May 15, 2017, Preliminary Injunction Order Against Uber – A Lot Of People Should Take Personal Note – Officers, Directors, Employees, Agents, Suppliers And Consultants

You may have heard, this week on May 15, 2017, Judge William Alsup in the Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc. case (U.S. District Court, No. District of California) issued his Order Granting In Part and Denying In Part Plaintiff’s Motion For Provisional Relief, i.e., for a preliminary injunction. The Order is 26 pages. Plaintiff has brought multiple claims in the case including for trade secret misappropriation, patent infringement and unfair competition, but the Order is for preliminary injunction only on the trade secret misappropriation claim. The trade secret claim is brought under both the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act.

I’m not going to go through the evidence in this post – as indicated above, the Order is 26 pages in length. The Order states that it is narrowly-tailored to balance the interests of the parties and the public. In summary, the decision whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction is based on the evidence now available, the legal claims alleged, the now perceived likelihood of the plaintiff prevailing at trial on the relevant claim or claims, and the interests of the parties and the public. Preliminary injunction motions are significantly based on the strength of the evidence now available and presented and the Judge’s view of that evidence. In this instance, in my view based on the Court’s Order, there was strong evidence that trade secret information possibly was misappropriated, but either no evidence or not particularly strong evidence that Uber had involvement in that possible misappropriation or that Uber had access to or used that information.

Here’s where the Court’s Order gets interesting – in the scope of relief granted. I have pasted below the wording from the Scope of Relief Granted part of the Order. In short aside from the provisions pertaining to Mr. Levandowski, and certain expedited discovery granted, the Order essentially requires Uber to conduct an extensive investigation and to file and disclose a detailed report and account by June 23, 2017, which is a very, very short time to conduct the investigation. In my view it is questionable whether the extent of the investigation can be completed and written-up to be filed in that short of time. And, as you will note, the investigation also includes, or example, all communications with any officer, director, employee, agent, supplier, or consultant of defendants on the relevant topics. Thus, Uber is required to conduct discovery upon itself in the form of the report and account to be filed, and depending on the documents and information obtained the report and account could well bring individual officers, directors, employees, agents, suppliers and consultants personally into focus in the case – if they haven’t done so already, all of those people should be expansively reviewing their possible involvement, if any, in the issues that are involved in the case and consulting with legal counsel about their possible exposure to legal action and personal liability, and how they should proceed.

For your further reading, below is the Scope of Relief Granted provision from the Order.

Best to you. David Tate, Esq.

  1. SCOPE OF RELIEF GRANTED.

Having considered the foregoing, the Court ORDERS as follows:

  1. The term “downloaded materials,” as used in this provisional order, means any and all materials that Anthony Levandowski downloaded from Waymo and kept upon leaving Waymo’s employment, regardless of how long he kept them for and whether or not any such materials qualify as trade secrets or proprietary or confidential information.
  2. Defendants must immediately and in writing exercise the full extent of their corporate, employment, contractual, and other authority to (a) prevent Anthony Levandowski and all other officers, directors, employees, and agents of defendants from consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials; and (b) cause them to return the downloaded materials and all copies, excerpts, and summaries thereof to Waymo (or the Court) by MAY 31 AT NOON. Copies essential for counsel of record and their litigation experts to use in defending this civil action are exempted from the foregoing requirement.9
  3. With respect to Anthony Levandowski, defendants shall immediately (a) remove him from any role or responsibility pertaining to LiDAR; (b) take all steps in their power to prevent him from having any communication on the subject of LiDAR with any officer, director, employee, agent, supplier, consultant, or customer of defendants; and (c) prohibit him from consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials in any way. Defendants shall instruct all their officers, directors, employees, agents, suppliers, consultants, and customers in writing of this prohibition, and further instruct them in writing to immediately report any suspected breaches thereof to the special master (or to the Court).
  4. With respect to all other persons, including those with Stroz Friedberg, defendants shall conduct a thorough investigation and provide a detailed accounting under oath setting forth every person who has seen or heard any part of any downloaded materials, what they saw or heard, when they saw or heard it, and for what purpose. In their investigation, defendants must do more than query servers with term searches. For example, they must interview personnel with particular focus on anyone who has communicated with Anthony Levandowski on the subject of LiDAR. Defendants’ accounting shall not be limited to Uber but shall include all persons who fit the foregoing description, including Levandowski and his separate counsel. The accounting may exclude, for only the time period after the commencement of this civil action, the attorneys of record and their staff and experts employed for this litigation. The accounting shall not be limited to downloaded materials that happened to make their way into some due diligence report but shall cover any and all downloaded materials. The accounting shall also identify the complete chains of custodians for every copy of any downloaded materials or due diligence report referencing downloaded materials. Defendants must also use the full extent of their authority and influence to obtain cooperation with the foregoing procedure from all involved. For example, if a potential custodian refuses to cooperate, then defendants’ accounting shall set forth the particulars, including all efforts made to obtain cooperation. The accounting must be filed and served by JUNE 23 AT NOON. The accounting may be filed under seal only to the extent that it quotes or appends downloaded materials.
  5. Also by JUNE 23 AT NOON, defendants shall provide Waymo’s counsel and the Court with a complete and chronologically organized log of all oral and written communications — including, without limitation, conferences, meetings, phone calls, one-on-one conversations, texts, emails, letters, memos, and voicemails — wherein Anthony Levandowski mentioned LiDAR to any officer, director, employee, agent, supplier, or consultant of defendants. The log shall identify for each such communication the time, place (if applicable), mode, all persons involved, and subjects discussed, as well as any and all notes or records referencing the communication.
  6. Waymo is hereby granted further expedited discovery in aid of possible further provisional relief. Subject to the protective order, and upon reasonable notice, Waymo’s counsel and one expert may inspect any and all aspects of defendants’ ongoing work involving LiDAR — including, without limitation, schematics, work orders, source code, notes, and emails — whether or not said work resulted in any prototype or device. With respect to its trade secret misappropriation claims only, Waymo may take seven further depositions on seven calendar days notice, may propound 28 reasonably narrow document requests for which the response time is reduced to 14 calendar days, and may propound 28 reasonably narrow interrogatories for which the response time is also reduced to 14 calendar days. If Waymo moves for further provisional relief before trial, then all its declarants in support of such motion must sit for depositions on an expedited basis. Otherwise, defendants may take only normal, unexpedited discovery. After Waymo has exhausted its expedited discovery, it may continue with normal discovery.
  7. Defendants shall keep complete and accurate records of their compliance with all of the foregoing requirements, including directives given to Anthony Levandowski and others. The special master shall monitor and verify said compliance. To that end, the special master shall promptly develop proposed monitoring and verification protocols with the parties’ input and then submit the proposed protocols to the Court for approval. The protocols shall provide for the special master to visit defendants’ facilities and monitor communications as necessary to ensure that Anthony Levandowski remains sealed off from LiDAR activities.

The foregoing provisional relief shall become effective upon the posting by Waymo of a bond or other security in the amount of FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

* * * * *

New COSO Updated ERM Framework – Coming Soon – End of June, Perhaps – Could Be Very Important

Just a heads up, a source has suggested that the new long-anticipated COSO (Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission) ERM update might finally be out at the end of June. COSO is spending a very long time (since October 2014) preparing and vetting this “update” of the 2004 Enterprise Risk Management — Integrated Framework. COSO’s sponsoring organizations are the American Accounting Association (AAA), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Financial Executives International (FEI), The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and the National Association of Accountants (now the Institute of Management Accountants [IMA]), and the Commission includes representatives from industry, public accounting, investment firms, and SROs (exchanges).

We’ll have to wait and see what we get with this “update,” which will either simply be a relatively unimpressive or vague tweak, or a useful, modernized, sufficiently detailed guide which might become the standard to achieve, or somewhere in between. I’m hopeful for the useful version – ERM needs a big boost – this “update” is important. I find that there really are only three ways to provide this type of boost: sponsorship and push by large or influential organizations and people, mandatory (i.e., by law, regulation or rule) adoption, or, sometimes, push and expectancy by the public.

Here is the link to the COSO website https://www.coso.org/Pages/default.aspx

Best to you, David Tate, Esq., Litigation, D&O, audit committees, etc., Royse Law Firm http://rroyselaw.com/

Who Evaluates the Chief Audit Executive (CAE)?

At the bottom of this post is a screen shot from the new publication Ethics and Pressure, Balancing the Internal Audit Profession, published primarily from the 2015 global practitioner survey of internal auditors worldwide. This is a really big survey. What do you think of the screen shot? Is it appropriate for management to evaluate the chief audit executive (“CAE”)? I say “yes,” of course.

