Author Archive: Brian Sanchez

Column: Law Firms & Cyber Security

Chris Garrod Bermuda July 2017[Opinion column written by Chris Garrod]

Hello Hackers

My veterinarian was recently hacked. Someone wanted to extort money from them as ransom for private information they held. On dogs… and cats. And of course, more realistically, their clients.

It was dealt with and they beefed up their software and data systems.

But, to me, it was a telling example of the way cyber attacks now play a risk in our cyber society. If you collect sensitive or personal data in any way from clients or third parties, you are exposed to the potential risk.

When you think of cyber risk or cyber security, one might instantly think that banks or financial institutions are mostly the firms at risk. And not vets.

So, where do law firms rank?

Law firms rank up there to banks and financial institutions. And many — if not most — law firms don’t realise it.

The advent of cyber risk

I get the odd email every so often from my firm’s IT department. Often it says that an email has been circulating around regarding something or other with an attachment and to please don’t open it, as it contains malware and the email is a phishing scam.

That is simple cyber security. It is now constantly evolving.

Cyber risk is an issue for any organization where client data is collected and is incredibly sensitive. Trade secrets. Client transactions with third parties. The importance of cyber security ranks extremely highly amongst financial institutions, banks and many businesses in general . It is still relatively new to employ a “Chief Digital Officer” or “Chief Information Officer” to have responsibility for oversight of cyber risk but it is on the rise —research firm Gartner predicts 90% of large organisations will have a chief digital officer role by 2019. And the CDO or CIO role is increasingly becoming a core role within a firm’s management.

There have been a number of cyber breaches so far involving law firms, the most well known being attacks against Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Weil Gotshal & Manges, DLA Piper and Mossack Fonseca [the latter being the “Panama Papers” leak].

Law firms are not immune from cyber risk. In fact, they are easier targets — and that is because, broadly speaking, the levels of data security are far lower than other companies and therefore they are easier to access by potential hackers.

The cyber risk to law firms

So why have law firms traditionally been not as sophisticated in ensuring that they are protected from cyber risk?

The simple answer is that it costs a great deal of money to ensure cyber risk is controlled. and firms have not been particularly keen on investing in protecting against it. That is however now changing, as a result of the new cyber risk climate.

Ransomware Bermuda Aug 2017

So what can firms do?

1. One first easy and inexpensive way of improving cyber security involves raising awareness and training staff. Use outside consultants if needed. Simple things would obviously range from the standard “Don’t click on suspicious links” or “Add passwords to mobile devices”. But the training should be regular and constantly updated, just as the cyber risk itself evolves. I’m pretty educated now about not responding to phishing emails — but it only takes one mistake by a single employee to cause a huge breach of security and allow hacker access.

Some security measures can be a result of insider breaches — i.e. staff who are unhappy and want to leak data to outsiders and inflict revenge on their employer in some way. In some ways those breaches can be difficult to control [other than to try to ensure your staff remain content], IT Departments should always be vigilant to rouge employees who may cause such misconduct and take measures to implement whatever protective measures are available.

All of these are very basic and easy to implement measures. A number of others are not as easy — and not inexpensive. They require investment.

2. Cyber security insurance is one. Law firms must ensure that their insurance policies cover cyber risk. Clients may even soon want to ensure that the firm they engage has cyber security explicitly referenced as part of their malpractice or general liability insurance policies. Cyber risk is now becoming increasingly common in the insurance marketplace — and with more ransomware and similar attacks, that will be a continuing trend.

3. Network segregation in some way should be implemented. Where is data stored, how is it stored and how easy is it able to be accessed? Does it need to be accessed “on site”? The use of off-site, high level encrypted archives should be considered as a means to protect sensitive client data that isn’t required locally.

4. Operating systems and applications. How up to date is your version of Windows? Or the programs which you use on your desktop PC — are they up to date with the most recent security measures implemented by their programmers? If not, why not? Is it simply because such upgrades on a firm wide basis involve expense?

The fallout and how to deal

And then what if a breach does occur?

First, law firms should ensure that they have a response plan in place. If your firm is hacked, what is your management’s plan to address it? That response plan applies to the firm’s staff, to the media, to cyber security firms, the firm’s insurers and by far, most importantly, to its clients. Damage control is vital, as reputation is everything to a law firm. Is the firm’s management prepared? Does it have a head of IT who understands the risk, or a Chief Digital Officer — depending on the size of the firm. Does its Chairman or CEO understand the risk? Does its senior management even understand the risk? Do its partners?

