Archive: May, 2006

Spending Public Money Wisely

Public procurement has been in the spotlight this month, and for good reason. We like to think our taxes are being well spent. As Jeff Kennett put it:

“If people want to mess up their own money, that’s fine, but when people are spending public money, they have got to be accountable.”

The $70 Million NDA

What’s the value of a good NDA? About $70 million if your name is Scott Van Dyke. In 2003, his company, Anglo-Dutch Petrolem, won a $70.4M damages claim against US oil giant Halliburton and Scottish oil exploration and development firm Ramco. This month, with a Texas court ordering it to hand over various assets, Ramco is struggling for survival.

In a nutshell, Halliburton and Ramco had both signed up to an NDA with Anglo-Dutch, supposedly to help it develop oilfields in Kazhaksthan. Van Dyke had been searching for Noah’s Ark in Turkey during the 1980’s when he met Turkish president Turgut Ozal, who later introduced him to the Kazhakstan opportunity. Halliburton and Ramco were found to have breached the NDA by providing confidential Anglo-Dutch information to another company, Golden Eagle, who used it to grab control of the project. At the end of all this, Anglo-Dutch was left out in the cold, with no interest in the oilfield.

Check Less, Improve Compliance?

With the FSA’s deadline for contract certainty looming, Lloyd’s is putting a positive spin on its latest initiative to “streamline the way insurance contracts are checked, produced and issued.” The goal, of course, is to produce insurance documentation without any mistakes, and to issue that documentation to the customer before (or very soon after) inception.

The current (self) assessment of contract certainty amongst Lloyd’s Managing Agents is 80%. That sounds OK, except that it means 1 in 5 deals flowing through the Lloyd’s market is currently failing the contract certainty test.

The proposed solution? Simple, really. Check less.

Death by Laptop

For those of us enjoying the benefits of laptops and mobile storage gadgets, it’s easy to overlook the risks. But as a recent article in Law Technology News (“Death by Laptop”, May 8th, 2006) points out, the risks are high, and the consequences of ignoring them rather scary. They cite two headline grabbing incidents to drive the point home:

  • Thief nabs backup data on 365,000 patients from a Providence Health Systems employee’s car
  • Laptop stolen from employee of Fidelity Investments with data on 196,000 Hewlett Packard workers

Which got me thinking about the risks of keeping highly confidential contracts and agreements on a personal laptop, and the consequences if it falls into the wrong hands. For lawyers working on confidential M&A deals, the fallout could be disastrous. For government contracts it’s a recipe for public scandal. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up other scary scenarios.