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Coronavirus Consulting and Risk Mitigation

June 21, 2020

Company owners and executives who are in need of top COVID-19 consulting, just knowing where to start can be challenging. We can provide answers to some of the key questions you need to be asking about coronavirus risk mitigation.

As the human and economic effects of the novel coronavirus continue to unfold, businesses across America are forced to wrestle with questions of what to do if and when COVID-19 directly impacts their business. Could the coronavirus be affecting your company already; and, if it is, what could you be doing about it? Instead of preparing to respond, are there proactive measures you could be implementing to mitigate the risk associated with COVID-19 and protect your workers, your shareholders and your company?

Such questions are not easy to answer, and still they hardly scratch the surface of what business owners and executives need to know. At our law firm, our former FBI agents delve deeper into a selection of the critical concerns facing U.S. corporations as a result of the global coronavirus outbreak.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the United States and all over the world, and no clear path toward containing the virus in view, companies must be prepared to adjust to the current reality of operating under the threat of a global pandemic. Of course this has different implications for different companies.  That said, at this stage, virtually all American businesses of any significant size would be wise to be taking steps to prepare.

What should these preparations entail? The answer depends on a variety of factors. Generally speaking, however, companies need to have actionable contingency plans in place in the event that an issue with a supplier, a trade or travel restriction, or any other issue prevents them from meeting their contractual obligations or satisfying consumer demand.

As far as the possibility that your employees could be infected with the virus, companies have two unique risks they need to consider: (i) liability if their workers contract COVID-19 on the job, and (ii) liability if a sick employee spreads the virus to your clients and customers across the country and around the world.

To mitigate your company’s risk on both of these fronts, companies would be wise to promptly adopt policies, procedures, and protocols that are immediately implemented to prevent contamination – and if necessary, contain it. Once they adopt the new policies, procedures, and protocols, they should be enforced not only on a company-wide scale, but during interactions with third-party vendors and suppliers as well. Should you continue to harbor concerns about the effect of COVID-19 on your company, reach out to our coronavirus consultants today.

At present, any companies that trade with businesses in China and Japan are among those most likely to feel the effects of the spread of the novel coronavirus. That said, as the coronavirus continues to spread across the world, this list of countries is likely to grow rapidly. Particularly, companies in the industries listed below may face the greatest financial and legal risks in connection with COVID-19:

  • Food and agricultural products
  • Medical device companies, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • Import and export related businesses
  • Cosmetics companies
  • Travel, hospitality and entertainment

Corporations that are publicly-traded in the US and/or hold registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could be under obligation to update their earnings forecasts to reflect any negative impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, and others subject to oversight by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may also need to adhere to disclosure obligations. These may include, but are by no means limited to, whether they intend to market products as remedies or cures. There are various other possible compliance risks as well for companies in a wide array of industries; and, as COVID-19 continues to spread, specific regulations that target companies in various capacities may begin to come into play.

Should I be concerned about legal risks connected with my business dealings with companies in countries that are at the center of the global pandemic?

 The specific risks will differ depending on the unique facts and circumstances involved in your business interactions. For example, violating a domestic or international travel or trade restriction is one risk you could face. If you choose to send staff members on business to a nation where travel is prohibited, or if you import or export items in violation of a trade embargo, the consequences could be substantial. In the same respect, suppose a member of your staff contracts COVID-19 and becomes a point of contact in the spread of the virus due to factors that were within control of your company.   Suppose that a contact trace reveals that your company could and should have prevented the unnecessary spread of the virus.  In that case, your company could be at risk for enormous civil liabilities.

What are the legal risks if one of my workers contracts the novel coronavirus?

As mentioned above, if one of your employees gets infected with the coronavirus on the job, then your business could be liable to the employee. From a broader perspective, if one of your staff members spreads the virus to others as the result of having performed duties pertaining to his or her job at your place of business, then your company could be liable for negligently facilitating the spread of the novel coronavirus. In such a scenario, the potential cost is nearly incalculable.

To effectively mitigate these (and other) risks connected with the novel coronavirus, it is important that businesses implement wise risk management practices and implement appropriate policies and procedures. As stated above, this means not only training internal staff members, but also coordinating with third-party suppliers and vendors. For instance, your company would be wise to work with its suppliers to make certain that not only are they taking appropriate steps to limit risk internally, but that they are also moving compliance downstream to their own suppliers and vendors.

Keeping a clear focus on compliance is a critical component of risk mitigation as well. Regardless of the fact that there is a crisis, companies must maintain diligence in their compliance efforts. In actuality, as mentioned earlier, there are numerous ways in which problems related to COVID-19 could bring about additional compliance obligations for U.S. business owners.



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