It is our annual tradition at the beginning of each year to report on significant issues that face manufacturers/distributors in the year ahead.  Two weeks ago, Matt reported on significant issues in the labor/employment arena.  Last week, Pam reported on Environmental, Health and Safefy (EH&S) issues

To round out the series, I’ll be writing about issues that I will be watching from a corporate compliance/litigation perspective. 

  1. Data Breach / Cyber Insurance:  Over the last two years, countless high profile companies including Target and The Home Depot have been victims of massive “data breaches.”  Some commentators, such as in Industry Week, have argued that small to mid size manufacturers will be the next target.  As part of this discussion, insurance companies have developed insurance programs to cover data breaches.  There has also been litigation filed over whether data breaches are covered by a company’s typical commercial general liability policy.  I expect that we will get more answers in 2015 to these questions. 
  2. Government Economic Incentive Programs:  Manufacturers and distributors should continue to monitor the slew of economic incentives being offered by both the federal and state government.  From time to time, we tweet out to our Twitter followers notifications regarding these programs and we have lawyers who help counsel clients through these programs.  To follow us on Twitter, click here.  
  3. Temporary Employees / Workplace Safety:  As readers of this blog know, we have written several blog posts about the pros and cons of using temporary workers to make up for the shortage of skilled labor.  From a litigation perspective, the use of temporary employees can lead to workplace accidents that ultimately lead to government investigations and litigation.  The training of these temporary employees by their host companies is of paramount importance because often times the general training provided by the staffing company is far from ideal.  In 2015, we will continue to monitor how government regulators are handling accidents involving temporary workers. 
  4. Terms & Conditions of Sale / Purchase:   In 2014, there was an uptick in concern about terms and conditions of sale or purchase.  As we discussed in prior posts, both sides of a transaction often have their own terms and conditions that conflict with the other.  Often, these conflicts are ignored until a shipment is late or a product is defective.  We continue to develop a streamlined process for reviewing a manufacturer’s terms and conditions and we will be monitoring litigation that arises in 2015.
  5. Class Actions:  Manufacturers continue to face class actions around the country particularly with respect to those companies that sell consumer products.  The trend continues to be that plaintiffs will sue manufacturers and distributors for misleading statements about their products as opposed to claiming that they were injured.  These class actions are not just being filed against the mega companies, but they also are filtering down to the smaller companies, which is something we will continue to watch in 2015. 
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Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or…

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.