When trouble strikes, companies often use the tried-and-true strategy of blaming someone at the just right level and position to plausibly be at fault.
Many professionals are emotionally and legally unprepared for the role of scapegoat, especially if they’ve made valuable, influential and loyal contributions for a long time. They may need a reminder that corporate counsel represents the corporation. Professionals have a right to their own attorney.
Time spent under the bus is “just business”
Too often, business executives face lawsuits for something their employer did or for something they were told to do. Examples abound of corporate fall guys (and/or executives claiming to be such).
This March, the founder of a “big data” software firm told a court he’d been thrown under the bus by another company’s leadership. His big data firm had been purchased by a massive computer corporation for nearly $9 billion dollars, a price soon widely seen as absurd. The computer giant is now alleging fraud on the part of big-data founder.
This May, the former dean of a major American university’s business school filed a $25 million lawsuit against his ex-employer. All parties agree the school’s data was manipulated to boost its rankings, but the dean claims he did nothing wrong and is being made the university’s fall guy.
This July, one of America’s largest rental car companies tried to “claw back” millions of dollars paid to former senior executives. At least one of the executives claims the company is “casting about for a scapegoat” after a costly accounting scandal.
Executives should consider their own counsel
The perspective of an experienced business attorney can level the playing field. Seeing your legal situation clearly and objectively can help keep you in an office with that pleasant view of the horizon.
Every businessperson should know the value of their expertise in the marketplace. And chances are that your expertise is not complex civil litigation or contract law.
The contracts you sign, the deals you negotiate and the policies to which you’re held accountable have almost certainly been reviewed by attorneys. You should strongly consider outside counsel.