ACC Annual Meeting 2013: EU Data Privacy and the Godmother of E-Discovery

John Blumenschein

I’m on a plane flying back from this year’s ACC (Association of Corporate Counsel) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, which, as usual, delivered four days’ worth of excellent sessions and food for thought. The hottest topic by far was data privacy, especially in light of the NSA revelations this week.

Globalization and Data Privacy

Almost all of the panel sessions that I attended [e.g., on social media, government investigations, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)] touched on the topic of privacy in one way or another. The primary driving force behind this topic’s heat factor, however, is the increasingly global nature of business today.

EU Data Privacy in E-Discovery

We were pleased to participate as a company in various sessions, which were well attended and prompted intense, productive discussions. Our Assistant General Counsel, Chad McManamy, moderated a panel discussion entitled, “Overcoming EU Data Privacy Challenges in E-Discovery.” The panelists for this session were:

The Honorable Shira A. Scheindlin, a very influential U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York, whom I consider the “Godmother of E-Discovery”
Mark Harrington, our own General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
David Goodis, Director of Legal Services and General Counsel, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
Dominic Jaar, KPMG Canada Partner and National Practice Leader.

The lively and timely discussion at this session dealt with issues like the European Union’s interaction with “privacy friendly” countries such as Canada, EU-based corporations’ privacy concerns when dealing with U.S.-based corporations and our propensity for litigation, as well as the ramifications (or lack thereof) of failing to adhere to privacy regulations in countries like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Process and Risk in Cross-Border Discovery

Later in the afternoon, our Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Daniel Lim, sat on a panel entitled, “Managing the Processes and Risks of Cross-Border Discovery" with Scott Carlson, Partner and e-Discovery Practice Group Co-Chair at Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Harvey Jang, Director of Privacy and Information Management at Hewlett-Packard. They provided an overview of the evolution of data-privacy rules in the EU and Asia, and the inherent conflict with U.S. discovery requirements. The panel also offered practical tips on navigating privacy restrictions in the context of business information needed for litigation in the US. A key point of discussion was the way that the cultural differences between the EU, Asia and U.S. can create conflicting views on the topic of privacy.

Did You Attend? I welcome your comments on highlights from the ACC Annual Meeting in the Comments section below.

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