Ex-Quinn Emanuel Lawyer Runs Strategy at Bankrupt USA Gymnastics

May 17, 2021, 9:30 AM

USA Gymnastics Inc. has found in-house legal help as it seeks to resolve sexual abuse claims against the bankrupt organization as the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics prepare to get underway in July.

Within the past month, USAG has recruited former Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner Debbie Leilani Shon as its chief strategy officer and Rebecca “Beckie” St. John as safety and compliance counsel, said a source briefed on the matter.

Shon, a former chair of Quinn Emanuel’s international trade practice in Washington who previously spent a decade as a litigator at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, disclosed her new role on her LinkedIn profile. So did St. John, who spent the past year as a deputy attorney general in the Indiana Attorney General’s office.

The Indianapolis-based nonprofit, the U.S. governing body for the sport of gymnastics, parted ways in January with former safety and compliance counsel Mark Busby. At the time, USAG told Bloomberg Law that it would seek to hire a chief legal officer and a replacement for Busby’s position.

St. John, who also previously worked in the Indiana Department of Child Services, has taken over the bulk of Busby’s former duties, a source said.

That same source noted that Shon, a former CEO of Ticketmaster China and international trade executive at U.S. Steel Corp., is in a “business-focused role” that sees her work with USAG’s outside legal chief, C.J. Schneider, a crisis counseling and litigation partner at Michigan-based Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey.

Shon and St. John didn’t respond to requests for comment.

USAG spokeswoman Carol Fabrizio, a former associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, declined to discuss the personnel moves. Kathryn Carson, chair of the board at USAG and a former chief legal officer for the U.S. Golf Association and general counsel for PepsiCo Inc.’s North American arm, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

St. John shared a statement posted to LinkedIn last month by USAG noting its hire of her and fellow child safety advocate and lead investigator Christiana Patterson. Both women—Patterson is not a lawyer—are part of USAG’s SafeSport team.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport was established in 2017 to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and assault involving organizations affiliated with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the governing body for U.S. Olympic sports.

A Chapter 11 reorganization plan filed by USAG last year offered roughly $215 million in insurance money to sexual abuse survivors suing for compensation. Within the past year, however, various parties have continued to battle in bankruptcy court and a resolution to the stalemate has remained out of reach.

USAG filed for bankruptcy in December 2018 in order to stay lawsuits filed against the organization by current and former gymnasts—some of them stars in the sport—over abuse they suffered at the hands of convicted pedophile Larry Nassar, a former team doctor employed by USAG.

Miller Johnson is advising USAG in bankruptcy court along with Barnes & Thornburg, Jenner & Block, and Indiana’s Plews Shadley Racher & Braun. A monthly operating report for April filed by USAG in its bankruptcy case shows the debtor has paid nearly $5.8 million to Jenner & Block; more than $2.9 million to Plews Shadley; over $1.7 million to Miller Johnson; and nearly $213,000 to Barnes & Thornburg.

Bankruptcy boutique Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl & Jones and Indianapolis-based Rubin & Levin, who are representing an official committee of unsecured creditors in USAG’s Chapter 11 case, have received more than $2.6 million and almost $376,000, respectively. Chicago-based FrankGecker, counsel to a representative for future sexual abuse claimants against USAG, has been paid more than $149,000.

USAG has not had an in-house legal chief since Christopher Tebo left in 2018. Tebo, now a partner at civil litigation firm Ray Peña McChristian in Albuquerque, N.M., didn’t respond to a request for comment about his time at the organization.

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 at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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