AABANY Hosts “The Surge in Anti-Asian Violence: Corporate Social Responsibility and Action” on April 9

On April 9, 2021, AABANY and a coalition of bar associations from across the country presented a CLE program titled, “The Surge in Anti-Asian Violence: Corporate Social Responsibility and Action.” About 500 attendees from all across the United States joined an esteemed panel of corporate in-house leaders in a discussion on how corporate employers can address the surge in anti-Asian violence and support their Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) employees. The panel included:

  • Sara Yang Bosco, Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel, Emerson
  • Sam Khichi, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Public Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Becton, Dickinson and Company
  • Sandra Leung, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Allen Lo, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Products, IP, and Legal Operations, Facebook
  • Susan Moon, Principal Counsel, The Walt Disney Company
  • Caroline Tsai, Chief Legal Officer & Corporate Secretary, Western Union
  • Michael C. Wu (Moderator), GAPABA Board Member

Moderator Michael Wu began the panel discussion by describing how the coronavirus pandemic has become a virus of hate, with the increase of violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans. To add to this, Sara Bosco emphasized the importance of reporting and providing visibility to these incidents and stated, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” Asian Americans comprise 6% of the United States population, yet have been historically overlooked despite being part of U.S. history since the 1800s. Due to Asian Americans being viewed as perpetual foreigners and the model minority, coupled with the inaccurate information disseminated about the origins of the pandemic in 2020, Asian Americans have been perceived as an easier target to perpetrators of anti-Asian violence.

When asked how Corporate America should address anti-Asian violence, many of the panelists shared initiatives their workplaces started and gave suggestions on what companies can do. A main focus of the panelists was discussing how Asian employees can be supported in the workplace. To create a supportive environment, companies should reach out to AAPI employees and create an AAPI employee resource group in the workplace if there is not one already. Even if the organization does not have many AAPI employees, it is important for AAPI employees to meet others to increase their circle and build a larger voice. In addition, mental health resources and allyship training should be offered to employees within the workplace’s HR department. Panelists also agreed that not only should the diversity officers in the company address anti-Asian violence, but even CEOs need to speak up and make statements to show support for the AAPI community.

As individuals in the AAPI legal community, Sandra Leung said, “We are in a crisis situation right now with the rise of anti-AAPI hate, but it’s also an opportunity for us to band together to do our part individually or collectively in groups. We have to turn the emotion and anger that we have into action.” She further emphasized that we need to take leadership roles, speak loud, and educate people on anti-AAPI hate. In discussing leadership roles, Sandra Leung remarked, “I feel so compelled right now and so moved by everything we are facing in our community that I would love to run for President-Elect of NAPABA…” AABANY applauds Sandra Leung’s intent to run during these critical times and agrees that we have to continue working collectively to address anti-Asian violence.

Thank you to Sara Yang Bosco, Sam Khichi, Sandra Leung, Allen Lo, Susan Moon, Caroline Tsai, and Michael Wu for this important discussion on anti-Asian violence and corporate social responsibility. Non-transitional New York attorneys were eligible to receive a maximum of 1.5 CLE credit hours applied toward the Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias requirement. CLE credits were also approved in California and Colorado, and CPE credits were approved in British Columbia and Ontario. CLE credits have been applied for in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, and are pending approval. To view a recording of the program, click here or on the image above.

General Counsel Roundtable at the 2020 Fall Conference: Promoting Unity and Strength Through Leadership

On Friday, September 25, AABANY kicked off the 2020 Fall Conference, held virtually this year due to COVID-19. The conference theme was “Stronger Together: Unity in Diversity” and commenced with the General Counsel Roundtable program, entitled “Promoting Unity and Strength Through Leadership.” The panelists included: 

Moderator: 

  • Michael Wu, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Madewell, Inc.

Speakers: 

  • Vanessa Allen Sutherland, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Norfolk Southern Corporation
  • Deborah P. Majoras, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary, The Procter & Gamble Company
  • Rena Reiss, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Marriott International, Inc.
  • Ann Munson Steines, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Nordstrom, Inc.
  • Amy Weaver, President and Chief Legal Officer, Salesforce.com, Inc.
  • David Zapolsky, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Amazon.com, Inc.

The program followed a Q&A format and explored a wide range of topics, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian violence. Michael Wu started by asking the panelists how the pandemic has impacted their company operations and their outlook as organization leaders. One major takeaway was that legal departments are shifting into more generalist than specialist roles in order to adapt to crisis operations under a “rescue, recover, and reimagine” mandate. All panelists agreed that while companies and communities are currently in the recovery stage, a re-imagined world will look different from before and rely heavily on virtual and digital channels. Amy Weaver succinctly summarized that “two things are the most relevant today” to companies navigating these complex times: first, be a quick study; second, be able to make decisions quickly. 

The panelists were then asked what challenges in diversity and inclusion their companies are facing and how are they being addressed? Rena Reiss emphasized the need to carve out time and space to discuss racial issues that weren’t previously seen as polite workplace conversation. Vanessa Sutherland and Amy Weaver highlighted the snail’s pace at which financial industries and law firms operate with regard to diversity initiatives and stressed the need for immediate change. 

