Bloomberg Law
Jan. 6, 2021, 8:43 PM

Apple’s Top Lawyer Adams Earned Over $26 Million in 2020

Brian Baxter
Brian Baxter

Apple Inc. faced myriad legal and regulatory challenges in 2020, and its top in-house lawyer reaped the benefits.

General Counsel Katherine “Kate” Adams received a total compensation package of more than $26.4 million from Apple in 2020, according to an annual proxy statement filed late Tuesday by the Cupertino, Calif.-based company.

The bulk of that sum, which represents a slight increase over what Adams earned in 2019, is comprised of nearly $21.7 million in stock awards. Adams also earned almost $4.6 million in cash last year, including a base salary of $1 million.

Her total pay topped that of Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took home about $14.8 million from the iPhone and iPad maker during 2020. Bloomberg News reported in August that Cook became a billionaire after Apple’s market value neared $2 trillion.

Apple hired Adams in October 2017 from Honeywell International Inc., where she had been general counsel for almost a decade. Adams replaced Apple’s retiring legal chief D. Bruce Sewell, who the company hired in 2009 from Intel Corp. to replace former general counsel Daniel Cooperman following his retirement.

Adams’ Apple stock holdings are currently valued at more than $44.2 million, according to Bloomberg data. Securities filings show that Adams sold 17,000 Apple shares for nearly $1.9 million on Nov. 3.

Apple declined to discuss Adams’ compensation or performance.

In its proxy, Apple touted a record revenue of $274.5 billion in 2020 and the return of $90 billion to shareholders in the form of in dividends and share repurchases. Apple also remained acquisitive last year, buying companies like Inc., Voysis Ltd., NextVR Inc., Inductiv Inc., Fleetsmith Inc., Mobeewave Inc., Scout FM, and Vilynx Inc.

Adams’ pay tops that of at least one key technology industry rival, Microsoft Corp. president and chief legal officer Bradford Smith. Microsoft paid nearly $16.7 million in total compensation to Smith last year, according to a proxy statement filed by the software giant in late October.

Smith reportedly raised antitrust concerns about Apple’s popular app store with U.S. lawmakers, having flagged similar issues with lawmakers and regulators in Europe without mentioning Microsoft’s competitor by name. In late November, Apple prevailed in an app store dispute with email app maker Blitz Inc.

Microsoft has supported Epic Games Inc., a video game and software developer that sued Apple after its online game Fortnite was banned from the company’s app store.

Bloomberg Law reported last month on the go-to law firms for top technology companies like Apple and Microsoft. The group includes Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the latter of which advised Apple on an $18 million FaceTime settlement approved this week by class action plaintiffs.

Gibson Dunn has handled at least 8% of Apple’s federal litigation caseload within the past five years, according to Bloomberg Law data. Fish & Richardson, DLA Piper, WilmerHale, Sidley Austin, Morrison & Foerster, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have also been busy representing Apple in the courtroom during that time.

Apple’s legal chief Adams is a former Sidley partner. In June, Apple hired senior privacy counsel Nicole Ewart, a former senior associate at WilmerHale in Washington. Apple also brought on Margaret Richardson, an attorney and former vice president of trust at Airbnb Inc., in a trust and safety role in August.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at
Rebekah Mintzer at