In the Spotlight: Global Legal Team
Having an experienced Legal Team that understands the intricate regulatory aspects of global talent mobility, from negotiating contract provisions, understanding employment law, and the requirements governing data protection, to auditing supplier partners, engaging in risk assessment and navigating the compliance environment, is increasingly beneficial. Learn about the advantages of partnering with BGRS’s dedicated Legal Team, In the Spotlight.
How do our clients benefit from BGRS’s Legal Team?
Rich Ballot, General Counsel: The relocation business model is enormously complex; it requires navigating an array of laws across multiple jurisdictions. Our in-house Legal Department is integrated with each operational aspect of the business. This provides BGRS with an advantage over mobility providers which rely solely on external legal advice. Our in-house team brings a depth of organic understanding to the relocation process overall, rather than narrow specialization on isolated topics. This also enables an appreciation for the relationship between abstract legal principles and day-to-day business transactions. The result is legal guidance and strategies which are pragmatic, and better calibrated for efficient service delivery. Our principal contribution is helping BGRS – and by extension, our clients – avoid liabilities and manage unavoidable risks before they escalate.
Kathleen Kneis, Associate General Counsel: Exactly; having legal counsel who is familiar with the complexities of global mobility is extremely important. We understand what the issues are and how to effectively compromise when it is appropriate.
Our entire Legal Team has an expertise that is advantageous to our clients, assignees, and all BGRS employees as well. We train our employees so they can identify potential legal challenges throughout the relocation process. Our consultants are the front line in ensuring that we are proactive and can prevent violations altogether.
How does the Legal Team support the global mobility function?
Rich: Our team is involved with every aspect of the mobility function. We start in the beginning of the process with tailoring our RFP response, followed by the contract negotiations. For example, some of our clients come to the table with a standard service agreement. A lot of what appears in those agreements is not specifically applicable to mobility; we develop mutually beneficial contracts which comprehensively address the relevant business and legal terms. By striving to eliminate ambiguity in written contracts, we promote an enduring relationship with our clients.
Beyond the initial contracting stage, we provide legal support to guide our business operations, including, but not limited to:
- Contract interpretation and amendments
- Understanding the global regulatory environment
- Ensuring all our corporate entities remain licensed and in good standing
- Establishing compliance programs
- Overseeing the domestic home sale and acquisition process
- Safeguarding our trademarks and intellectual property
- Managing claims and litigation
Another rather large aspect of how we support global mobility is through our legal contribution to supply chain management. As an organization, we manage upward of 1,000 suppliers. This requires legal resources to support due diligence, template agreements and the audit process. Moreover, we ensure suppliers are current with applicable law and the data security expectations of our clients. The suppliers are the delivery arm for mobility, and an extension of BGRS; it’s critical to ensure they operate in accordance with the highest standards for the benefit of our clients.
Kathleen: Yet another important piece is compliance and risk assessments. We meet monthly as a team for risk assessment meetings to share best practices and review our compliance policies. Simultaneously, during these meetings we identify anything that might be a risk for our clients. If we do identify risks or gaps, we begin remediating the situation immediately. For example, we might provide supplemental training to different teams or applicable company policy revisions; any practice changes for handling disclosure in the home sale process; or develop safeguards against doing business with restricted countries and entities under U.S. Treasury regulations.
Why is having an in-house Legal Team as part of a relocation management company a competitive advantage?
Rich: Our in-house expertise is a product of being embedded in the business. We are better equipped to synthesize legal advice with the practical requirements of our client base. Unique to our in-house presence, we benefit from working relationships throughout the organization and the industry. As a result, we are in a superior position to ferret out issues and risks in the operation, even in the absence of a direct query or issue.
Furthermore, we can provide timely and comprehensive solutions, whereas it may be much more fragmented and delayed when utilizing an external legal provider.
Kathleen: We support the entire mobility function with expertise in, just to name a few:
- Secondment agreements and implementation
- Country-specific documentation
- Tax invoices
- Vendor network and claim resolution
- Internal corporate governance
Another important item where we provide oversight is with respect to our role as a prime contractor to the U.S. Government. The compliance obligations imposed under the various agency contracts, in addition to the federal acquisition regulations, are legally stringent, with the potential for penalties. This is an important piece that external counsel wouldn’t be on-hand to effectively address. Our work with the Canadian Government, particularly the Canadian Armed Forces, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, poses a similar legal challenge, in terms of mastering the regulatory terrain.
How does the Legal Team respond to data/security breaches? Are there contingency plans in place?
Rich: Data protection, in all its facets, is at the top of everyone’s mind recently. Preventing security and privacy breaches has always been a priority at BGRS, long before it was in vogue, in some measure because we were conditioned by our government work. Our Compliance Team works in tandem with the IT Security Department to implement various controls, systems, and related processes, including company-wide security training.
Kathleen: In the unlikely event that a breach occurs, we have an “Incident Handling” process in place. We work as a team with different areas of the business to:
- Identify the breach
- Quarantine the immediate damage
- Carefully evaluate and itemize if data was compromised
- Develop a remediation plan to prevent a reoccurrence
- Develop a communication plan for the impacted clients and transferees