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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


7 Ways Employers Can Prepare for Violent Attacks

Implementing the right workplace violence policies can help to ensure employee safety. Read


In Brief

Today's Top Story

Monsanto Pleads Guilty to Illegal Pesticide Use in Hawaii

Monsanto on Thursday pleaded guilty to spraying a banned pesticide on research crops on the Hawaii island of Maui in 2014, reports the Associated Press (21 November, McAvoy). Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, has also agreed to pay US$10 million for charges it unlawfully stored the pesticide, which was classified as an acute hazardous waste. The money includes a US$6 million criminal fine and US$4 million in community service payments. Prosecutors have agreed not to prosecute Monsanto if it abides by the agreement, which requires the company comply with US environmental laws. Monsanto admitted it sprayed the banned pesticide, called Penncap-M, even though the company knew the US Environmental Protection Agency prohibited its use after 2013. The company also admitted it told employees to re-enter the fields seven days after the spraying, even though workers should have been prohibited from entering the area for 31 days.

From "Monsanto Pleads Guilty to Illegal Pesticide Use in Hawaii"
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Legal Actions

J&J Loses Class Action Over Implants

More than 1,350 Australian women have won a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) over vaginal mesh implants, reports BBC News (21 November). Australia's Federal Court found that J&J subsidiary Ethicon failed to warn patients and surgeons about the "risks" posed by the products, which were commonly used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence after childbirth. Some patients said they had suffered chronic pain, bleeding, and severe discomfort during sexual intercourse after having the mesh surgically implanted. The case is one of a series of lawsuits J&J faces over the products.

From "J&J Loses Class Action Over Implants"
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McDonald's Failed to Protect Workers Against Violent Customers, Lawsuit Says

A group of McDonald's employees is suing the fast food chain over the company's handling of what the lawsuit presents as a "nationwide pattern" of customers attacking and harassing workers, reports NPR (21 November, Selyukh). The lawsuit, filed by 17 workers from the Chicago area, alleges that McDonald's and its franchisees have failed to protect workers by extending work hours late into the night, designing stores in ways that left workers more vulnerable, and providing inadequate security training and support. The fast food chain in August announced a new anti-harassment and safe-workplace training program for US workers following a wave of allegations of sexual harassment of female workers. McDonald's last week said it rolled out the program to all corporate-owned restaurants and was "encouraged" by the progress getting franchisees to implement it.

From "McDonald's Failed to Protect Workers Against Violent Customers, Lawsuit Says"
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Mergers and Acquisitions

Xerox Gives HP an Ultimatum to Reconsider Acquisition

Xerox's board says it will approach HP's shareholders if the latter does not rethink the former's acquisition bid, reports CNBC (21 November, Feiner). Carl Icahn, who has a 10.6 percent stake in Xerox, has been urging a merger between Xerox and HP, in which he recently purchased a US$1.2 billion stake. Icahn said a combined company would be in the best interests of shareholders from both companies, given the potential to reduce costs. Xerox Vice Chairman and CEO John Visentin said in a letter that his board "is determined to expeditiously pursue our proposed acquisition of HP to completion—we see no cause for further delay. Accordingly, unless you and we agree on mutual confirmatory due diligence to support a friendly combination by 5:00 p.m. EST on Monday, 25 November 2019, Xerox will take its compelling case to create superior value for our respective shareholders directly to your shareholders."

From "Xerox Gives HP an Ultimatum to Reconsider Acquisition"
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Governance

Survey Shows Companies Increasingly Critical of Proxy Advisers

Public companies are growing more worried about conflicts of interest at proxy advisory firms, but fewer companies are asking for previews of vote recommendations for annual shareholder meetings, according to a survey by Nasdaq and the US Chamber of Commerce's Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. Among the 172 companies surveyed, 19 percent "identified conflicts of interest at proxy advisory firms," up from 10 percent in 2018, reports Politico Pro (21 November, Mejdrich). However, just 17 percent requested previews of vote recommendations from the firms, down from 21 percent in 2018. Fewer companies asking for previews of the recommendations reflected a "continued frustration with a lack of communication" between proxy advisory firms and public companies, the surveyors said. Critics of a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposal to change proxy voting rules, which includes a new mandate that the advisory firms give companies an advanced look at shareholder voting recommendations, could use the data point to make a case for the opposite. The survey data suggests that the SEC is seeking to mandate something that only a tiny percentage of companies want, at least among the companies surveyed.

