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AmerisourceBergen Taps New Legal Chief After Big Opioid Deal (1)

Aug. 18, 2021, 3:38 PMUpdated: Aug. 18, 2021, 8:19 PM

AmerisourceBergen Corp. announced Wednesday the retirement of its longtime legal chief John Chou, who as part of a planned transition has been replaced by deputy general counsel Elizabeth Campbell.

The move by the Conshohocken, Pa.-based drug giant comes about a month after it joined two other leading opioid distributors—Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp.—and opioid maker Johnson & Johnson in agreeing to a $26 billion settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits related to the addictive painkillers.

Chou, Campbell, and an AmerisourceBergen spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment about the timing of the change in legal leadership.

AmerisourceBergen chairman, president, and CEO Steven Collis praised the company’s top lawyer for his “leadership and lasting contributions” to the organization, which hired Chou as an associate general counsel in 2002.

“I am personally and professionally grateful for John’s integrity, innovation, and fierce intellect, which he displayed for more than two decades while always keeping our team members, customers, and the patients we ultimately serve at the forefront,” Collis said in a statement about Chou’s pending retirement.

Chou, who replaced former AmerisourceBergen general counsel William Sprague in 2007, will now assume the role of executive vice president and special adviser to Collis. The company said Chou will advise Collis and AmerisourceBergen’s management into early 2022 on the integration of its $6.5 billion cash-and-stock acquisition of the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s pharmaceutical wholesale business.

That transaction, announced in January and completed in June, came prior to AmerisourceBergen’s opioid agreement last month with a bipartisan coalition of more than 40 state attorneys general. The deal will see AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson pay $21 billion during an 18-year period. Johnson & Johnson will pay $5 billion over nine years, as reported by Bloomberg Law.

Lawyers from Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Reed Smith represented AmerisourceBergen on the matter, which the company said in a July 21 statement puts its portion of the total settlement sum at $6.4 billion.

Cravath, Hogan Lovells, and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius also advised AmerisourceBergen on its recent purchase of Alliance Healthcare, the wholesale pharmaceutical business sold to the company by Walgreens.

Chou previously spent time as an associate at Morgan Lewis and Weil, Gotshal & Manges. He went on to work in-house at Arco Chemical Europe Inc. and Cigna Corp. before becoming a corporate and securities partner at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott in Philadelphia in 2000. He joined AmerisourceBergen two years later.

Campbell, who is succeeding Chou as AmerisourceBergen’s top legal and regulatory executive, was hired in 2010 after spending a decade as a commercial litigator at the law firm Pepper Hamilton, now called Troutman Sanders Pepper Hamilton, where she worked in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The company elevated Campbell to deputy general counsel last year, a role that AmerisourceBergen said saw her oversee the legal teams that advise on business and corporate, litigation, labor and employment, and intellectual property matters.

In a statement, Collis credited Campbell for her leadership skills and “in-depth knowledge” of AmerisourceBergen’s business.

“Elizabeth’s unmatched track record and legal execution make her an exceptional leader who will help AmerisourceBergen deliver long-term value for all its stakeholders as a leading global health care provider,” Collis said.

AmerisourceBergen has not yet disclosed how much Campbell will earn in her new role. The company disclosed in a proxy filing earlier this year that Chou received more than $4 million in total compensation last year—about $1.5 million in cash—up from the roughly $3.5 million he earned during 2019.

Chou currently owns more than $8 million in AmerisourceBergen stock, according to Bloomberg data. Securities filings show that Chou has sold off more than $3.5 million in company stock so far this year.

(Updates story throughout with information on Chou's prior work history and AmerisourceBergen's outside law firms.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com