Corporate Counsel Corner: GM's Steve Cernak
Stephen Cernak, Daniel Sokol, Jul 20, 2011
CPI Executive Board member Danny Sokol introduces CPI's new Corporate Counsel Corner feature; a series of interviews highlighting the corporate viewpoint on dealing with antitrust issues.
We kick off with Steven Cernak. Steve Cernak is an attorney with the Marketing and Trade Regulation Section of the General Motors Corporation Legal Staff. He has practiced antitrust and trade regulation law for GM since 1989 and serves as lead competition law counsel for GM globally and lead counsel for GM’s Service Operations in the United States. Steve has managed GM’s responses to lemon law and breach of warranty lawsuits across the U.S. since 1999.
Danny and Steve first discuss the new merger guidelines and what changes, if any, these have produced in Steve's approach to filing and regulations. They move on to explore the challenges of staying on top of the ever-increasing variety of international jurisdictional requirements; in particular, where outside counsel is required and how corporate counsels must now act as quarterbacks for a diverse team of internal and external lawyers and operating managers.
Taking the theme of sports a little further, Danny asks how corporate counsels should team with internal players who may not be familiar with antitrust issues— but need to be. Steve describes his educational process, among which is a novel game called "Compliance Land." Staying on internal matters, Steve also discusses some of the unique challenges that corporate counsels face, including the need to vet potential new members of the board of directors for conflicts of interest.
Danny and Steven also discuss the challenges of communicating with "insider" lawyers and government officials when located in Detroit, or anywhere that isn't Washington, London, Brussels, or other competition policy center. As Steve points out, communication is a two-way street and regulators and lawyers need to come out of the beltway (or equivalent). Steve and Danny wrap up with a discussion of how antitrust activity seems to have migrated from a regulatory emphasis to a litigation emphasis.
Watch and enjoy: