Advances in new vehicle and retailing technology are reshaping the industry at a rapid pace, meaning that “change is the only constant” in the Automotive Industry today. Intense competition, government regulation, consolidation, and the pressure to innovate pose challenges to traditional industry players. Our industry team works with lawyers and practice groups throughout Arent Fox to address challenges from privacy and cyber security to taxation, from HSR filings to licensing, from FTC enforcement actions to franchise litigation, and from class actions to criminal accusations. Combining industry expertise with our firm’s deep legal bench gives us a formidable market presence. The Automotive Practice Group is ranked nationally and recognized in Chambers USA and in the Daily Journal, which notes that the practice group’s lawyers engage in “thinking outside the box for automotive clients.”
Franchise & Distribution
Arent Fox helps clients create and implement distribution channels and franchise networks. We are helping to create the marketing and distribution channels for new vehicle technologies, keeping the best the industry has developed over its long history and providing new opportunities and fresh ideas for the road ahead.
Arent Fox can provide the map to navigate the regulatory maze. We appear before and counsel clients regarding the relevant government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, US Trade Representative, International Trade Commission, NHTSA, and the various state motor vehicle boards and agencies. We ensure compliance with the many regulations governing the automotive industry, from distribution networks and franchise development to sales and finance practices; and, from consumer regulations to media and advertising. We provide counsel to implement our clients’ sales and distribution strategies, and we work with advertising agencies and news media advertising departments to ensure legally compliant advertising.
Federal Government Relations
Arent Fox has one of the nation’s leading public policy practice groups, bringing first-hand knowledge, judgment and experience to clients’ government relations needs. We have a bipartisan team of lawyers and policy professionals with experience in Republican and Democratic politics and government service. The group includes a former US Senator, a former Member of the US House of Representatives, as well as attorneys and professionals with extensive and recent experience in senior positions on Capitol Hill, in the Executive Branch, and in the political arena. Our legislative success stories include serving as the lead lobbyists for the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights in 2009, which involved legislative drafting, coalition-building, negotiating with senior Members of Congress and the manufacturers, and ultimately helping negotiate the “dealers rights” provision of the omnibus spending bill that established an unprecedented arbitration procedure for those dealers who lost their franchises in the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies. We assist clients in every aspect of federal government affairs and the legislative process, including research and analysis; issue management; direct advocacy; legislative drafting and strategy; preparation of committee report language and Congressional testimony; and, identifying and obtaining sources of federal funding. Our team regularly monitors legislation and policies on Capitol Hill related to our clients’ interests. Our government relations professionals also partner routinely with regulatory attorneys to provide a broader framework for resolving federal agency issues. We work closely with clients to assess and evaluate key political risks and opportunities that enable us to establish primary objectives. As evidenced by our prior dealer experience, we are able to build ad hoc issue-based coalitions that advocate alongside or in lieu of trade associations and to work as part of a strategic communications team.
Customs & International Trade
Arent Fox counsels clients on foreign trade zones and the import and export of merchandise. We handle a variety of issues and proceedings involving the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (formerly the US Customs Service), including proper classification of merchandise, penalty proceedings, prior disclosures, transaction structuring, preferential duty arrangements under the North American Free Trade Agreement, administration of quotas, country of origin marking, designing compliance programs, and assisting in audits. On international trade issues, we negotiated exclusions of steel products from the now-repealed Steel Safeguard tariffs on behalf of automotive steel users.
Advertising / Privacy
Arent Fox is one of the leading advertising and promotions law firms in the country. We have a wealth of experience counseling clients on their own advertising and promotions and in handling disputes relating to false or misleading advertising used by our clients’ competitors.
Our lawyers represent a diverse range of clients – with a focus on media, television and consumer products companies – in all aspects of advertising and promotions. We have significant experience in clearing promotions and advertising globally. We advise on all aspects of advertising and trade regulation law, and counsel businesses on how to avoid and respond to investigations by federal and state government agencies for alleged false advertising and unfair sales and marketing practices. We litigate false advertising and unfair competition claims between competitors in court and in the industry’s self-regulatory proceedings.
Arent Fox wins verdicts for clients in state and federal courts and administrative agencies throughout the country. We frequently take the lead in defeating industry class actions. Our appellate lawyers have successfully argued cases before state and federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Based on our extensive litigation experience, we counsel our clients to avoid common mistakes, and provide them with strategic business planning that prevents litigation and manages risk.
Arent Fox’s Automotive group is on the cutting edge of automotive technology, including autonomous vehicles, Internet sales platforms and other innovations. Our representation of the major players in this space has brought the firm to the front lines of the incredible change taking place. With the law lagging behind daily advancements in automotive technologies, innovators face numerous regulatory challenges, and we help clients navigate the patchwork of often conflicting state and federal regulations, allowing our clients to avoid regulatory setbacks as new business models are implemented. We work with clients to develop technology platforms that comply with regulations in all fifty states, allowing for implementation and experimentation with new business models for online automotive sales, advertising and autonomous vehicles. We appear before all federal and state government agencies with authority over the industry, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the various state departments of transportation, motor vehicle boards and commissions.
Arent Fox negotiates and drafts intellectual property licensing agreements, and counsels clients on the selection, availability and registration of trademarks, service marks, and corporate names. We prepare and prosecute applications to protect trademarks, service marks, and corporate names in the United States and foreign countries. We are also highly experienced in the procurement of patents and litigation involving patent infringement, validity, and licensing.
