Canadian Lawyer InHouse

August/September 2020

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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14 www.canadianlawyermag.com/inhouse GC PROFILE WHILE MANY retailers were forced to shut up shop during the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, grocery stores were among the few essential retailers permitted to stay open — not only continuing with business as usual but also facing a host of new health and safety requirements to prevent the spread of the virus. "In a pandemic situation, you are dealing with issues where everything is moving incredibly fast," says Nick Henn, senior vice president, general counsel at Loblaw Companies Ltd. "Questions come up and need a response quickly, and we were dealing with limited information and decision-making that is very compressed. In an environment where rules and regulations and laws are changing rapidly, we have teams of people keeping an eye on daily announcements about regulations that are coming out so we can understand and interpret them and think about the impact to our business. I think that's the biggest challenge because everything is moving at such a fast pace, and if you don't stay on top of it, it can be very hard to provide concrete advice." Starting his legal career at an international law firm in the U.K., Henn transitioned to in-house roles at various companies including Reuters Group, Centrica and Direct Energy. After a brief stint in a business role at George Rolling with the changes Loblaw's Nick Henn shares his strategy for managing evolving legal regulations and responding rapidly during a crisis Weston, he joined Loblaw Retail as general counsel in 2017 and was promoted to general counsel for the entire Loblaw Companies business in February of this year — leading all legal teams across the business, including President's Choice and Joe Fresh brands. He sits on the management board of Loblaw Companies as well as managing all legal matters for the organization. Henn also sits on a COVID response committee with other senior executives to discuss measures to protect the retail giant's 200,000 employees across Canada. A multitude of legal concerns have arisen during the crisis including employment and labour regulations, competition and securi- ties law as well as force majeure clauses coming into effect in commercial contracts. "Health and safety is a big one. We really have to understand our obligations as an employer and as an organization that is providing an essential service," says Henn. "It's really hard to do because the situation is changing all the time." Henn's team of 75 legal professionals has focused considerable time on employment and labour issues to ensure that frontline staff — and, ultimately, customers — are appropriately protected and supported to continue providing an essential service to communities across the country. Public health guidelines are carefully monitored to ensure cleaning and sanitization require- ments are followed in stores. Commercial contracts, real estate and leasing issues have also been at the forefront of discussions during the crisis, as Loblaw is a tenant at 2,000 store locations. The retailer is also a sub-landlord of businesses such as gyms, flower stores and dry cleaners, so "Disclosure obligations don't go away just because of COVID. We have to think about what our obligations are to update the market and how we report on a quarterly basis when the world is moving so quickly."

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