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William Childs
William Childs

In-House Counsel 2021: William Childs

As they tend to do, some bad actors exploited consumers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by attempting fraudulent sales of N95 masks.

In response, 3M built a cross-functional team of in-house and external attorneys to fight fraud and counterfeiting of its respiratory products.

The company filed dozens of lawsuits, in the process putting a stop to many fraudulent schemes, while at the same time increasing access to high-quality personal protective equipment for front-line workers. A big part of that team was William Childs, 3M senior counsel, litigation.

“The cases have settled down some,” said Childs. “When COVID first started, there was less counterfeiting and more fraud — gouging, people claiming to have masks that they didn’t have.”

A 3M trial team gained a positive verdict in a trial in King County, Washington, last October. And during the jury trial, naturally, the 3M team worked with court staff to keep everyone safe during the monthlong trial.

Childs found his way to 3M from working as a partner at Bowman & Brooke in Austin, Texas. That time followed several years in academia as a tenured faculty member at a law school in Springfield, Massachusetts., and starting his career at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C.

“The collapse in the legal market late 2000s meant it was a fraught time to be at a low-ranked law school,” he recalled. “I wanted to go back to a practice, and the Bowman job felt right down the middle for me, and then the opportunity to join 3M — where my parents both worked until their retirement—was too good to pass up.”

The fraud didn’t immediately affect 3M directly, but the company took measures to make sure it was protected once the fraud involved their products.

“We didn’t have a private right of action because we weren’t the direct victims of price gouging,” said Childs. “So we came up with a theory that the courts have endorsed — that, especially when someone is falsely claiming to be associated with us, they’re harming our trademarks.”

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