The Insights Association’s prevailing efforts to advocate for and provide compliance information to our members expanded during a month marked by the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.

Helping members’ money

In response to a need for liquidity and to save jobs and businesses in the insights industry, IA focused on a variety of possible government funding mechanisms. We reached out to Congress and the White House in support of what would become the Paycheck Protection Program, the Emergency Impact Disaster Loans, and the Emergency Economic Impact Grants, all launched by the CARES Act to assist small businesses suffering from the crisis. To address member questions on navigating the thicket of applications and eligibility, IA brought leadership from the Small Business Administration onto a virtual town hall. (Access the recording or review the transcript.) 

When we realized that marketing research and data analytics companies with equity investors were restricted from applying for those loans, we urged the Secretary of the Treasury and the SBA Administrator to relax their “affiliation rules” preventing market research and data analytics companies with minority investors from getting the assistance needed to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, as the funding programs ran out of money, IA appealed for their replenishment by the House, Senate, and President, resulting in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act and the reopening of the programs

IA also shared details of various other CARES Act changes and programs that might help our members, such as the Federal Reserve's new Main Street Lending Program, changes to tax law that allow the carrying back of net operating losses, expansion of unemployment insurance (including for part-timers and independent contractors), and changes that made it easier to take distributions and loans from retirement accounts. We even highlighted funding options for our Canadian members, and some of the emergency funding options produced by the private sector.

Although one potential solution to current uncertainties for some insights businesses lies in mergers or acquisitions, IA warned about the proposal by the chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee to cram a provision in the next big COVID-19 funding bill to ban corporate M&A during the crisis

Compliance and legal challenges during the crisis

Legal compliance became much more complicated for the insights industry as a result of  the pandemic. IA shared details on complying with the Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave requirements from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as well as added employment law considerations for employee retention and termination in light of the COVID-19 crisis, how to evaluate the crisis' impact on your customer and vendor contracts and some general legal issues facing employers during the crisis

With layoffs rising in our industry, IA urged the suspension of non-compete agreements during the crisis. for staff involuntarily separated from their organizations without full compensation. This practice in no way would preclude an employer from maintaining all rights, including legal action, against an employee who misappropriates trade secrets or other confidential or proprietary information (through non-solicit and non-disclosure agreements). We also explored the broader legal standing of non-competes in forming our position.

In the pharmaceutical and health care space, we've looked at changes to enforcement of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on adverse event reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For our telephone-focused researchers, IA checked in on calling restrictions during a state of emergency in New York, Louisiana and Massachusetts and explained a new FCC rule clarifying what qualifies as an emergency call under TCPA during this crisis.

IA also tackled COVID-19 legal and compliance concerns on our virtual town halls on March 20 (Access the recording or view the transcript) and April 17 (Access the recording or review the transcript), featuring industry lawyers.

Looking ahead

While our industry is certainly not out of the woods yet, various states and localities are pursuing the lifting or easing of their shutdowns. IA recently released general guidelines for reopening in-person insights operations and we’re currently working on more specific guidelines for reopening in-person qualitative research facilities.

IA will also be looking at amelioration of the litigation risks involved in getting back to work and protections that we may need to seek through our advocacy at the state and federal level.

Remember, we are always available to answer your questions on these and other regulatory issues. Thank you for your continued support, which makes all this work possible. Please stay safe and sane.