Test cyber security programs. Use experts. Do it regularly. Ensure that it passes and your data is safe. If not, update it. Spend the money to do it.

I now have clients who request that the data and information which we obtain from them is “theirs”, and is retained by them or deleted after our engagement is terminated and the matter is finished. Having seen large law firms breached by ransomware attacks in the last few years, I expect that trend to continue.

Hackers and cyber criminals are smart. They prod and probe and will look for weak spots in any firm’s cyber defences. And hackers evolve. “Ransomware” was not even a term used a few years ago. Now it is commonplace.

And law firms are — indeed — viewed by them as easier to hack.

Law firms can only do what they can to minimize risk. But in 2017 and heading into 2018, cyber attacks will likely no longer make headline news like they do now. And firms which take a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” approach to cyber risk by not investing and making cyber security a top priority take a huge risk. While a data breach could be disastrous for a law firm’s clients, if not handled correctly, from a reputational and client retention standpoint, the firm itself which is breached may also ultimately lead to its downfall.

Chris Garrod is a Bermuda insurance attorney with opinions on AI, legaltech, insurtech, IoT and fintech.

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Two New Practices Emerge from Law Firm Closure

Two New Practices Emerge from Law Firm Closure

Legal heads turned when partner Peter Boyles announced in June that he and the 16 other attorneys in the Traverse City office of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge (SHRR) were leaving to start their own firm.

Although the deal had not been finalized at the time, Boyles said rumors about the separation were starting to circulate, so he decided to announce the new firm, to be called Parker Adams Harvey & Judson, PLC.

But then the pending separation took several unanticipated twists.

One of SHRR’s most senior Traverse City partners, Charles Judson, died in July. It also became unclear whether several other lawyers would continue Boyles’ new firm. The Traverse City partners then began wondering if it made sense for them to split off into one firm, or separate into two practices.

“As Grand Rapids patiently worked through the options with us, things were changing,” said Boyles, a trial lawyer who worked for SHRR almost 21 years. “It looked like it wouldn’t work financially. This is a big ship to turn and that became daunting as well. We decided that it would be easier to work with two smaller groups.”

A deal was struck to create two new law firms that would start business August 1. Boyles became the managing partner of Parker Harvey, a nine-attorney firm that includes two of counsel lawyers.

Former SHRR attorney Janis Adams is the managing
partner of the second firm, Danbrook Adams Raymond, which has three attorneys.

Three SHRR lawyers in the Traverse City office either retired or are not currently practicing law. A fourth moved to another firm.

SHRR, based in Grand Rapids, was the largest law firm in Traverse City according to a 2015 report in this publication. The Michigan law firm has 60 lawyers with offices in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Holland, and Muskegon and provides legal services and counsel in more than 30 practices areas.
Leaders of the three firms say the split was civil, while acknowledging that it involved intense, complex negotiations, which started in January.

“It was amicable all the way around,” Adams said. “But it was difficult to do from a process standpoint for an office that had been here for over 25 years. All options were considered and respectfully discussed.”

William Jack, SHRR’s chief executive officer, agreed.

“Given the quality of the people in Traverse City and Grand Rapids, I don’t think it could have gone more smoothly,” Jack said. “That’s a testament to the members of the firm.”

SHRR will continue to do some litigation work in Traverse City but will no longer have an office presence there, he said.

“It’s bittersweet for me individually,” said Jack about his former Traverse City colleagues. “It was absolutely the right thing to do, but they’ve been a part of me for 25 years.”

Leaders of the three firms declined to discuss various financial details of the separation, including revenues generated by the Traverse City office. Adams said 95 percent of SHRR’s Traverse City clients moved to the new firms.

The Grand Rapids home office will feel the effects financially, said Jack.

“It will have a revenue impact on our firm,” he said. “But I’m optimistic we’ll be just fine.”
Parker Harvey is planning to move to the PNC Bank building on Garfield Avenue. Dan brook Adams Raymond’s offices are located in the Lake Michigan Credit Union building on Front Street in Traverse City.

Boyles said the seeds of separation were planted in 2015 when the firm undertook a strategic planning exercise.

“We did an analysis of the state of the firm,” said Boyles, who was on its board of directors at the time.

