Features

George Moreira – AT&T

AT&T legal leader ensures telecom is dialed into compliance

George Moreira straddles many worlds and cultures as AT&T’s chief counsel for Caribbean and Latin America region.

While working from his native Connecticut, he provides the legal counsel, guidance and compliance for the telecom’s operations in 14 countries—several of which have recently enacted legal reforms affecting outsourced labor, anti-corruption efforts and the protection of personal information and data.

George Moreira | Chief Counsel for Caribbean and Latin America Region | AT&T

George Moreira | Chief Counsel for Caribbean and Latin America Region | AT&T

Moreira, who speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently, says AT&T already has corporate policies in place that help ensure compliance with those new laws and regulations. So, he’s helping the company’s business units understand the effects of new legislation and the importance of the company being fully compliant wherever it operates.

“There are challenges and difficulties and unique legal practices associated with being a domestic lawyer with an international role,” Moreira says. “You’re constantly wrestling with the octopus. There are multiple audiences that have completely different understandings, cultures and legal frameworks.”

Changing legal landscapes

In 2021, Mexico revised its federal laws on outsourcing labor, a practice that became common throughout the country after the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Although NAFTA was subsequently replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in 2020, the new laws changed the employment landscape by prohibiting companies from outsourcing labor or subcontracting activities that are deemed core business functions to other companies, Moreira says.

While subcontracting employees for “specialized activities” remains legal, the contractor performing those services needs to register with the government.

The legislation package affects the entire Mexican economy and business operations and taxation as companies aren’t allowed to subcontract work to Mexican entities. Moreira says AT&T was less affected by new laws because it provides communications and networking services.

However, he says determining how the reforms would affect AT&T, defining its core business operations and establishing and ensuring compliance took more than six months of almost daily meetings with teams from sales, procurement, finance and HR, among others as well as outside counsel.

Compliance also required him to create some new contracts and agreements for the specialized services that AT&T receives from its vendors and provides some customers, as well as new requests for proposals to provide some services.

Establishing compliance

After working through the changes and compliance required in Mexico, Moreira turned his attention to Colombia, where revisions to the financial thresholds to the country’s 2011 anticorruption and money laundering laws went into effect in January 2022.

Changes mean AT&T’s local affiliate has to adhere to stricter transparency requirements. Moreira says adding a compliance officer position was an important first step.

As was the case in Mexico, he needed to review the changes and the company’s operations and train the staff on what the changes meant and how to comply with them. However, Moreira adds AT&T’s corporate policies and culture of compliance eased the process for new requirements.

Moreira and the compliance officer also have to document the compliance steps and procedures for the government—as opposed to showing how the company complies after a complaint is made or charges brought.

“We’re building the structures to show our compliance with the laws,” Moreira says. “It’s about understanding how this legislation applies to our operations—understanding the local environment and comparing Colombia’s laws and regulations with our policies and processes.”

Protecting data

Moreira has also guided AT&T’s compliance with new data privacy and personal information laws in Brazil, known as LGPD, that went into effect in August 2020.

Because the regulations are so similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations, he says the company was well-positioned to comply.

It had a good idea of what the legislation would require, but it also had to consider some distinctions in LGPD while developing new policies and agreements with vendors. For instance, unlike GDPR, LGPD only explicitly protects the data of natural persons. That significantly limits the ability of entities to invoke the protections in the legislation.

Moreira says he routinely needs to explain the requirements of LGPD as opposed to GDPR, to teams such as product development and sales, although the company has its own data privacy team, too.

“I’m a generalist, with a deep understanding of my company,” Moreira says. “And it’s not as if the company didn’t already protect data. We already had substantial experience with managing and maintaining data. The data was not just left on the table.”

An international outlook

Moreira was born and raised in Connecticut by parents who emigrated from Portugal.

“My Portuguese heritage is critical to who I am and how I function in the international world,” he says. “My parents inculcated important values that have served me well. They always preached that hard work, integrity and honesty are critical to ensuring success. They also taught me not to take oneself or one’s work too seriously—humor builds better teams.”

Moreira says he was always interested in becoming an attorney. After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of Connecticut in 1991, he enrolled in Boston University School of Law.

He earned his J.D. in 1994 and entered private practice as a litigation associate with the firm of Carmody & Torrance in Waterbury, Connecticut.

In May 2000, Moreira joined telecom SBC’s Connecticut office as senior counsel. In 2005, as SBC was acquiring AT&T, he helped guide the M&A in Connecticut by persuading the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control that it lacked jurisdiction to review the merger.

In 2007, he shifted to his current position. That year, he also became the inaugural recipient of the AT&T Legal Department In the Trenches Award recognizing outstanding achievement.

While Moreira helps bridge the legal, linguistic and cultural gaps to ensure AT&T operates compliantly in the Caribbean and Latin America, he applies a distinctive approach.

“I am fairly aggressive in my legal philosophy. I believe in zealously defending the company’s interests,” Moreira says. “At the same time, it’s important to make sure to work in a relaxed manner whenever possible. It keeps us constantly moving forward towards success on a global scale.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer II 2023 Edition here.

Published on: June 6, 2023

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