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 We caught up with a local expert, Chais Sweat, concerning our topic this week, The Individual, The Team, The Organization. We will learn how the ethics of an individual, a team, and an organization all have a legal impact on one another. Here is what he had to say...


What makes this topic so relevant today?

In the modern marketplace, particularly with the ever-growing prevalence of social media, reputations can be damaged in the blink of an eye.  Ethical and professional missteps can be shared, discussed, and evaluated by dozens (or more) colleagues and customers all across the country in a matter of minutes, but responding to and repairing the damage done by such critiques can take far longer.  Worse, violating some ethical and professional norms could even lead to legal troubles.  Being aware of potential ethical and professional pitfalls, and consciously avoiding them, is the best way to protect and build your reputation and prevent any legal liability.

Do you believe there could be personal liability that would be helpful information to someone attending this event?

Driven by falling legal costs and a change in our society's attitude about using the courts to resolve disputes, our country is more litigious than ever.  For most professionals, this means there is an increasing likelihood that professional and ethical violations can and will lead to lawsuits.  Social media issues, employment issues, privacy matters, intellectual property disputes, and contract disputes are increasingly becoming areas where meeting industry professionals find themselves being sued in their personal capacity.  This presentation will discuss "traps for the unwary" - areas where you might not realize there is a potential for legal troubles, including personal liability - and ways to protect yourself and your business.

Will we learn to better protect ourselves and our company?

Absolutely.  Each topic discussed will cover a hypothetical ethical dilemma, followed by discussion of possible response to that dilemma, the consequences of each possible course of action, recommendations for how to handle each situation, and what to do when things go wrong.  We have a lot to cover, but if we do not reach all of the topics, Rebecca and I will be around after the event to discuss further, and will provide our contact information if anyone would like advice after the event.

What is the most interesting current example of an ethical violation that inspires you to speak on this topic?

Two good current examples highlight the importance of some of the topics we'll be covering.  First, we were recently involved in a lawsuit in which two employees (one subject to a non-compete agreement, and the other was not) left a job to work for a competitor and brought certain client information with them to the new job.  The former employer sued the employees individually, as well as their new employer, for breach of the non-compete agreement and breach of fiduciary duty seeking over $1 million in damages.  The attorneys' fees incurred to defend that lawsuit alone were over $250,000.  Second, on September 7, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to at least 21 "social media influencers" (people who use their social media accounts to advertise products and are compensated for doing so) for failure to properly disclose the nature of their relationship to the product.  The names of those 21 "influencers" has not been released, but we are aware that there is a growing trend among meeting professionals to work with other people or companies to cross-sell products via social media, which could trigger FTC scrutiny if not done properly.  



Chais Sweat is an attorney with Middleberg Riddle Group whose practice focuses on commercial litigation and hospitality.  He has represented national hotel chains, resorts, boutique properties, and event space clients in a wide range of operational matters including drafting contracts, providing regulatory compliance advice, and class action defense.  He has settled or disposed of over 100 lawsuits involving contracts, and has litigated hotel event contracts in multiple states.

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