“Looking at the financials, we began to question the benefit of a Grand Rapids firm having a Traverse City office. It’s expensive to have satellite offices. You lose some of the efficiencies.”

The Traverse City office also had a different practice mix than the rest of the firm. The local office was more a full-service firm while SHRR was “litigation heavy,” Boyles said.

“We had been trying for years to diversify in Grand Rapids and become more of a full-service law firm. But it was difficult to attract and retain attorneys who were not litigators,” he said. “We [in Traverse City] came to the realization that it made sense to focus on what we do best. We started thinking, ‘Is there a way to unwind this in a way that can work?’ ”

Jack said SHRR had become more of a statewide firm, while lawyers in the Traverse City office were focused on regional clients. And he agreed with Boyles that the Traverse City office had a different mix of legal services than the rest of the firm.

“We had specializations that didn’t exist anywhere in [SHRR,]” he said. “We tended to have more individual clients in things such as estate planning, probate and real estate, and not as many middle-market business clients as Grand Rapids.”

One of those specialties was employment law practiced by Adams, who decided to continue that in her own firm. Her new firm also offers several other specialties, including liquor licensing, and wealth preservation and succession.

“The situation soon crystalized for each of us,” Adams said. “We decided to become two firms focusing on different practice areas. We intend to have an amicable relationship between the firms and will have referral arrangements with each other.”

Like any separation or corporate restructuring, the lawyers and support staff worked through months of uncertainty as the split from SHRR was being negotiated.

“We had people who were here for 27 years and there was cause for them to be uncomfortable,” Boyles said. “But people stayed cool and kept their heads as they worked through multiple issues.”

Four support staffers were laid off in the separation and were given severance packages, he said.
Jack said SHRR and the two new Traverse City firms will refer cases to each other in the future.

“The people in Traverse City are first class,” he said. “We wish them the very best.”

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Nigeria and the assault on law and order

Temilade Aruya

The blatant disregard for the due process of the law being exhibited by all classes of people in our country is a cause for serious concern.  Often, the law is twisted and circumvented by unscrupulous elements to suit their selfish goals.

This is a dangerous trend that will birth nothing but chaos and anarchy. Any nation that renders its laws impotent is naturally heading for chaos. A situation where the law becomes nothing but mere written words to line up the book shelves of law firms, court rooms, libraries and academic institutions portends great danger for all.  Of what essence are finely crafted laws that cannot be enforced or effectively applied?

In Nigeria today, it is not uncommon to hear of suspects escaping from police custody or innocent citizens being arrested unlawfully. It is also not unusual for the rich and powerful to unlawfully engage the instrument of the law to oppress the poor or negatively influence the course of justice.

The challenges associated with seeking justice in Nigerian are frustrating and debilitating as many cases carry on endlessly with adjournment after adjournment; needless and frivolous adjournments that only serve to derail the course of justice.

The flagrant disregard for court injunctions and rulings by government agencies is unprecedented while the shameful abuse of the rule of law by top officials at different levels is quite unbecoming.

 How do we explain a situation where top public and private figures who defraud the nation of huge sum of money walk free after returning some percentage of their loot?  In my opinion, recent clamour for amnesty for looters by some members of the public and top political figures is nothing but an endorsement of corruption. This is a slap on the face of the law and an affront on our collective psyche as a people.

 Equally, the spate of lawlessness in the country is quite worrisome. A situation where gunmen had the effrontery to launch an attack on a legitimate government law enforcement agency such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the recent gruesome attack on hapless worshippers in a Catholic church in Anambra State attest to the level of depravity and lawlessness to which the country has sunk. This is unacceptable in a lawful society. But then, does ours really represent a lawful clime?

It is also unimaginable and shocking that a group of Nigerians will go on the social media to clamour for the release of an alleged kidnapper like Evans. This depicts the poverty of our values, the paucity of our thinking and the depravity of our mentality.

In so many ways Nigeria and Nigerians have exhibited a penchant for disobeying the law, ranging from inability to obey simple traffic rules and regulation to adherence to safety and routine environmental sanitation laws.

The consequences of a lawless society are enormous and far-reaching with multiplier effects on the entire society. It does nothing but encourages increase in crime and corruption. The apparent disregard for value, culture and ethics is an offshoot of the state of lawlessness in the country.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, government officials took N400bn bribes in one year. The NBS also reported an increase in crime rate in areas such as offence against persons, offence against property, offence against lawful authority and offence against local acts. The need to revitalise the judiciary and all components of our legal machinery becomes expedient in the face of these crises.