Antitrust & Competition Law
Arent Fox represents most of the industry’s key players: vehicle manufacturers, major tier one and tier two suppliers, remanufacturers, aftermarket wholesalers, distributors, and dealers. We provide antitrust advice and serve as the general counsel to many major industry trade associations. We also counsel clients on distribution and franchising matters, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures, unfair trade practices and false advertising, e-commerce initiatives, compliance programs, state warranty issues, and intellectual property, including licensing restrictions and patent pooling.
White Collar & Investigations
Arent Fox’s White Collar and Investigations practice offers extensive experience in the high-stakes representation of corporations and other business entities, executives and managers, and professionals and public officials. Our team is composed of former prosecutors and Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division attorneys, including a former US Attorney; a former Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section at the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles; a former Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division and Chief of the Fraud Section at the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern Division of New York; and former SEC enforcement attorneys. We defend and try criminal cases; conduct internal investigations; provide compliance and ethics training; and guide our clients through complex governmental audits and investigations. We handle all stages of a government investigation including parallel civil and criminal proceedings involving multiple agencies and across multiple jurisdictions.
Corporate and Real Estate Transactions
Arent Fox handles complex business and real estate transactions for automotive industry clients nationally and worldwide, including establishing joint ventures in Asia, buying and selling businesses in the US and Europe, and creating distribution channels, supply chain and joint development arrangements in North America. We routinely handle corporate acquisitions and dispositions, loan and financing transactions, shareholder and operating agreements, security agreements, negotiable instruments, promissory notes, inter-creditor agreements, subordination agreements, and other necessary transactional elements. We also handle agreements with the manufacturers and real estate matters for our clients including related real property acquisitions, real estate development, leasing, environmental matters and other transactions unique to the automotive industry.
Financial Restructuring & Bankruptcy
Arent Fox handles complex reorganizations of distressed businesses and restructurings of debt and recapitalizations through out-of-court workouts and bankruptcy proceedings. We have broad experience in advising clients on issues affecting the automotive industry, including the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies and have developed equity preservation and restructuring strategies to assist businesses facing mass tort liability. We have also advised auto suppliers on strategies for protecting themselves from payment defaults by customers.
Arent Fox is well equipped to perform a wide range of tax-related work and family wealth planning. We represent entrepreneurs, family-owned and closely held businesses, as well as high net worth families and individuals. We are prepared to help our clients navigate through any business or personal transaction from the routine to the most complex.
NHTSA/Motor Vehicle Safety Law
Arent Fox has been involved with motor vehicle safety since the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966, and the subsequent formation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Our lawyers, including a former Chief Counsel of NHTSA, counsel clients on motor vehicle safety regulatory issues for manufacturers of passenger cars, trucks, RVs, motorcycles, school buses, tires, automotive equipment, and child restraints, as well as compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards. We work with manufacturers and suppliers in defect and recall notification, reporting and compliance for the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act, including early warning reporting and foreign recall reporting. We also work with our clients to lobby Congressional Committees on motor vehicle safety matters and represent manufacturers and suppliers in administrative proceedings and litigation, including product liability litigation.
Environmental & Emissions
Arent Fox has a well-established and respected environmental practice that handles vehicle emissions matters, as well as other environmental issues facing automotive industry manufacturers. We were involved in the crafting of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and continue to be at the forefront of agency representation relating to mobile source emissions. We also counsel clients on federal, California and European laws and regulations, and track and advise clients on regulatory trends.
Labor & Employment Law
Arent Fox counsels clients on compliance with employment laws and regulations and litigates cases in federal and state courts and agencies. We conduct internal investigations of sexual harassment claims and handle cases involving discrimination on the basis of age, disability, race, sex, and sexual orientation. Our clients include employers in personnel, labor relations, employment discrimination, occupational safety, benefits, immigration, legislative, health care, and other employment-related matters.
Arent Fox knows that in today’s competitive and global marketplace, employee benefit programs of all kinds have emerged as essential tools used by companies in every industry sector to attract, incentivize and retain their key contributors. From broad-based retirement, health and welfare plans to sophisticated executive compensation arrangements, our employee benefits and executive compensation attorneys pride themselves on partnering with our clients as counselors and strategists to help them respond to their benefits-related problems through effective, practical and creative means.
Arent Fox has extensive experience before federal and state agencies and courts in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforcement and rulemaking and related toxic tort and criminal litigation. We also advise clients responding to OSHA inquiries and complaints and preparing plans for responding to serious industrial accidents. We offer employers a comprehensive approach to safety and health issues, working closely with other practice groups in the firm, including environmental, government relations, labor and employment, toxic tort and construction litigation, and white-collar criminal defense. We also represent clients in asbestos-related product liability lawsuits, asbestos-related OSHA matters and asbestos legislation.
Our clients include:
10 of the top 20 Dealership Groups (Automotive News Rankings);
9 of the top 20 Global OEM Parts Suppliers (Automotive News Rankings)
10 of the top 20 North America Original Equipment Suppliers (Automotive News Rankings)
12 of the top 30 Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers (Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association Rankings)
We also serve as general counsel to more than a dozen automotive industry associations, advertising associations, and electric vehicle and motorcycle manufacturers.