I note however, that the writer also says “Exhibit 9 indicates that this responsibility [i.e., the responsibility for evaluating the performance of the CAE] is generally split evenly between management and the board. The big exception is in North America, where 61% of CAE’s are formally evaluated by management. Often however, these evaluations are reviewed by an audit committee.”

Let me just say, and I read a fair amount of materials from or relating to the internal audit profession, these sentences from the writer probably speak volumes. Do you mean to say that the audit committee isn’t always also doing its own evaluation of internal audit? I really hope that’s not what the writer is saying.

If you are on an audit committee, do you evaluate the performance of the CAE and of the internal audit function (if you have an internal audit function)? I certainly hope so. I mean, regardless of how internal audit operates with management, as an audit committee member aren’t you interacting with internal audit also, and isn’t internal audit helping you to satisfy your due diligence responsibilities? If not, you really need to sit down and think about how the audit committee is using internal audit.

And, if you are an internal audit CAE or member, if the audit committee isn’t sufficiently interested in you to evaluate your performance and how you help or don’t help the audit committee, then you are really missing the boat with a significant entity (i.e., the audit committee) that you should be helping.

In fact, most of the materials that I read from internal audit miss the boat, in my opinion. Yes, management’s use and interaction with internal audit is very important, but the audit committee really should value and make use of the availability of internal audit to help the audit committee satisfy it’s duties. If this isn’t happening, both the audit committee and internal audit are missing out on a tremendous opportunity. It might also be argued that both are failing to satisfy their responsibilities.

Here’s the screen shot from the survey and discussion:

who-evaluates-the-cae

Updated Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide – Attached – Use It – Pass It Along – Free

Below is a link to my updated Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (updated October 20, 2016). Please use it, and pass it to other people who would be interested, such as audit committee members, directors, officers, accountants, internal and external auditors, in-house counsel, compliance professionals, and other people.

I do note that as I was updating these materials, and going through the entire Guide, it definitely hit me that all of the specifically enacted statutes, regulations, rules and pronouncements definitely could cause an audit committee member to not be able to see the forest for the tress. So let’s also not forget to look at the situation as a whole.

Although the Guide is 186 pages, I do expect some significant updates soon, and perhaps prior to the end of 2016. Many of the updates will be posted to this blog first, and then to the Guide. I am looking forward to the COSO enterprise risk management (ERM) updated framework.

Best to you. Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California.

Here is a link to the updated Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (updated October 20, 2016), tates-excellent-audit-committee-guide-10202016-final-with-appendix-a

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Defense 07182016

The business judgment rule – an animated video:

 

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Audit Committee of the Future – From the CAQ

Below is a link to a paper by the Center for Audit Quality entitled The Audit Committee of the Future. Although the discussion paper is a disappointment (too basic, and lack of meaningful insight) as the CAQ usually has worthwhile materials, in the list of five ways to enhance the audit committee, I thought that one of the five ways is worth noting for its subject matter (but again, not for the discussion insight). The following is the discussion about fostering robust communication and engagement:

“Fostering robust communication and engagement: In addition to enhancing communication with investors and other parties via disclosure, panelists agreed that audit committees need to focus strongly on developing healthy channels of internal communication. “That’s an important skill set for the chairman of the audit committee,” said one, “how to make sure you’re having those periodic meetings outside the boardroom with the auditor, with the internal auditor, with the CFO, with the controller.” Of course, the onus on fostering communication does not fall on the audit committee chair alone. “It’s important to have all parties around the table fully engaged,” said one participant. Others emphasized the need for external auditors to engage in dialogue, particularly if a sense emerges that the audit committee is not asking the right questions. “You need an audit firm to speak up,” said a panelist.”

Obviously the above comments can be expanded upon greatly, including, for example, discussions about agenda setting, risk management and internal controls, critical decision making processes, investigations, and follow up.

Here is a link to the CAQ paper

http://www.thecaq.org/docs/default-source/reports-and-publications/caq_insights_audit_committee_future.pdf

And the following is a link to Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide, updated January 2016. Enjoy. CLICK HERE FOR THE POST CONTAINING A LINK TO THE AUDIT COMMITTEE GUIDE

Best, Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California, http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Defense 02132016 David W. Tate, Esq.