Michael Wu also asked about challenges Asian Americans face in corporate America, whether or not they are seen as minorities, and what advancement initiatives are in place. Panelists acknowledged the racial xenophobia and anti-Asian violence COVID-19 has wrought, and Ann Steines spoke to Black Lives Matter as an opportunity for allyship to advance the meaningful engagement of all diverse individuals in the workplace. 

At the conclusion of the program, Michael asked the panelists to give advice to diverse lawyers seeking career advancement. In response, Vanessa acknowledged the tendency of diverse attorneys to be risk-averse due to the disproportionate pressure placed on them. She encouraged lawyers of color to not be afraid to take risks, because leaders need to demonstrate that they are capable of making uncomfortable decisions.  

Ann recommended that minority lawyers consciously diversify expertise as their career progresses. “As lawyers we’re told to be experts in the areas we practice in. Then you get to a point in your career where you need to expand your horizons,” she stated. “People don’t always put their arm around the diverse candidate to tell them the advice that all the panelists have been giving today.” Ann thus highlighted the lack of formal and informal mentorship that places diverse attorneys at a disadvantage compared to their white counterparts. 

As the panel drew to a close, Michael asked the GCs to share with up-and-coming lawyers the most valuable advice they have received in their career. David Zapolsky offered the following three-part answer: First, to be business people first and lawyers second. Second, “being a lawyer is about preserving your personal credibility even if you have clients who can’t.” Finally, “if you touch it you own it.” 

The GC Roundtable is typically the highlight of the Fall Conference, and this year’s kept in line with prior GC Roundtables, offering impactful and pertinent viewpoints and guidance for all attendees. With this all-star panel the GC Roundtable kicked off another successful Fall Conference and set a high bar for the programs that followed on Saturday.

Thank you to all the panelists and our moderator, Michael Wu, for their invaluable insights on topical matters that are top-of-mind for in-house counsel and attorneys working in today’s challenging environment. To view a recording of the GC Roundtable, click here or click the image above.

AABANY Hosts “Fortune 500 General Counsel Panel: Leadership During Crisis Webinar”

On May 21, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) presented its “Fortune 500 General Counsel Panel: Leadership During Crisis,” part three of NAPABA’s General Counsel Webinar Series. The event highlighted prominent General Counsels working in various industries and discussed the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace along with advice for aspiring General Counsels. The panelists included Damien Atkins, General Counsel of the Hershey Company; Peter Beshar, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Marsh & McLennan; Elisa Garcia, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel of Macy’s; David Hyman, General Counsel and Company Secretary of Netflix; Alan Tse, Global Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of JLL; and David Yawman, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of PepsiCo. The panel discussion was moderated by Michael Wu, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of Madewell.

The panel discussed the immediate challenges faced by General Counsels in light of the current pandemic and the transition to an online work environment. Emphasis was placed on adaptability and flexibility as General Counsels and legal departments across all industries have had to quickly put together plans for long-term financing and shifts in day-to-day operations. This emphasis on adaptability also stresses greater cooperation between the legal team, the board of directors, and C-suite executives in forming a coherent strategy in both dealing with the pandemic and also pursuing non-COVID-19 related objectives. As Alan Tse stated, companies are, more than ever, looking toward their legal teams for leadership in navigating through economic uncertainty and changes in corporate governance.

Additionally, the importance of communications and integrating technology into the workplace are vital as General Counsels need to be able to coordinate all the moving parts of the company in making the localized decisions necessary to ensure compliance with local regulations and sustainable growth. While it is important to have contingency plans during times of crisis, General Counsels need to be vigilant and flexible in their approach toward unpredictable and complex problems in the future. Peter Beshar stated that General Counsels should also prioritize “collective cyber resilience, not just of our company, but of broader society” by protecting critical online communication channels. Additionally, General Counsels should form effective response plans to prepare companies from destabilizing cyberattacks.

Recent changes in legislation and the regulatory environment have also driven General Counsels to be more proactive in how they view the relationship between what David Yawman describes as the “great continuum… between the legislative environment and policy issues coming out of societal trends.” Ultimately, General Counsels should recognize that changes in corporate governance are facilitated by both government legislation and company policies and that, as legal professionals, they have a crucial role to play as both a guide for their clients and a trailblazer for corporate policy.

Lastly, the panel discussed efforts to promote diversity within their organizations and the role General Counsels play in ensuring inclusion in the workplace. Inclusion championship should be a fundamental, core value of corporate governance and thus, should be, as David Hyman describes, a “top-down” process embodied by all corporate executives. Individuals and legal teams should be empowered to take initiative in leading pop-up conversations and workshops that champion inclusive leadership that stresses not only diverse participation, but diverse leadership. Companies should also hold individuals accountable and translate inclusion policies into action.

