal updates on iPhone sales, for his trades. The SEC's allegations state that he even violated the company's own "blackout" windows for stock transactions.

While at Apple, Levoff was responsible for compliance with SEC regulations. A New Jersey magistrate set bond at US$500,000, stating that Levoff was a flight risk with extensive assets that he could tap to flee the country to avoid facing charges at trial.

Australian financial regulators under new scrutiny

After a Royal Commission, an Australian government-appointed inquiry, heard almost a year's worth of revelations of the Australian financial industry's wrongdoings, financial regulators there will now be subject to a new oversight body. The misdeeds ranged from fees that were charged to the accounts of deceased people to cash bribes that were paid over the counter to win mortgage business.

The new watchdog entity, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, will embed officials inside many large financial institutions. Two dozen cases have been referred to regulators for possible legal action. Among other steps, the financial industry's compensation practices will be overhauled to remove conflicts of interest.

New EU tech regulations hope to strengthen fairness and transparency online

Write terms and conditions in plain language, explain why an account is being suspended, and provide 15 days' notice before changing any terms and conditions: These are among the new rules passed by the European Union to regulate Google, Amazon, Apple, and other online platforms.

The rules are designed to create “a fair, transparent, and predictable business environment” for companies that rely on online platforms operating in the European Union. The EU-wide rules will not only require companies to give reasons why they are suspending an account, but also to provide a mechanism to appeal the decision. Online retailers will also be required to disclose the main criteria they use to rank items on their site, which data they collect, and how it is used or shared.

Tesla GC leaves after two months in office

Dane Butswinka, Tesla's general counsel, was hired in December 2018, but announced February 20 that he was leaving the automobile and energy company. He will rejoin Washington, DC litigation firm Williams & Connolly, where he had spent almost 30 years before being hired by Tesla, according to the Wall Street Journal. Jonathan Chang, Tesla's vice president of legal, will become Tesla's new top lawyer.

Japan implementing shorter work weeks?

Some Japanese companies are beginning to consider a four-day work week. According to a labor ministry survey released February 12, 6.9 percent of privately held companies with 30 or more full-time employees had introduced a four-day workweek in some form, as of last year.

A decade ago, the figure was 3.1 percent. In a country known for valuing workaholism, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made work-style reform a priority, aiming to bolster women in the workplace and to give employees a better work-life balance, especially if they are caregivers for parents and children. The country's population is ageing, and its workforce is shrinking.

About the Author

Wendy R. Leibowitz is a freelance contributor. Her work has appeared in the National Law Journal, American Lawyer Register, and Chronicle of Higher Education.

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