Ronald S. Bell, General Counsel for Yahoo, shouldered the blame for what is perceived as a lack of response regarding the recent security issues at Yahoo. An independent review of the handling of the breaches concluded that Bell and Yahoo’s team of lawyers and security personnel had enough evidence about the hacks to indicate a stronger reaction. The review board felt that their response was inadequate and the company failed to take strong action to prevent future occurrences from happening. Bell, Marissa Mayer (Yahoo’s CEO) and other senior executives, along with security experts at Yahoo have been accused by the company’s board and its customers of failing to take appropriate action after 500 million user accounts were compromised in 2014. They are also being censured for failing to understand the implications and seriousness of that attack as well as other hacking attempts in 2015 and 2016.
In 2013, the company was ignorant of yet another security breach and only became aware when an outside security expert discovered the information up for grabs on the black market.
Ronald Bell was at Yahoo for 15 years serving as general counsel in various branches within the company over the years. Many feel Bell is being used as a scapegoat for the company’s failings even though Mayer publicly took responsibility for the fiasco stating she is the CEO and the breaches happened on her watch. She also lost millions in bonuses last year because of the scope and impact the hacks had on customers and shareholders.
General counsels are a considerable step-up from accident lawyers or traffic violations lawyers. Those attorneys who aspire to secure positions as general counsels obviously need to be experts in the fields of corporate and international law. In addition, these high-ranking positions require a knowledge of business, finance, technology and labor laws.
Any lawyer seeking a general counsel position needs to be able to respond quickly and decisively. They also should possess the abilities to work under stressful conditions and be willing to be “on-call” 24/7. General counsels are “the” go-to guys for almost any situation a company may find itself facing. Senior executives look to legal counsel as advisors and expect they are well-informed and experienced in all areas of the law. Major business decisions usually rest on the feedback and information received from the company’s attorneys.
Yahoo is facing dozens of lawsuits from both consumers and shareholders as a result of these breaches. The company may also face criminal penalties pending the outcome of several government agency investigations.
The hacks impacted Yahoo’s pending deal with Verizon resulting in Yahoo slashing $350 million from the company’s purchase price.