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In 2015, 15 Seismic In-House Management Shifts

Dec. 23, 2015, 2:05 PM

Looking back at 2015, there were dramatic shifts in the nation’s corporate law departments, including high-level promotions, new hires and departures. General Electric, Ford Motor Co., Bank of America, Verizon Communications Inc., Microsoft Corp. and many other giants shook up their legal teams.

Below are 15 of the biggest management changes at in-house law departments.

Verizon Calls for Promotion of New GC.

Verizon started off the year with an outgoing call to Craig Silliman, the communication giant’s former senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, who was promoted to executive vice president for public policy and general counsel. Silliman began serving as Verizon’s head lawyer in January 2015, but has worked for the company and its subsidiaries since February 2004 when he signed on as vice president and deputy general counsel, international, for Verizon Business. Silliman is based in New York and graduated from University of Virginia School of Law.

Hertz Appoints New General Counsel.

Hertz Global Holdings Inc., which operates the Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty and Firefly car rental brands in more than 11,000 locations throughout the world, announced Jan. 16 that it appointed Thomas Sabatino Jr. to the position of senior executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel. He began that role on Feb. 9, and oversees legal, compliance, human resources, labor relations, communications, government affairs, community relations, real estate, facilities and security for the company. Prior to joining Hertz, he worked as executive vice president, global legal and chief administrative officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

“Tom Sabatino is a seasoned executive who is also widely recognized as a leading general counsel,” Hertz President and CEO John Tague said at the time of the announcement. “Tom will be a senior advisor and business partner, not only in his capacity as chief legal and compliance officer, but also in his role leading significant corporate functions.”

Deutsche Bank Invests in DOJ Vet.

In February 2015, Deutsche Bank AG hired Steven F. Reich as its general counsel for the Americas, who previously worked as a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in New York. Reich, a former U.S. associate deputy attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice prior to joining Akin Gump, sought to resolve numerous investigations over alleged market manipulation. Reich has also worked for Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and as a senior associate White House counsel under President Bill Clinton. He began at Deutsche Bank in April.

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Touchscreen Entertainment Group Taps Zynga Attorney.

Mobile entertainment company Scopely Inc. revealed on Feb. 23, 2015, that it had hired Roy Rosenthal as its general counsel and head of business affairs. Prior to joining Scopely, Rosenthal served as senior counsel and senior director of business affairs at San Francisco-based Zynga, the social game provider that went public in 2011, where he worked since April 2012. Rosenthal also spent time at Shazam Entertainment, where he worked as a director of business and legal affairs. In a blog post published by Rosenthal himself on the company’s website, he said he hopes Scopely will benefit from his experience at Zynga.

“I hope Scopely can benefit from my experience and perspective from Zynga and Shazam — particularly from Zynga, which is operating in much of the same space as Scopely,” Rosenthal wrote, calling the move a “no brainer.”

“The speed and energy at Scopely is a lot like Zynga, and I hope I can help guide Scopely to the same level of success Zynga has seen and avoid some of the missteps.”

AECOM Builds Up Legal Team With Ex-O’Melveny Partner.

On March 2, 2015, AECOM, which describes itself as the “#1-ranked” engineering design firm, announced the addition of Carla Christofferson as executive vice president and general counsel. Christofferson previously worked as the managing partner of O’Melveny & Myers’ Los Angeles office, but now oversees all aspects of AECOM’s global legal function. Christofferson joined O’Melveny as an associate in 1993, made partner in 2001 and was promoted to managing partner in 2008. She earned her juris doctor from Yale Law School.

“Carla’s demonstrated accomplishments, substantial leadership experience and familiarity with our industries and markets will significantly strengthen our leadership team as she assumes a broad and instrumental role in the success of our businesses and the overall enterprise,” AECOM CEO Michael S. Burke said in a statement in March. “"I am confident that Carla’s proven track record will augment AECOM’s ability to compete successfully in our global markets, enhance the delivery of our clients’ projects and advance our ongoing focus on performing our work with the utmost integrity.”

Toyota Changes Lanes, Creates New Global GC Position.

Toyota disclosed on March 4 that Christopher P. Reynolds, formerly general counsel and chief legal officer of Toyota Motor North America Inc., was appointed to the newly created position of general counsel and chief legal officer for Toyota Motor Corp. Reynolds, who joined Toyota in 2007, reports to Shigeki Terashi, senior managing officer of TMC, and Tatsuro Ueda, managing officer of TMC. Prior to joining the automotive giant, Reynolds was a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in New York City, where he headed the law firm’s employment law practice. Reynolds earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at Kalamazoo College and his law degree from Harvard Law School.

