Keeping Up with Compliance

In the 1960s, Bert Turner founded Turner Industries Group, LLC after identifying maintenance as a crucial and underserved construction-market need. Under his supervision, the company grew considerably, and it’s now recognized as one of the top maintenance and industrial contractors in the country. Today, the firm is led by chairman and CEO Roland Toups and vice chair and president Thomas Turner, and its dynamic workforce handles construction, construction management, pipe fabrication, and other specialty services—an extensive set of capabilities that fits the company’s mantra: “Yes—we do that.” John Fenner joined Turner Industries in 2005 as its general counsel, and he became a vice president in 2011. He now works dual roles as both corporate general counsel and chief ethics and compliance officer, and here he discusses the complexities of compliance in an industrial setting.

John Fenner

Turner Industries: At a Glance

Location
Baton Rouge, LA

Founded
1961

Employees
Approx. 18,000

Specialty
Industrial construction

How did you wind up landing a job in the construction sector?
John Fenner: I began my legal career defending officers and directors of failed financial institutions in actions brought by the FDIC and the FSLIC, the latter of which was the predecessor to the Resolution Trust Corporation. This experience helped transition me into the next stage of my career: private practice.

I specialized in transactional matters in forming new companies and later consulting with those companies relative to shareholder agreements, limited liability company agreements, or whatever underlying documentation was needed to govern the relationships between the owners of the business and its management. In October 2005, I was presented with the opportunity to come on board at Turner Industries. My expertise in corporate affairs ultimately allowed me to secure a position here.

What are your primary responsibilities as general counsel?
JF: As corporate general counsel, I’m responsible for advising the company on all matters of litigation and in nonlitigation areas such as labor and employment laws, contract negotiations, and state or federal regulatory matters. I’m heavily involved in complex contract negotiations on behalf of our company. Every contract is different and is based on the unique needs of that customer, the product they manufacture, the service they provide, where they are located, the age of the facility, and any other unique issues related to the facility. It can be a very daunting process, but our contracts form the bedrock of our relationships with our clients. Once completed, those relationships often span decades and reflect a true and rewarding partnership between Turner Industries and its customers.

What about your responsibilities as the chief ethics and compliance officer?
JF: From an ethics and compliance perspective, I’m involved in drafting, implementing, maintaining, and enforcing company policies relative to the corporate code of conduct, wage and hour [stipulations], the National Labor Relations Act, immigration and I-9 [procedures], social media, and many others that one would typically find in a major company such as ours. My duties also include ensuring compliance from a vendor, employee, and regulatory perspective.

What are some distinct legal issues that you handle as the general counsel for an industrial contractor?
JF: There are tremendously different security and risk issues associated with working in industrial facilities. In a post-9/11 world, these facilities have significantly enhanced security programs, policies, and procedures. The United States government implemented a TWIC program, which requires any industrial facility that is near or on a navigable waterway to guarantee that all those that have access to the facility go through an extensive background check. We as contractors are required to comply with these regulations. When you are talking about oil refineries, chemical plants, or nuclear facilities, there are dramatically different and vastly more complex issues associated with those facilities. We have to be diligent in how we go about structuring our contractual relationships in order to properly manage our workforce at those facilities.

Turner Industries Group’s employees provide industrial construction and maintenance services across the country, and general counsel John Fenner works hard to ensure that they comply with regulations from both clients and the government.

Do you have situations where you need to seek outside counsel?
JF: We certainly have a fair amount of work we funnel to outside firms, but we handle as much as we can internally. All the law firms go through an intensive screening process, relative to the services they provide. We only work with the best, and I’m a fierce proponent of keeping a competitive edge relative to the law firms with which we work.

Which outside firms do you typically work with?
JF: Some of the major law firms we work with are Jones Walker, Ogletree Deakins, Baker Donelson, McGlinchey Stafford, Roedel Parsons [Koch Blache Balhoff & McCollister], and Kean Miller [LLP]. We also work with a number of smaller firms in specific geographic locales.

What goals do you have for yourself in your current position?
JF: We have an outstanding record in the compliance arena, and my desire is to ensure that all of our policies continue to be properly enforced and centralized. I’m a gatekeeper of much of the information, so I want to ensure that all policies continue to be enforced in a consistent manner. I am proud of our company’s compliance initiatives, and I will ensure that these protocols are coordinated and performed in a timely manner.

Right now, like every business across America, we are reviewing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to determine the impact it will have on our employees. We will provide our employees with any and all information at our disposal to ensure that they understand the act, which obviously is a highly complex and controversial piece of legislation. ABQ