The role of the law in any society cannot be overemphasised as it shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people. The effective application of the law helps in combating crimes and lawlessness.  The reason for the increased rate of compliance and obedience of the law in developed nations compared to developing nations like ours is the efficacy of the law. The system is such that you can’t evade the law; no matter how long it takes, the long arms of the law will eventually catch up with a criminal. A good example of this is the famous James Ibori case in the United Kingdom.

The law has been defined as a system of rules created and enforced through social or government institutions to regulate behaviour. In other words, it is the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules that preserve law and order in societies.

Consequently, when laws are obeyed, there are peace and tranquility within the society and a drop in the crime rate. The quick dispensation of justice also promotes compliance nonetheless maximising obedience is a crucial element in a law being successful. Thus, a straightforward measurement of whether a law is achieving its goals or its impact is the extent to which there is compliance with it.

However, the law on its own cannot function, as enforcement is necessary for rules to be obeyed; it must be implemented by state bodies and apparatus of government. Government must possess the political will to fight crime and corruption while the people must be aware of the various laws guiding their engagements or activities.

Agencies of government such as the EFCC, ICPC, FRSC, VIO, LASTMA, KAI, judiciary, police and others that are responsible for enforcing the law must be pro-active rather than being reactive and act in an organised manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating, or punishing people who violate the rules and norms governing the society. Their work also involves making sure a rule or standard or court order or policy is properly followed. They must be seen to be above board and disciplined.

The law as a system of rules which may be enforced by the imposition of penalties must be seen to be active and alive. That means it must be applied without fear or favour and it must be seen to be absolute. This will not only breed respect for the law but will build fear and compliance within the society. Above all, the judiciary must be seen to be independent.

In the words of American author, attorney and diplomat, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, “The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we need to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing”.

Aruya wrote in from Ikeja, Lagos

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Trade mission aims to build links between US and Yorkshire media firms

SENIOR figures from US media firms will head to Yorkshire next month as part of a trade mission which aims to forge stronger ties between New England and companies at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.

The trade mission to Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle will investigate potential trade relationships and off-shoring opportunities between the US and the North of England.

The mission, which will be led by the British American Business Council of New England (BABCNE), will meet businesses in Manchester on September 18, Leeds on September 20 and Newcastle on September 21.

The delegation will be welcomed by senior business and civic leaders and Government representatives in the three UK cities, and there will also be the opportunity to schedule one-to-one meetings between the US agencies and their UK counterparts.

Rick McKenna, the chief executive of the Boston-based advertising and brand agency Wallwork Curry McKenna, will lead the media delegation, which also includes public relations, business development and video production agencies from Massachusetts.

Paul Snape, of Appeal PR and Great British Marketing, which has offices in Harrogate and Boston, Massachusetts, is organising events and meetings for the delegates in Leeds.

Mr Snape said: “The relationship between the UK and US has never been more important for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, and this is a chance for media agencies in Manchester and Leeds to meet potential partners in the US.”

Mr Snape said the trip could lead to new international trade opportunities between Leeds and Boston-based firms.

He said senior figures from the Leeds City Region are also keen to give businesses and representatives from Boston an insight into what Leeds has to offer in terms of tourism and inward investment.

Mr Snape told The Yorkshire Post: “Two US law firms are also on the trip, aiming to grow networks and offer immigration and tax advice to a growing number of UK clients.

“There are 13 delegates, including the Consul General to New England, Harriet Cross who comes from Beverley, and is a great advocate for Yorkshire.”

Events to welcome the delegation are being hosted by the law firm Clarion, Leeds City Council, professional services firm RSM and marketing services group Paragon in Leeds.

Mr Snape said that Yorkshire business leaders who were looking to forge ties with US firms must be prepared to spend time in the US market, building connections and networks.

He added: “Too many firms don’t try to empathise with target customers, and don’t appreciate the subtle differences in business culture that can really hamper relationships. American businesses can be run in a very different manner to UK firms, but they can teach us a great deal, and they can offer huge opportunities, especially with the current climate and economics.”

