As is our annual tradition, this is the first in a series of posts that provide industry and legal outlooks for manufacturers as we head into 2017.  I will start with corporate compliance and litigation.  Matt will follow with labor/employment.  And, Megan will conclude the series with Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S).

Here are issues I will be watching in 2017.

  • Will Conflict Minerals Compliance Become More Complicated? 

In 2017, we will be watching as the European Union continues down the path of adopting comprehensive conflict minerals regulations relating to the importing of certain materials.  The EU proposal is broader in geographic scope than the U.S. law, but applies to a narrower set of companies (mostly, importers).  In addition, we will see if Congress amends the U.S. law, which continues to be heavily scrutinized.

  • What will be the ultimate impact of the Volkswagen Scandal?

As 2016 ended, Volkswagen continued to reach agreement on billions of dollars of fines and continue to face widespread litigation.  This past week, there was word that one of the company’s in-house lawyers could be implicated in the criminal investigation.  What remains to be seen is whether the scandal is an isolated incident or a warning bell to manufacturers across the world.

  • Is IoT Here To Stay?

One of the hottest industry issues in 2016 was the IoT or the “Internet of Things.”  Led by General Electric, manufacturers continue to redefine themselves as technology companies.  In 2017, not only will I be watching how manufacturers use IoT to support finished products, but also whether cyber attacks will continue.

  • Will Business to Business Disputes Continue To Increase?

There continued to be a substantial uptick in disputes in 2016 with respect to commercial contracts in the supply chain.  While these disputes almost never end in litigation, manufacturers and     distributors (regardless of their leverage) are taking a hard look at their contract review protocols.  We are helping many manufacturers develop “playbooks” that help identify risk irrespective of the size of the contract.