Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section Annual Meeting in Boston.  The title of my presentation was:  “Key Considerations for Foreign Manufacturers That Wish to Sell Products to the United States” which was presented at the meeting of the International Expansion and Cross-Border Transactions Subcommittee.

Here are some of the key takeaways from my presentation:

  1. CONSIDER THE BRAND:  Although the tax implications often drive foreign investment and the corporate form selected, I often focus on things beyond the “mechanics” of the deal.  For instance, if a manufacturer is launching a product in the United States, we need to consider intellectual property protection.  The key here is often not just coming up with a name that can be trademarked, but considering whether the product will actually sell.  For that reason, we often engage consultants on our client’s behalf to consider these business issues.
  2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:  There are three considerations that often are most important for foreign manufacturers when selecting a location for their U.S. subsidiary:  (1) access to a distribution network; (2) geographic proximity to key customers; and (3) access to skilled labor.  Often times, executives at foreign manufacturers also heavily weigh quality of life issues for those executives that will be leading the U.S. operations.
  3. GLOBAL COMMUNICATION:  Not surprisingly, there is always an extreme sensitivity about maintaining corporate formalities so that the assets of the foreign parent are protected from liability that may arise in the United States.  While it is important to respect these lines, there can be overkill.  Specifically, manufacturers often struggle at having the various departments talk to each other about product development and experience in the marketplace.  When a company has global operations, these challenges only increase as it is not uncommon for a lack of communication between engineers/quality in the United States and the rest of the world.  For that reason, we have helped several companies establish a process that allows for communication with the goal of minimizing liability risks.

I have some brief slides from the presentation.  Please email me at jwhite@rc.com if you would like them.

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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.