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New California Case Discussing Whether The Business Judgment Rule Defense Exists Where There Might Have Been A Breach Of A Duty That Was Required By Governance Document Provisions

I have linked below a pdf of a new California Appellate Court case (Palm Springs Villas II Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Erna Parth), discussing, under California law, whether the business judgment rule defense exists, at least for the purpose of a motion for summary judgment, when there is or might be evidence that the defendant director or officer did not satisfy duties required of her under the California statutory business judgment rule and entity governance document provisions. The decision is important for several reasons, at least including, that the decision, whether or not you agree with it, is well-written and contains good discussions about the requirements on a motion for summary judgment and other cases discussing the applicability of the California statutory business judgment rule and the related defense, and the decision should apply to both California corporate and nonprofit entities, and possibly also to California partnerships, unincorporated association entities, and religious entities.

In other words, if you are a California entity director or officer, you should read this decision, which will help to explain some of your duties and responsibilities, and that limitations might apply to your business judgment rule defense. And I should also say that it really should not come as a surprise that a California Appellate Court could hold that the business judgment rule defense might not apply in an appropriate factual situation where there might be evidence for example that a director or officer might not have sufficiently satisfied due diligence, investigation or authorization requirements prior to taking actions, even if there is no evidence of intentional wrongdoing or neglect.

Click on the following link for a pdf of the appellate decision in Palm Springs Villas II Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Parth, Palm Springs Villas v. Parth – discussing the business judgment rule defense in light of possible violations of governance documents – California law

You can also see similar discussions and issues in various cases out of Delaware and under the federal securities laws. Directors and officers really need to understand and satisfy the business judgment rule in addition to other duties, and understand and satisfy the applicable provisions that are in governance documents such as by-laws, charters and CC&Rs. You will find a further discussion about the business judgment rule in my detailed Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide, updated January 2016, which you can view and print if you wish from the following blog post, at no cost and without having to provide any information about yourself – click on the following link for the post containing the link to the guide CLICK HERE

Best to you, Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco Bay Area and throughout California

DTatePicture_SquareAudit Committee 5 Lines of Defense 02132016 David W. Tate, Esq.

Audit Committee Oversight of Derivatives – Not Just For Funds – Check Your Entity’s Oversight

You may have seen this month news about new SEC rules relating to the use of derivatives by registered investment companies. Related to the derivatives topic, I found a Wall Street Journal article about restatements and Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar’s December 11, 2015, speech about derivatives interesting from an audit committee perspective.

In particular, I have pasted below a snapshot from the Wall Street Journal article discussing common causes of restatements – you will note that derivatives are listed (click on the snapshot to enlarge).

Frankly, although revenue recognition is well-known as the big cause of restatement, I had not considered the importance of derivatives as a top five cause. Every public entity is different of course, however, the Wall Street Journal statistics suggest that all audit committee members, not just those of registered investment companies take into consideration the extent to which their entity is involved in derivatives and related accounting, and consider whether oversight in the derivative area is appropriate, and whether each audit committee member is sufficiently knowledgeable about derivatives and their accounting, or needs some additional continuing education.

Accounting for derivatives is complicated – I myself have pulled the derivative accounting materials off the shelf for another refresher. I have also pasted below a snapshot from some of Commissioner’s speech which I found interesting.

Immediately below is the snapshot from the Wall Street Journal article listing accounting standards or areas most commonly involved in financial restatements for the recent period 2011-2012.

WSJ Major Causes of Restatements

The following is a snapshot from some of SEC Commissioner Aguilar’s December 11, 2015, speech about accounting for derivatives in the context of registered investment companies.

2015-12-29_7-09-19 from Aguilar derivatives speech

Commissioner Aguilar also commented about the extent of the global derivatives market: “Meanwhile, the global derivatives market remains huge, at an amount estimated in excess of $630 trillion in notional value worldwide.[4]” You can see Commissioner Aguilar’s speech at: 

http://www.sec.gov/news/statement/protecting-investors-through-proactive-regulation-derivatives.html

It would not surprise me if derivatives and accounting for derivatives take on greater importance for audit committee oversight in the future, for all companies that have significant derivative activities and not just for registered investment companies.

Enjoy, and onward.

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (updated October 24, 2015, 172 pages) – click on the following link – please use and pass along to other people who would be interested – https://auditcommitteeupdate.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/tates-excellent-audit-committee-guide-10242015.pdf

Dave Tate, Esq. and California CPA (inactive), San Francisco and throughout California

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