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Goldman Sachs’ Exiting Legal Chief Earned $9 Million in 2020 (1)

March 22, 2021, 8:03 PMUpdated: March 23, 2021, 1:33 AM

The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. general counsel Karen Seymour received more than $9 million in total compensation last year, a slight increase over what she earned in 2019.

David Solomon, chairman and CEO of Goldman, announced earlier this month that Seymour had chosen to retire March 31 and return to Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, where she had been a partner prior to joining Goldman in 2018.

Seymour took over as the financial services conglomerate’s legal chief the following year after longtime law department leader Gregory Palm retired from the role. Seymour earned nearly $8.4 million from Goldman during her first year as general counsel in 2019.

Goldman disclosed in a proxy statement filed March 19 that Seymour took home $4.9 million in cash last year in the form of a $3.4 million bonus and $1.5 million in base salary. Seymour also received more than $4 million in stock awards. She currently owns $3.2 million in Goldman stock, per Bloomberg data.

Seymour will “not receive any payments or other benefits in connection with her retirement from the firm,” Goldman said in its proxy statement.

She officially stepped down from Goldman’s general counsel role March 15 to make way that day for successor Kathryn Ruemmler, according to a March 4 securities filing by the company.

Ruemmler, a former co-chair of the white-collar defense and investigations practice at Latham & Watkins, joined Goldman last year as its global head of regulatory affairs. Bloomberg News reported this month that when Seymour was chosen by former Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein for the company’s top legal job in 2017, the company’s then-president, Solomon, had preferred Ruemmler for the position.

Seymour and Ruemmler, a pair of prominent litigators during their time in private practice, helped Goldman navigate an end to its involvement in a massive Malaysian corruption inquiry related to investment fund 1MDB.

Goldman and the Malaysian government finalized a settlement last summer that resulted in the company making a $2.5 billion payment and returning $1.4 billion in 1MDB assets. Goldman also reached other settlements with regulators in the U.S., U.K., Singapore, and Hong Kong that brought the company’s total legal tab for 1MDB to more than $5 billion.

Seymour “played an integral role in the resolution of 1MDB matters across many different regulators globally,” Goldman wrote in a review of her performance last year disclosed in its most recent proxy.

Outside of the 1MDB matter, Seymour spearheaded a working group in Goldman’s legal division to “address Covid-19 contractual, employment, and related issues to provide real-time advice and resources” for the law department and Goldman’s clients, the company said.

She was also involved in a restructuring of Goldman’s legal unit designed to “reduce expenses, increase efficiencies and global integration, and enhance technology offerings,” according to the proxy.

Goldman’s proxy didn’t mention a lawsuit filed against the company, Seymour, and head of litigation Darrell Cafasso last year by Marla Crawford, a former in-house lawyer at Goldman accusing the defendants of covering up sexual harassment.

Crawford’s complaint has been called baseless by Goldman, which has retained high-profile litigator Roberta Kaplan and Weil, Gotshal & Manges to represent it in the case. Crawford has since found a new in-house role.

Big Bank Lawyers

Elsewhere in the financial services space, Citigroup Inc. announced earlier this month that its general counsel Rohan Weerasinghe will retire at year’s end after almost a decade in the role. In its most recent proxy statement filed March 17, Citigroup didn’t list Weerasinghe as among its top five highest-paid executives last year. He owns nearly $14 million in Citigroup stock, per Bloomberg data.

Citigroup said in January that it would reduce the bonuses of several top executives after being hit with a $400 million fine last year by a federal banking regulator for failing to maintain proper risk management protocols. Weerasinghe, a former senior partner at Shearman & Sterling, joined Citigroup in 2012.

Wells Fargo & Co. has been busy in recent months, bringing on in-house legal talent under general counsel Ellen Patterson. The company’s new legal chief was not among Wells Fargo’s six highest-paid executives in 2020, according to a recent proxy statement.

Several other publicly traded companies in the financial services space recently disclosed 2020 pay packages for their top lawyers. The industry tends to be one of the best for in-house lawyer remuneration each year.

Listed parenthetically is the cash component of each lawyer’s total compensation, a number that includes salary, bonuses, and non-equity incentive plan compensation.

  • American Express Co.: Laureen Seeger, $9.1 million ($4.1 million)
  • KKR & Co. Inc.: David Sorkin, $7.2 million ($3.9 million)
  • Jefferies Financial Group Inc.: Michael Sharp, $6 million (all cash)
  • Global Payments Inc.: David Green, $3 million ($412,500
  • Huntington Bancshares Inc.: Jana Litsey, $2.8 million ($1.5 million)
  • PJT Partners Inc.: James Cuminale, $2.6 million ($1.8 million); Cuminale retired Jan. 1 and was replaced by deputy general counsel David Travin.
  • Bank of Hawaii Corp.: Mark Rossi, $1.7 million ($1.6 million); Rossi retired Dec. 31 and was succeeded by Patrick McGuirk.
  • Main Street Capital Corp.: Jason Beauvais, $1.2 million ($766,250)
  • Greenhill & Co. Inc.: Gitanjali Pinto Faleiro, $920,360 ($720,000)
  • United Community Banks Inc.: Melinda Davis Lux, $750,000 ($454,950)
(Adds second section and tally of compensation for other financial services lawyers.)

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

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