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So Your Company’s CEO Has Coronavirus. Does the World Have to Know?

Compliance Week

25 Mar 2020

Global Corporate Department Co-Chair Jackie Liu and Privacy + Data Security Partner Chris Lyon spoke to Compliance Week for an article that covers the questions that publicly traded companies face about when and where to disclose that their CEO or other key executives have contracted the coronavirus.

According to Jackie, boards of directors should “err on the side of over-disclosure” in this environment, noting that the general guideline is to report a material change to business operations as soon as it is known. Jackie also mentioned that she is counseling her public company clients to disclose if a CEO or C-suite level executive is infected, saying that “it’s difficult to argue that is not material.”

Chris added that if a company decides not to make a public disclosure about a positive coronavirus test for an executive, the company is still obligated to inform employees who came in contact with that person. “Privacy regulators in the U.S. and around the world have cautioned employers about the need to protect the confidentiality of employee health information, including in response to the current pandemic,” she said. “However, companies may face competing pressures to reveal the identity of the affected individual, when the individual is a key senior executive whose absence may attract attention or require explanation. This may require a more tailored risk-based approach, working with the individual where possible to align on the nature and content of the disclosure.”

Read the full article (subscription required).

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