Mr McKenna said: “We are here looking for UK clients who want to get advice on marketing in the US, but also to forge some long-term relationships with UK agencies who might need US partners, just as we sometimes need support for UK campaigns.”

Any agencies interested in meeting Mr McKenna and his colleagues can make contact via the GreatBritishMarketing.com website and request an introduction.

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Law firm renews challenge to help union families

Simmons Hanly Conroy, the largest plaintiffs’ personal injury firm in the St. Louis area, has again matched $25,000 in donations to $5 for the Fight.

Since 2012, the firm’s match challenge has raised more than $175,000 for the $5 for the Fight Emergency Relief Fund, established by the Greater St. Louis Labor Council and supported by the United Way.

“Our attorneys are committed to helping union families who have been impacted by corporate wrongdoing,” Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Chris Guinn said. “Union tradesmen and women are more likely to be exposed to toxins like asbestos on the job just by the nature of their professions. The Simmons match challenge is a way for us to continue our dedication to union families both in and out of the courtroom.”

The fund, established in 1996, helps union members and their families facing financial hardships. In 2016, 291 families from 61 unions received help paying their mortgages, utilities, medical bills and more through last year’s fundraising efforts. The $5 for the Fight campaign raised approximately $75,000, including contributions from other local funds and charities.

“The Simmons law firm once again has shown its loyalty to the labor community with this generous donation,” said Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council. “This fund is set up to help union members in need and is funded mainly by other union members. To have a friend in the business community such as Simmons is a blessing for all of us. “

The labor council and United Way of Greater St. Louis cover administration costs for the fundraiser, allowing donations to directly benefit union families in the St. Louis area. Guinn said he hopes the Simmons match campaign will motivate others to give.

Donations to the $5 for the Fight Fund can be made by check or online. Mail a check or money order to $5 for the Fight, c/o St. Louis Labor Council, 3301 Hollenberg Drive, Bridgeton, MO 63044, and include your union affiliation if applicable. To make an online donation, visit labortribune.com and click “Donate $5 for the Fight” in the right-hand column. An option to create a reoccurring automated donation is also available.

About Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC

Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton. Read more at simmonsfirm.com.

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How big firms avoided up to £25bn in taxes

  • Major firms ‘avoided’ tax last year which could fund the NHS for three months 
  • HMRC believes the sum is made up of underpaid VAT, corporation tax and NI
  • The suspected bill has grown by 14 per cent over the past twelve months 
  • Chancellor Philip Hammond wants to crack down on mass tax avoidance  

James Burton For The Daily Mail

Big businesses could be forced to cough up £25billion of underpaid tax in a major crackdown on avoidance.

Britain’s largest firms are being investigated by HMRC for potentially dodging £24.8billion of VAT, corporation tax and national insurance payments last year.

It is enough to fund the NHS for nearly three months.

HMRC are probing Britain's largest firms who are accused of dodging £25bn in tax 

HMRC are probing Britain's largest firms who are accused of dodging £25bn in tax 

HMRC are probing Britain’s largest firms who are accused of dodging £25bn in tax 

The investigations highlight the scale of efforts by powerful companies to avoid paying their fair share.

HMRC’s probes have snowballed as public anger at fat cat greed grows. The amount of suspected uncollected tax from the year to March is 14 per cent higher than the previous 12 months.

It is 31 per cent more than two years earlier.

Law firm Pinsent Masons, which uncovered the figures, says this means the taxman’s large business directorate is taking a more zealous approach. But tax investigations are the first stage in a tug of war between the exchequer and businesses and there is no guarantee the money will ever end up in Government coffers.

If HMRC experts have suspicions, they can examine a company’s books and then amass enough evidence to demand it pays up.

But many firms refuse and appeal the decision, leading to lengthy wrangling in the courts. Pinsent Masons partner Heather Self said: ‘HMRC is broadening its horizons and putting a far wider range of transactions under scrutiny. We are seeing an increasing number of challenges to arrangements that would previously have been regarded as routine and perfectly acceptable.

‘The figures represent the amount of tax HMRC considers is underpaid. Not all its investigations will actually result in more tax being paid.’ It follows a harder stance on tax from the Treasury after a string of scandals including last year’s Panama Papers debacle, when it was revealed that thousands of well-known figures around the world were stashing their money in offshore havens.

In November Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to raise an extra £2billion by 2020 through a crackdown on tax avoidance.

