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Adtalem Top Lawyer Who Drove Dealmaker Diversity Exits Educator

May 6, 2021, 10:00 AM

Adtalem Global Education Inc.’s general counsel and senior vice president Chaka Patterson, known for his diversity advocacy in the legal profession, has resigned from the for-profit education company after around three years.

In an SEC filing, the Chicago-based company said Patterson had resigned as of April 30 to pursue another opportunity and that there were no disputes or conflicts with the board or management. Adtalem associate general counsel Larry Bachman has stepped in as interim general counsel until a permanent successor is found.

Patterson’s departure comes shortly after the announcement that the Justice Department was dropping a False Claims Act investigation of online healthcare educator Walden University, which Adtalem said last fall it would acquire in a $1.48 billion deal from Laureate Education.

Patterson joined Adtalem in 2018 as vice president and deputy general counsel and was promoted to general counsel in February 2020. Neither he nor Adtalem immediately responded to requests for comment on his exit.

For September’s Walden transaction, Patterson chose a team of five Black, female lawyers to lead Adtalem’s side of the deal, a rarity in the legal industry that he said he hoped would serve as an example.

“In my experience, it is the clients who drive diversity in the legal profession. It’s important for the general counsel to set the tone for other people in the legal department who may have hiring authority, and to help set the tone and drive diversity among his or her outside counsel,” Patterson said in an interview at the time.

Black, female lawyers face both gender discrimination and racial biases in their work in White male-dominated Big Law, which can present barriers to getting lead roles on major deals. Women of color are also limited by the fact that they’re underrepresented at law firms, comprising only 3.79% of partners in 2020, according to data from the National Association for Law Placement.

Days after the Walden University acquisition was announced, the Justice Department launched an investigation into Walden’s nursing program over potential FCA violations, and Adtalem launched its own probe of the matter, according to securities filings. Earlier this year, a pair of Adtalem’s investors urged the company to walk away from Walden University, calling it an “inferior and potentially toxic asset.”

Laureate Education announced in an April 29 securities filing that the DOJ had ended the investigation, declining to intervene.

Before his time with Adtalem, Patterson was chief of the Civil Actions Bureau for Cook County’s State Attorney in Illinois, and he has also worked for Jones Day, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Jenner & Block, Exelon Corp., and the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

Adtalem’s chief financial officer Mike Randolfi also left the company in late April and is now the CFO of beauty brands owner BFA Industries, according to his LinkedIn profile. The company’s chief accounting officer Robert Phelan was named interim CFO following Randolfi’s departure.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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