In late 2012, we created the Manufacturing Law Blog with the goal of providing our manufacturing clients with a holistic approach to the unique issues they face in their global operations.  Starting in 2016, we began a new tradition of dedicating our first three posts of the year to a yearly outlook from our different vantage points.

This year, I’m starting us off by addressing corporate compliance and litigation issues that manufacturers might expect to face in 2022:

  1. Reshoring – Hype or a fundamental change? Yes, there will be reshoring, but I am not convinced that this trend will explode in 2022 as there are significant challenges for doing so particularly when the manufacturing involved is labor-intensive.  That said, I do believe the attitude towards manufacturing domestically has changed throughout the supply chain during the COVID era.
  2. “Buy American” – Efforts to require manufacturers to buy domestically have been around for many years. Other countries are imposing “protectionist” laws to require more investment.  I expect to see more foreign direct investment into the United States for this reason.
  3. Force Majeure – This legal phrase was the “word” of 2020-2021 as it offers a basis to excuse contractual performance. We are starting to see some of these cases work their way through the courts, and we will be watching closely to see if any of them has a lasting impact on manufacturers.  You don’t need to be a lawyer to predict that the word “pandemic” will be in all force majeure clauses going forward.
  4. Acquisition Activity – There is no shortage of potential buyers of manufacturing companies, including strategic buyers and private equity buyers. There has been an increase in so-called proprietary deals (i.e., where one buyer negotiates exclusively) as opposed to auctions.  I think this will continue in 2022.
  5. Creative Solutions to Supply Chain Issues – Everyone wants to talk about the supply chain crisis that is impacting both consumers and industrial companies. In 2022, I will be working with companies as they develop creative solutions to these issues.  As an example, some companies are trying to find alternative ports of entry.

 

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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.