Giorgio Armani Fires GC under Contested Circumstances.

Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani terminated Fabio Silva, who served as general counsel for the Armani group companies in North America, on July 2 for allegedly unlawful reasons. In that role, Silva was charged with handing and resolving all legal matters for the group, including strategic initiatives, mergers and acquisitions, commercial real estate, mergers and acquisitions and more. About two months after he was fired, Silva and Sanford Heisler Kimpel sued Armani, his corporations and executives alleging they discriminated against and fired the in-house attorney because he “was Mexican and diagnosed with cancer.” In the pending lawsuit, Silva alleges Armani’s chief financial officer informed him that he “did not trust Mexicans.” He says he was denied a raise and ultimately fired for reporting the discrimination, according to his attorneys.

“The Armani brand is synonymous with high fashion and understated elegance, but there was nothing elevated or subtle about Giorgio Armani Corporation’s treatment of Mr. Silva,” David Sanford, lead counsel for Silva and founder of public interest firm Sanford Heisler, wrote in a Sept. 15 statement. “Despite being an extraordinary attorney and well qualified and experienced in the fashion world, Mr. Silva was subjected to retaliation and termination due to his complaining about discrimination in the workplace.”

Giorgio Armani Corp. hired Hank Rouda, formerly head of legal for H&M in the U.S., to replace Silva in July. Rouda is responsible for all legal functions for Armani’s operations in North America, including real estate, human resources, corporate governance, intellectual property, litigation and more.

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Glassdoor Recruits eBay Attorney as New GC.

Job listing and recruitment marketplace Glassdoor Inc. announced July 12 that it had named Brad Serwin, the former senior vice president and deputy general counsel for eBay Inc., general counsel. In that role, Serwin is responsible for overseeing all legal matters for the growing company. Serwin, who has 26 years of legal and operations experience, previously oversaw litigation for all eBay companies. Before that he spent time as the general counsel at Playdom, which was acquired in 2012 by The Walt Disney Co.

Robert Hohman, co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor, hailed the new hire.

“I am thrilled to welcome Brad to Glassdoor as he brings a wealth of legal leadership experience for a variety of consumer and public facing companies across an impressive range of industries,” Hohman said in a statement in July. “With Brad at the helm of our growing legal team, we have an impressive group of professionals ready to help us chart our expansion in the U.S. and globally.”

Unified Grocers Checks Out New GC.

Unified Grocers Inc., the largest retailer-owned wholesale grocery cooperative in the western United States, said July 27 that Mary M. Kasper had joined the company as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary. Kasper, who previously provided strategic business and legal advice for Fresh & Easy, has also served in legal roles at Ralphs/Food 4 Less and Vons. She reports to Unified President and CEO Bob Ling, who called her “an accomplished executive with extensive experience in legal matters relating to the grocery business.”

“Unified is extremely fortunate to welcome her as a member of our officer team,” Ling said upon the announcement, adding that Kasper will have a “key role” to play as the company looks to grow its business. “Mary will serve as a key advisor to the organization, interfacing with the Board of Directors and partnering with the senior management team members on all relevant functional and operational legal concerns.”

Kasper obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA and her juris doctorate from UCLA School of Law.

Texas Instruments Calculates GC Succession Plan.

Texas Instruments Inc., the global semiconductor design and manufacturing company that introduced the hand-held calculator in 1967, announced the election of a new general counsel on Aug. 3. Cynthia Hoff Trochu, who has worked for Texas Instruments since 1993 and has now been named senior vice president, secretary and general counsel, replaces Joe Hubach, who is retiring after 31 years with the company. Texas Instruments says Trochu “will play an integral role in developing company policies, counseling on business strategies and ensuring TI’s global compliance.”

“Cynthia’s global experience across many of our business and support entities, combined with her strong business acumen, thoughtful analysis and sound legal counsel, will continue to benefit our company,” Rich Templeton, Texas Instruments chairman, president and chief executive officer, said at the time of the announcement. “She is a strong partner and counselor to our business leaders, and she helped lead our global compliance efforts over the last several years, actively championing our foundational commitment to ethics and integrity in everything we do.”

Trochu, who has served as vice president and assistant general counsel since 2004, previously worked as a commercial litigator at Jones Day in Texas. She received her undergraduate degree from Manchester University and her law degree from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.

Microsoft Advances GC to Top Spot.