The £25 billion tax hole  is enough to fund the NHS for three months, file photo

The £25 billion tax hole  is enough to fund the NHS for three months, file photo

The £25 billion tax hole  is enough to fund the NHS for three months, file photo

Miss Self said the anti-avoidance efforts were aimed at squeezing employers so ordinary families did not feel the pinch.

She said: ‘The Treasury faces an unenviable choice – either cut public expenditure and services, or squeeze taxpayers for more money.

‘Increasing tax revenue through investigations is often the more politically palatable option, particularly when the focus is on large businesses.

‘However, HMRC is putting the affairs of more and more companies under the microscope as a result, increasing the costs for those businesses.’

A so-called ‘Google tax’ was introduced in 2015 to try to stop large firms shifting their cash to overseas havens, and big businesses will soon be ordered to publish their strategies for limiting payments to the Treasury.

Around two-thirds of all large companies are under investigation at any one time, and disputes can drag on for decades.

The amount eventually handed to the authorities is typically half of what was initially asked for.

Big businesses handed over a record £49.5billion of corporate tax in the last fiscal year, up 12 per cent on the previous 12 months.

A HMRC spokesman said: ‘Tax under consideration is not tax owed or unpaid, it’s an estimate of what might be at stake if we didn’t investigate.

‘By effectively enforcing the rules, HMRC has since 2010 brought in £53billion that would have otherwise gone unpaid and collected over £8billion from large businesses last year alone.’ 

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UK may shame firms over boss pay

The British government announced Tuesday reforms that could see companies that award generous pay packages despite shareholder opposition shamed in a public register, although the package was less ambitious than the original proposals.

The government of Prime Minister Theresa May has been considering reforms since last year following growing public anger over outsize executive pay. One of the key proposals, which must be approved by parliament to become law, would require listed companies to reveal the pay ratio between bosses and workers.

Another would create a public register in which publicly traded companies would be listed if they went forward with executive pay policies despite the opposition of more than one-fifth of shareholders.

It is hoped the negative publicity over being listed in the register would encourage firms to better take into account the views of shareholders. But dropped from the initial proposals floated in November was giving shareholders a veto over executive pay. Votes on the issue during general shareholders meetings are usually non-binding.

One measure that the government is moving forward with is introducing employee representatives on the boards of listed companies.

But the proposals would give firms options including the appointment of an employee representatives or handing a non-executive director the responsibility of voicing the views of employees.

Stephen Martin, the head of one of Britain’s largest employers’ associations, said the Institute of Directors welcomes “the pragmatic approach the government is taking to improve how company boards work.”

However, the head of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, accused Prime Minister Theresa May of abandoning her promise to curb corporate excesses.

“It’s a feeble proposal, spelling business as usual for boardrooms across Britain,” she said.

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Gov’t data requests almost double for tech firms – big brother really is watching

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UK and US governments have almost doubled their requests to obtain data from tech companies.

Businesses are facing new pressures to deal with the exponential rise in government requests for data, with the Snooper’s Charter allowing for even more data access and the impending GDPR adding to the regulatory burden.

Worrying analysis by Deloitte has found that UK and US governments have almost doubled their requests to obtain data from technology, media and telecoms companies over the past three years. Looking at 26 companies, the analysis found that the number of data requests increased from 354,970 to 704,678 between 2013 and 2016.

The surge in requests highlights the growing regulatory burden faced by UK and US companies, with UK businesses set for that burden to grow even heavier with the impending GDPR and EU privacy rules.driverless

“This new research pulls back the curtain on the sheer volume of data handed over to the UK and US authorities by 26 of the biggest tech and communications companies, including Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, that profit from harvesting our personal information,” said Simon Migliano, Head of Research at Top10VPN.com.

“The most disturbing aspect is how data demands nearly doubled over the three years before the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) came into force in the UK to grant the authorities unprecedented powers to access communications data, including browsing history.”

Although data requested by government is a vital tool in national security and law enforcement, the amount of time, cost and risk which businesses face in dealing with such requests is growing exponentially in line with the surge in data demands. This, Mr Migliano says, is being leveraged by governments who are using volume to their advantage.

“Now the floodgates are open, the volume of such data requests is set to skyrocket yet further in the UK. Indeed the authorities benefit from a high-volume approach, as it quickly becomes prohibitively expensive for companies swamped with demands to properly verify the validity of each one. Their ability to continue to resist incursions into their users’ privacy is very much at risk.”

