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Health Firms Guardant, Fresenius Grab New Legal Group Leaders

June 26, 2020, 8:39 PM

Health care companies continue to be among the busiest bringing on new legal and compliance leadership, with Silicon Valley-based Guardant Health Inc. and Germany’s Fresenius SE & Co KgaA among the latest making notable in-house additions.

Fresenius announced June 23 that Sebastian Biedenkopf will join its management board as chief legal and compliance officer and labor relations director. The company is currently embroiled in a dispute with Akorn Inc. over its scuttled $4.3 billion buyout of the U.S. generic drug maker, which filed for bankruptcy in May.

Guardant is a Redwood City, Calif.-based cancer detection company that raised $237.5 million in an initial public offering two years ago. The company earlier this month added Twitter Inc.’s top in-house lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, to its board of directors. That move came after Guardant quietly reshuffled its legal leadership last month by hiring general counsel and corporate secretary John Saia, who held both those titles at health benefits company WageWorks Inc.

In-house hiring in the health care space has been hot as some companies cope with new regulatory requirements and a spike in demand for their services stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Shift Change at Fresenius

Biedenkopf has been general counsel for German conglomerate Robert Bosch GmbH since 2013. He will replace Jürgen Götz, who Fresenius said in a statement is leaving the company at the end of June at his own request. Götz has led Fresenius’ legal, compliance, and labor functions since 2007, having joined the suburban Stuttgart-based company two years prior as general counsel.

Biedenkopf’s appointment will take place no later than Jan. 1. He said in a prepared statement he looks forward to “putting my experience and knowledge to work” at Fresenius.

Biedenkopf, 56, began his legal career as a foreign associate in Washington at what’s now Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer before going on to hold various general counsel and executive roles at German corporate giants Bertelsmann SE & Co KGaA and Conergy AG. At Fresenius, he will work with Karen Gledhill, general counsel of Fresenius Medical Care North America.

FMCNA controls nearly 40% of the U.S. kidney dialysis market. Gledhill, who joined FMCNA as deputy general counsel in 2014 before becoming general counsel two years later, was previously a partner and chair of the health care practice at North Carolina’s Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson. Gledhill spent 18 years as outside counsel to FMCNA, advising the company in 2011 on its $385 million acquisition of Glen Rock, Pa.-based dialysis center operator American Access Care Holdings LLC.

New Roles at Guardant

Guardant disclosed in a first quarter earnings call last month that Saia had been hired to replace chief legal officer Michael Wiley, who has transitioned into a newly created corporate affairs and business development role at the company.

Wiley joined Guardant in 2012, became CFO the following year, and helped take the company public in October 2018 via a stock float that securities filings show generated $2 million in legal fees and expenses for its lawyers from Latham & Watkins. Wiley, who gave up the CFO role in 2016, received $2.22 million in total compensation—$700,000 in cash—from Guardant in 2019, per a proxy statement.

Bloomberg data shows that Wiley currently owns $12.29 million in Guardant stock. He didn’t respond to a request for comment about his new position at the company.

Saia told Bloomberg Law in an email that he left WageWorks late last year following its $2 billion acquisition by HealthEquity Inc. His hire comes on the heels of Guardant adding former Apple Inc. senior litigation counsel Kim Moore late last year as vice president of legal. In April, Guardant also brought on attorney Shankar Ramesh as senior manager of compliance.

More Health Care Hires

Other recent recruits in the health care in-house space include:

  • Sword Health Lda., a New York-based digital physical therapy provider that earlier this year raised $9 million from investors led by venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, announced June 15 its hire of general counsel and corporate secretary Erica Pham. She most recently served as vice president of legal and government affairs at San Francisco-based insurance startup Clover Health.
  • Shields Health Solutions, a Stoughton, Mass.-based specialty pharmacy network backed by buyout firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, hired Cynthia MacLean as chief legal and compliance officer June 2. MacLean joined Shields after a decade in-house at General Electric Co., where she served as general counsel for U.S. and Canada commercial at GE Healthcare.
  • Flatiron Health Inc. brought on Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart labor and employment litigation partner W. Frank Birchfield in May as a senior employment counsel. The New York-based digital health analytics company is owned by global health care and pharmaceutical giant F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, which installed a new top lawyer in December.
  • UnitedHealth Group Inc., the Minnetonka, Minn.-based managed health care giant, hired deputy general counsel for litigation Heidi Fisher in May from Fox Rothschild in Minneapolis. Fisher had been in private practice for nearly two decades. She spent the past four-and-a-half years as a partner at Fox Rothschild, which absorbed Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly, where Fisher began her legal career in 2002. Before embarking on a legal career, Fisher was a psychological operations specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve.

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 in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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