One of the now-standard storylines about the global financial crisis is that despite all the chaos very few corporate executives were prosecuted and even fewer went to jail. However, rather than interpreting these circumstances to suggest that there was insufficient evidence to convict corporate executives beyond a reasonable doubt, some observers have decided that the problem was that there is something wrong with our criminal justice system.

One observer who has made a hobby horse out of these issues is the U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate, Elizabeth Warren. Senator Warren has now introduced new legislation that would lower the standard of criminal liability for corporate executive. Among other things, the new legislation would make corporate executives criminally liable for mere negligence in certain circumstances, even in the absence of the degree of intent that has for centuries been viewed in our legal system as the indispensable basis for a criminal conviction. As discussed below, this legislation is not only a bad idea in terms of our country’s corporate competitiveness, it also threatens one of our legal system’s bedrock principles.
Continue Reading Senator Warren’s Proposed Executive Liability Legislation is Contrary to Legal Traditions

It is a point I have made before but it is worth saying again – private companies are not immune from scrutiny under the federal securities laws. In a series of recent enforcement actions – most notably the SEC’s March 2018 enforcement action against Theranos and two of its executives – the SEC has made of point of emphasizing that its regulatory reach extends to private companies. Last week, the SEC announced the resolution of another enforcement action against private company executives. The latest action, involving a failed Silicon Valley start-up, underscores the SEC’s readiness to pursue securities law violations by private company executives.
Continue Reading Say It Again: Private Companies Are Subject to the Federal Securities Laws

Although it is not always appreciated or taken into account, the fact is that executives of private companies can be held liable for statements or other actions made in violation of the federal securities laws. One very recent and high-profile example where this happened involved the SEC enforcement action (and subsequent criminal proceedings) involving the high-profile medical testing company Theranos. Recent SEC and Department of Justice actions involving an Indiana-based company underscores the fact that private companies can draw the attention of federal securities regulator, and that it is not just high profile Silicon Valley firms that are potentially at risk.
Continue Reading Just a Reminder: Private Company Executives Can Be Held Liable Under the Federal Securities Laws

In the following guest post, Ulrike Binder, a corporate partner in Mayer Brown’s Frankfurt office, Jan Kraayvanger, a partner in Frankfurt office of Mayer Brown’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice, Burkhard Fassbach, Legal Counsel to Howden Germany, take a look at recent corporate governance and executive liability developments in Germany. A version of this article previously was published as a White Paper by Mayer Brown written in cooperation with Howden Germany. The original version also contains a chapter about D&O-Insurance in Germany authored by Marcel Armon, CEO Howden Germany, which can be found here. I would like to thank Ulrike, Jan, and Burkhard for allowing me to publish their article on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ article.

Continue Reading Guest Post: Compliance-Hype in Germany

One of the most closely watched issues in the world of D&O is the extent to which cybersecurity-related issues will lead to liability for corporate directors and officers. In the following guest post, Tarun Krishnakumar, a New Delhi attorney qualified in India and California specializing on issues relating to emerging technology , takes a look at the corporate liability framework under Indian laws with respect to emerging cybersecurity exposures. I would like to thank Tarun for allowing me to publish his article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Tarun’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Cybersecurity and D&O Liability: Emerging Concerns under Indian Law

The outrage that followed Uber’s revelation that hackers had accessed 57 million passenger and drive records was not about the breach itself. It was about the accompanying disclosure that the company had kept the news of the data breach secret after paying the hackers a ransom. The outrage at these disclosures was not lost on lawmakers in Washington. A measure was recently introduced in Congress that would impose new criminal penalties on anyone convicted of “intentionally and willfully” concealing a data breach, including fines and up to five years imprisonment, or both. This proposed provision is only one of several measure intended to ensure that companies quickly notify affected persons that a data breach has occurred.
Continue Reading Executive Liability for Data Breach Notification Delay?

wells fargoWells Fargo’s bogus customer account scandal is back in the news again, most recently because of the bank’s release on Monday of the report of its independent directors’ investigation of the bank’s improper sales practices. The April 10, 2017 report, which the bank posted on its website, makes for some interesting reading. Of particular interest, the report discloses that as result of the independent directors’ investigative findings, the bank has imposed compensation clawbacks on former bank officials in excess of $180 million. The clawbacks, which the bank said in its April 10, 2017 press release are “among the largest in corporate history,” raise a number of interesting issues, as discussed below.
Continue Reading Thinking About the Wells Fargo Executive Compensation Clawbacks

handshake1Most companies’ corporate bylaws or articles of incorporation contain indemnification and advancement provisions. While these provisions provide important protection for corporate executives if the individuals become the target of claims relating to their action undertaken in their corporate capacities, these provisions alone may not be provide sufficient protection. The provisions in the corporate documents may not address all of the issues that can arise and may not provide sufficient protection for the individuals when there are indemnification or advancement disputes and may not protect individuals from changes to corporate bylaws after the individuals have left the company. For these and many other reasons, well-advised corporate executives will want to have their rights memorialized in a separate, written indemnification and advancement agreement with the company, as discussed further below.
Continue Reading Why Corporate Executives Should Have a Separate Written Indemnification Agreement

It is not news that the choices CEOs make can significantly impact the companies they lead. But at least according to a recent academic study, CEOs’ ability to affect their companies is not limited just to the decisions they make in their corporate posts, but also includes decisions they make in their personal lives. According to