From "Survey Shows Companies Increasingly Critical of Proxy Advisers"
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Board/Management Relations

Franklin Templeton Promotes Johnson Family Member to CEO

Franklin Templeton is promoting its chief operating officer, Jennifer Johnson, to the role of CEO, reports the Financial Times (21 November, Walker). Jennifer is part of the Johnson family that has run the business since its founding by her grandfather, Rupert, in 1947; she will take over from her brother Gregory.

From "Franklin Templeton Promotes Johnson Family Member to CEO"
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CEO of South Korea's Top Tire Maker Arrested on Bribery Charges

Cho Hyun-bum, chief executive of South Korea's Hankook Tire & Technology, has been arrested on charges that include allegations of taking bribes, reports Reuters (21 November, Hyunjoo). Family-controlled Hankook Tire is one of the world's top 10 tire makers, whose customers include Hyundai, Ford, and Volkswagen. Prosecutors charged Cho with taking around 500 million won (US$425,778) in kickbacks from suppliers and misappropriating funds at affiliates.

From "CEO of South Korea's Top Tire Maker Arrested on Bribery Charges"
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Technology

Russia Bans Sale of Gadgets Without Russian-Made Software

Russia has passed a law banning the sale of certain devices that are not pre-installed with Russian software, reports BBC News (21 November). The law, which will go into effect in July 2020, will cover smartphones, computers, and smart televisions. A complete list of the gadgets affected and the Russian-made software that needs to be pre-installed will be determined by the government. The legislation has faced criticism from manufacturers and distributors in Russia. The Association of Trading Companies and Manufacturers of Electrical Household and Computer Equipment (RATEK) has said it will not be possible to install Russian-made software on some devices and that the international companies behind the gadgets may leave the Russian market as a result of the law. Others have raised concerns that the Russian-made software could be used to track users.

From "Russia Bans Sale of Gadgets Without Russian-Made Software"
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Information Security

GDPR Decision on WhatsApp Delayed Over Company's Concerns

Ireland's Data Protection Commission is investigating Facebook's WhatsApp, but the inquiry has been delayed because the company's lawyers are concerned about how the regulator will share potentially sensitive commercial data with authorities in other European countries, reports the Wall Street Journal (20 November, Stupp). The agency is investigating Facebook, Twitter, and other technology companies for possible violations of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation; the companies fall under the Data Protection Commission's jurisdiction because their European headquarters are in Ireland.

From "GDPR Decision on WhatsApp Delayed Over Company's Concerns"
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Tax Issues

OECD Meets to Discuss Tax Proposal

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is meeting to discuss a proposal that would set a standard tax rate for a company's global operations and allow individual governments to tax profits above that based on sales accounted for by each country, reports the Wall Street Journal (21 November, Trentmann). The new rules would represent a departure from current regulations that look at where companies are headquartered and where they hold patents and brands. Dubbed the “unified approach,” the rules would apply to companies with annual revenues of more than €750 million in consumer-facing industries, a broad term that includes technology companies—which have been in the spotlight for their tax practices—and other firms selling services and goods to consumers. The OECD aims to have agreement among its 36 member states on the unified approach by 2020.

From "OECD Meets to Discuss Tax Proposal"
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Energy

Exxon Steps Up Assets Sales With Sweeping US$25 Billion Plan

Exxon Mobil is accelerating its biggest asset sales in decades with plans to divest up to US$25 billion of oil and gas fields in Europe, Asia, and Africa, as it sharpens its focus on a handful of mega projects at home and abroad, reports Reuters (21 November, Bousso, Nasralla). The vast program, which will see Exxon effectively quit its upstream oil and gas business in Europe, comes amid growing pressure from investors to free up cash for new developments in Guyana, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and the United States. In recent months, the company has drawn up an extensive list of assets, spanning at least 11 countries, which it wants to sell. The list easily exceeds its current US$15 billion disposal target for 2021.

From "Exxon Steps Up Assets Sales With Sweeping US$25 Billion Plan"
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Transportation

European Airlines Hone Plan to Tackle Public Backlash over Emissions

In response to a public backlash over carbon emissions, Europe's airlines plan in the short run to extend the use of offsets like tree planting to compensate for greenhouse-gas output while also embracing sustainable biofuels, reports Bloomberg (21 November, Wilkes). A longer-term fix will include the introduction of hybrid and fully-electric jetliners, most likely in the 2030s. Airlines are bracing for regulatory interventions aimed at slashing emissions as new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prepares to unveil a package dubbed the “Green New Deal.” So-called flight shaming is also taking root as a concern for carriers, as campaigners including Greta Thunberg and groups such as Extinction Rebellion protest against air travel.

From "European Airlines Hone Plan to Tackle Public Backlash over Emissions"
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