READ MORE: As IP Bill becomes law, what does the Snoopers Charter mean for your business?

Privacy sits at the heart of GDPR, yet the Snooper’s Charter has given the government unprecedented access to citizens’ data – it seems that business is being shackled with compliance, while the UK government is having its cake and eating it too.

“In a chilling reminder to the British public to take active steps to protect their privacy, the research reveals that state snoopers had full access to photo, video, message and document content in over 12% of data requests, a number set to spike now the Snoopers’ Charter makes it much easier to do so,” Mr Migliano said.

“Worse, the Snoopers’ Charter allows the authorities to combine and cross-reference this huge trove of personal information with bulk personal datasets, essentially massive databases that contain every single UK resident, to build up highly detailed individual profiles. Big Brother really is watching.”

Businesses must be aware of the cost of full compliance – that includes data requests. The costs incurred by data requests are only set to increase, meaning more resources will have to be allocated in dealing with the data deluge. On the other side, citizens must understand that their data is not private, with the only way to fight big brother being to reconsider what and how much data you give companies.

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SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Pomerantz Law Firm Investigates Claims On Behalf of Investors of Bio-Techne Corporation – TECH

NEW YORK, Aug. 30, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Pomerantz LLP is investigating claims on behalf of investors of Bio-Techne Corporation (“Bio-Techne” or the “Company”)

TECH, -0.98%

   Such investors are advised to contact Robert S. Willoughby at rswilloughby@pomlaw.com or 888-476-6529, ext. 9980.

The investigation concerns whether Bio-Techne and certain of its officers and/or directors have engaged in securities fraud or other unlawful business practices. 

[Click here to join a class action]

On August 29, 2017, Bio-Techne announced that the Company would be unable to timely file its Annual Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, citing the “greater-than-anticipated time, resources and effort required to complete work related to the assessment of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting.”  Having identified material weaknesses in internal controls at the end of the prior fiscal year, Bio-Techne advised investors that “[t]he Company believes it has made significant progress in changing the design of our controls as of June 30, 2017; however, the Company believes that material weaknesses still remain within some aspects of its internal control framework.” 

On this news, Bio-Techne’s share price has fallen as much as $1.48, or 1.21%, during intraday trading on August 30, 2017.

The Pomerantz Firm, with offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Paris, is acknowledged as one of the premier firms in the areas of corporate, securities, and antitrust class litigation. Founded by the late Abraham L. Pomerantz, known as the dean of the class action bar, the Pomerantz Firm pioneered the field of securities class actions. Today, more than 80 years later, the Pomerantz Firm continues in the tradition he established, fighting for the rights of the victims of securities fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, and corporate misconduct. The Firm has recovered numerous multimillion-dollar damages awards on behalf of class members. See www.pomerantzlaw.com

CONTACT: Robert S. Willoughby
Pomerantz LLP
rswilloughby@pomlaw.com

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SOURCE Pomerantz LLP

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Britain may shame firms over boss pay

LONDON: The British government announced reforms that could see companies that award generous pay packages despite shareholder opposition shamed in a public register, although the package was less ambitious than the original proposals.

The government of Prime Minister Theresa May has been considering reforms since last year following growing public anger over outsize executive pay.

One of the key proposals, which must be approved by parliament to become law, would require listed companies to reveal the pay ratio between bosses and workers.

Another would create a public register in which publicly traded companies would be listed if they went forward with executive pay policies despite the opposition of more than one-fifth of shareholders.

It is hoped the negative publicity over being listed in the register would encourage firms to better take into account the views of shareholders.

But dropped from the initial proposals floated in November was giving shareholders a veto over executive pay.

Votes on the issue during general shareholders meetings are usually non-binding.

One measure that the government is moving forward with is introducing employee representatives on the boards of listed companies.

But the proposals would give firms options including the appointment of an employee representatives or handing a non-executive director the responsibility of voicing the views of employees.

Stephen Martin, the head of one of Britain’s largest employers’ associations, said the Institute of Directors welcomes “the pragmatic approach the government is taking to improve how company boards work.”

However, the head of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, accused Prime Minister Theresa May of abandoning her promise to curb corporate excesses.

“It’s a feeble proposal, spelling business as usual for boardrooms across Britain,” she said. — AFP

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