The panel attracted more than 500 registrants, making it the single biggest AABANY Zoom meeting to date. Attendees were eligible to receive 1.0 New York CLE credits, with 0.5 credits fulfilling the Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias requirement and 0.5 credits fulfilling the Law Practice Management requirement. We thank Michael Wu for organizing the panel and for moderating a highly informative and substantive discussion. We thank all the speakers for sharing their insights, knowledge and perspectives. The event was covered by Corporate Counsel. Read the article here (Law.com subscription required).

Asian American Bar Association of New York Presents “Fortune 500 General Counsel Panel: Leadership during Crisis” on May 21 for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, AABANY is proud to present “Fortune 500 General Counsel Panel: Leadership during Crisis” as part of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”) General Counsel Webinar Series. The event will feature a panel of prominent General Counsels covering a wide variety of industries to discuss topics that range from advice to aspiring General Counsels, crisis management with a focus on the response to the pandemic, collaboration with the board and c-suite, demonstrating legal department value from a quantitative and qualitative perspective, leveraging legal technology, enhancing the compliance function, diversity and inclusion initiatives (internally and externally with outside counsel) and maximizing the value that outside counsel brings to companies. The panel will take place via Zoom on Thursday, May 21, from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.

Moderator:

Michael Wu. Michael currently serves as the Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of Madewell. He sits on the advisory boards of the Georgetown Law Corporate Counsel Institute and AABANY. Michael is also a member of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association Board of Directors. He has previously served as an executive and general counsel at companies including Carter’s, Rosetta Stone, Teleglobe, and Global One.

Panelists:

Damien Atkins. Damien currently serves as the General Counsel of the Hershey Company. He has previously served for three years as the General Counsel for Panasonic North America, for ten years as the Deputy GC (Corporate) and Chief Compliance Officer for AOL, and for seven years at a major New York City law firm. In addition, Damien has previously founded two start-ups. His expertise includes mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, securities regulation, global ethics and compliance, and government investigations.

Peter Beshar. Peter currently serves as the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Marsh & McLennan. Previously, he was a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and served as the Co-Chair of the firm’s Securities Litigation Group and had served as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the New York State Attorney General’s Task Force on Illegal Firearms. Additionally, he has served as the Special Assistant to the Honorable Cyrus Vance in connection with the United Nations’ peace negotiations in the former Yugoslavia.

Elisa Garcia. Elisa currently serves as the Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel of Macy’s and serves on the Board of Directors and Nominating and Governance Committee of Dollarama, Inc. and the Board of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession. She has previously served as an executive for Office Depot, Domino’s Pizza, and Philip Morris International.

David Hyman. David currently serves as the General Counsel of Netflix and as the company’s Secretary. Prior to Netflix, David served as General Counsel of Webvan, Inc. and was with the law firms Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco and Arent Fox in Washington, DC.

Alan Tse. Alan currently serves as the Global Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of JLL. Previously, Alan served as an executive for Petco, Churchill Downs, LG Electronics, Ligos Corporation, and Centerpoint Broadband Technologies.  He is a co-founder and Board member of the Asian American Legal Foundation and has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Corporate Counsel from 2013-2019. Alan was recognized by NAPABA as one of its Best Lawyers Under 40 and received the Corporate Leadership Award at AABANY’s 2020 Annual Dinner.

David Yawman. David currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of PepsiCo. Previously, he served as the Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for PepsiCo and General Counsel for North America and Corporate, the Senior Vice President, Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer for PepsiCo, the General Counsel of business units comprised of North America Beverages, Quaker Foods North America and Latin America Beverages, the Associate General Counsel for the Pepsi Bottling Group, and had spent six years as a member of PepsiCo’s corporate law department. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Dave was an associate with the law firm Fried Frank and served as a law clerk in the United States District Court.

“AABANY is pleased to be co-sponsoring the NAPABA General Counsel webinar series,” states President Sapna Palla. “Each of the first two webcasts have already seen attendance by nearly 500 attorneys from all across the country. We are looking forward to a similar turnout for the one AABANY is presenting on May 21. We thank Michael Wu for organizing these webcasts and serving as moderator to guide the discussion on important topics of interest to attorneys across a broad range of industries and sectors. Through these programs, and as we celebrate APA Heritage Month in May, we continue to highlight the vital role played by diverse in-house attorneys in leading and advancing the legal profession.”

If interested, please register by May 20. Click on the flyer above for registration information.

AABANY November Membership Mixer

On Wednesday, November 20, 2019, AABANY’s Membership Committee held its Monthly Membership Mixer at Stout NYC – Grand Central. Over thirty attendees filled a section of the second floor that was reserved for our group, including our President, Brian Song, and many of our board members, as well as recent New York transplant, Michael Wu, chief legal officer and corporate secretary of Madewell, Inc. Our membership programs provide opportunities to network and to learn more about AABANY so keep an eye out for our future events including a lantern festival at Citi Field and a Lunar New Year celebration at a New York Knicks game.  To learn more about the Membership Committee, go to https://www.aabany.org/page/130
Thanks to Membership Committee Co-Chair Christopher Bae for the write-up and photos.

Diversity and the Bar – November/December 2014

Diversity and the Bar – November/December 2014

Michael Wu featured in May issue of Inside Counsel

Michael Wu featured in May issue of Inside Counsel