Microsoft promoted Brad Smith, formerly the general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, to president and chief legal officer in September. An e-mail sent out to employees early in the month confirm the promotion of Smith, who has worked at the company since July 2002. In his new role with Microsoft, Smith is responsible for the company’s corporate, external and legal affairs. He also leads a team of more than 1,300 business, legal and corporate affairs professionals in 55 countries, according to the Microsoft’s website. Prior to joining the tech giant, Smith worked as a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, where he began as an associate in September 1986. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Princeton University in 1981 and his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1985.

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GE Looks Internally to Replace Retiring GC

GE announced on Oct. 13 that Brackett B. Denniston III, who was appointed general counsel in 2004 and senior vice president in 2005, will be retiring at the end of 2015. Denniston’s retirement made room for a new head of legal, and the manufacturer of digital industrial machines chose to make Alex Dimitrief the GC of GE as of Nov. 1.

Denniston spent 19 years at GE, originally starting with the company in 1996 as vice president and senior counsel of litigation and legal policy. He also served as director of GE Capital Corp. and the GE Foundation, as member of the Corporate Executive Council and as chairman of the Policy Compliance Review Board. Prior to joining GE, Denniston served as chief legal counsel to Governor William F. Weld of Massachusetts and before that as a partner at Goodwin Procter LLP. He received his undergraduate degree from Kenyon College and his law degree from Harvard Law School.

Former Kirkland & Ellis LLP trial lawyer Dimitrief, who joined GE in February 2007, previously served as the Chief Legal Officer for GE’s financial services business GE Capital. In that role, which he held since late 2012, the company says Dimitrief “has been a key leader in GE Capital’s reorganization and agreements to sell over $120 billion in assets since April 2015.” In his new position, Dimitrief will oversee more than 5,000 people globally.

“Alex will be a great leader for our legal function and member of the executive team. I appreciate his candor and passion,” GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt said in October. “He is known throughout the company for being smart, bold and committed to developing his people.”

Dimitrief received his undergraduate degree from Yale College in 1981 and his juris doctor from Harvard Law School in 1985.

Ford’s New GC Cruises into Position in Wake of Retirement.

On Oct. 20, Ford Motor Co. announced a series of shifts in its senior leadership, including the retirement of 10-year Ford veteran and general counsel David Leitch. Leitch, who led Ford’s litigation, tax, corporate and intellectual property efforts and advised on a range of legal issues, was hired on with the company in April 2005.

Prior to joining Ford, Leitch worked at the White House as deputy counsel to President George W. Bush, as chief counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration and as a partner in the law firm now known as Hogan Lovells. He received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and his law degree from University of Virginia School of law, according to a company bio.

“David has been a great partner and has cultivated an award-winning legal team for Ford,” Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said in October. “David and his team also have embraced Ford’s commitment to making people’s lives better through their pro bono work and active community service.”

Leitch will be replaced by Bradley M. Gayton, who has been corporate secretary and assistant general counsel since April 2012, effective Jan. 1, 2016. In his former position, Gayton was responsible for certain governance and legal matters and for New York Stock Exchange and Securities and Exchange Commission reporting. Gayton joined Ford’s Office of General Counsel in 1991 and worked his way up through the ranks. He received his bachelor’s degree from State of University of New York, School of Management, and his law degree from the university’s law school.

Bank of America Nabs Ex-Ford GC

On Nov. 12, less than a month after his announced retirement from Ford, Bank of America said David Leitch would become the financial institution’s new global general counsel. BofA revealed that Leitch would begin Jan. 1, 2016, and replace Gary G. Lynch, who will remain a member of the bank’s management team as vice chairman. Lynch will continue to advise the senior executives and the board of directors on a number of issues, including the evolving international regulatory environment, corporate governance and shareholder-related matters, according to the company.

“Gary led our team in resolving the most complex and pressing legal issues our company has faced. We will continue to benefit from his seasoned judgment and sound guidance,” said BofA CEO Brian Moynihan, to whom Leitch will now be reporting. “David is a proven executive and leader who will add impressive legal acumen and experience to our team.”

JPMorgan Chase Brings On Government Vet.

In November, JPMorgan Chase named a new general counsel for its corporate and investment banking division. Cyrus Amir-Mokri came from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, which he rejoined for about a year, but prior to that he served as the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions. In that position, which Amir-Mokri held for almost three years, he was responsible for developing and coordinating Treasury’s policies on issues affecting financial institutions.

Prior to that role with the Treasury, Amir-Mokri served as Senior Counsel to the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and as the agency’s deputy representative to the Financial Stability Oversight Council. Before joining the government, Amir-Mokri worked at Skadden where he focused on complex securities and antitrust litigation. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University, his doctor of philosophy from the University of Chicago and his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.