Salle Yoo, Uber. Photo: Jason Doiy

 

General counsel have to worry about a lot more than legal problems today, and the top in-house lawyers at Uber Technologies Inc., Oracle Corp. and Twitter Inc. have the experiences to prove it.

Salle Yoo of Uber, Dorian Daley of Oracle and Vijaya Gadde of Twitter described the difficulties of having to oversee legal, regulatory, policy and business matters for companies that operate in multiple countries across multiple user demographics. They spoke on a panel moderated by RPX Corp. executive vice president Mallun Yen at the 2017 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in San Francisco.

And, embedded in some of the panelists comments were nods to current chaos swirling outside.

“Twitter is really popular right now,” Yen said with a deadpan to some laughter, only to elaborate about the platform being the U.S. president’s preferred method of communication.

Uber’s GC Yoo didn’t shy away from her company’s issues, either.

“As some of you may know, we have been going through a period of change at Uber,” Yoo said to some light laughter from the 100-plus audience. “We’ve had a few issues that may or may not have been covered in the press extensively.”

Beyond the turmoil of a Covington & Burling investigation, a Perkins Coie investigation that led to 20 fired employees, a recently departed board member and an ousted CEO, Yoo has to manage regulatory matters.

Contrary to some public perceptions of Uber’s fast-moving, regulatory-skirting style, Yoo said she has always considered regulatory frameworks to be a priority for the company before launching in any new city.

Yoo pointed to the importance of balancing business decisions with regulatory understanding by noting the company’s recent departure from Macau. She said Uber drivers were being penalized in the city, which “didn’t make sense” for Uber’s continued operations. Another example, she said, was in Finland, where the company has already been approved for operation, but the regulations don’t take affect until next year.

“Finland had rubber stamped the business model, but they were continuing to ticket drivers and impose penalties,” Yoo said. She said the company decided to pull out of Finland until the regulatory approvals go into effect.

Twitter GC Gadde discussed the difficulty in defining the company’s own role in policing content for a digital platform used in the U.S., India, Indonesia, Japan, China, Brazil, the UK, Mexico, Russia, Spain and more.

“The law is one guide, but we have found that even the laws themselves couldn’t contemplate this online forum and platform,” Gadde said. “We’ve had to step in and police content and behavior that we didn’t anticipate when founding the company.”

That policing activity is done by Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, which develops the policies around online harassment and abuse. However, finding a single understanding of those terms is hard, Gadde said.

“There’s a legal standard, and then there’s the standard by which every individual makes a judgement,” Gadde said. She said the company is tasked with creating policy that “applies across the globe, in all these countries, and our team can interpret in consistent ways.”

Daley, the GC veteran on the panel with 25 years at Oracle alone, said her expanding concerns have gone political. She said her legal team is more involved in speaking with regulators in Washington, D.C., and Brussels than when she first joined.

“I would say more so now, we’re talking about a time of uncertainty, of economic uncertainty,” Daley said. “What happens in trade? In tax? How will that impact our business? What will happen to cross-border transactions?”