September 01, 2014

Global Litigator: The Rocky Relationship Between the General Counsel and the Corporate Compliance Officer

Zane Gilmer

Today’s in-house counsel is under more pressure than ever as organizations face ever-mounting compliance, regulatory, litigation, and other legal challenges. And those challenges are only compounded in multinational organizations. As a consequence, the roles and responsibilities of the general counsel (GC) and corporate compliance officer (CCO) continue to expand. At the same time, the pressure to increase profits and decrease costs continues to mount. As a result of these competing interests, organizations have begun to consolidate the roles of GC and CCO. Yet that decision should not be made without consideration of the myriad compliance, litigation, and other risks posed by such a decision, particularly as they affect multinational companies.

The interplay between the GC and CCO and the issues it gives rise to are of obvious interest to in-house counsel, but outside litigators should be familiar with this ongoing debate as well. Indeed, organizations and in-house counsel often turn to outside litigators for advice on compliance and litigation matters. It is therefore important for outside litigators to understand the organization’s internal structure, hierarchy, risks and benefits associated with a particular structure and hierarchy, and allocation of internal responsibilities. In addition, outside litigators are routinely the lawyers who will ultimately be litigating and defending issues that arise from the organization’s decision to consolidate the GC and CCO, including issues of privilege, as discussed below.

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