Anton Carniaux: “A legal decision handed down in one country can have important repercussions elsewhere”
The head of legal and compliance at Samsung Electronics France, formerly a top corporate lawyer, discusses issues affecting the profession today and how his role has changed over the years.
Leaders League: How has the role of an in-house counsel changed over the years?
Anton Carniaux: These days, a company’s legal department is more frequently consulted by the board prior to a decision being taken, and is in fact treated as a full stakeholder concerning company strategy. The role of an in-house counsel has, therefore, become more strategic and cross-departmental in recent years. The legal department also plays a key role in defining the core values and shaping the ethos of a company.
In addition, the increase in regulation and competition has made our task that much more complex. Our job now requires us to be more responsive, creative and efficient than ever before, and this involves investing more time educating senior management.
I have also witnessed a growing need for proper coordination between the various countries where our group has a presence, nowhere more so than in an integrated economic zone such as the European Union. A legal decision handed down in one country can have important repercussions elsewhere, especially in a climate where national authorities are more willing than ever to cooperate with each other.
What does your day-to-day role consist of?
Generally speaking, our mission is to allow the company to grow confidently, without wondering where the next litigation is going to come from, having their reputation tarnished or having their finances impacted. Of course, this is a rather delicate exercise because there will always be competing needs, but it’s up to us to find the right balance between the need to make money and the need to respect regulations.
In concrete terms this means that the legal department must be able to analyze each of the group’s activities and goals in order to be in a position to make intelligent, informed suggestions regarding the future direction of the company.
Have your five years’ experience as a corporate lawyer helped at all in your current role?
Absolutely! Having been a lawyer, I have acquired certain expertise that makes it easier to work with our legal staff, as I understand how they think and operate. A jurist-lawyer duo that works well together can overcome any obstacle. As regards my corporate law specialization – put simply, it forms the foundation of my activity at Samsung.
Why did you decide to move in-house?
I had arrived at a point in my career where it just seemed like the right thing to do. As for my personal motivation, I wanted to be part of something larger, something I couldn’t find at a law firm.
How has the pandemic complicated your role?
The pandemic has forced us to deal with a whole host of issues that would, in normal times, be marginal concerns, such as force majeure and restructuring. These issues are now front and center. We have had to navigate a situation where the risk of some of our partners going bankrupt is very real. More generally, when funds dry up it increases the number of problems a company faces. So we, as legal advisors, are in high demand at the moment.
Which personal achievements at Samsung are you most proud of?
I am particularly proud of the fact that our legal department was able to see off a case brought against Samsung by the French competition authority in 2017. This legal battle took four years and was a big win for us.
Perhaps even more than this, I am proud of the fortitude my teams have shown during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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