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Johnson & Johnson Legal Chief to Retire, Forminard Promoted (1)

July 18, 2022, 3:13 PMUpdated: July 18, 2022, 7:15 PM

Johnson & Johnson announced Monday that general counsel Michael Ullmann will retire from the position at the end of the year.

Elizabeth Forminard, who has spent nearly 16 years in a variety of divisional general counsel and legal leadership roles, will join the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company’s executive committee Oct. 17 and work with Ullmann during a transition.

“I’m thrilled to appoint Liz,” Joaquin Duato, who took over last year as Johnson & Johnson’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. He said he will “lean on her strong business acumen and understanding of patient and customer needs during this pivotal time at our company.”

The disclosure of the change comes roughly a year after the company joined three other major opioid distributors—McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corp.—in agreeing to a $26 billion settlement to resolve thousands of state and local lawsuits related to their sale of the addictive painkillers.

Within a month of that announced accord, AmerisourceBergen said its longtime top lawyer, John Chou, would retire to make way for an internal successor—former deputy general counsel Elizabeth Campbell.

Forminard and Ullmann didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ullmann has spent more than three decades with the company, which he joined as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in 1989. He succeeded former Johnson & Johnson general counsel Russell Deyo when Deyo retired in 2012.

Ullmann owns nearly $29 million in Johnson & Johnson stock, according to Bloomberg data. The company’s most recent proxy statement didn’t list him as among its five highest-paid executives during fiscal 2021.

Johnson & Johnson announced in late 2021 that it would split off its consumer products division from its core drug and medical device business within 18 to 24 months. Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Baker McKenzie are advising the company on its plan to separate into two independent entities.

Johnson & Johnson has made several additions to its legal team so far this year. Former Baker McKenzie tax associate Ashleigh Browne in New York came aboard in April as an associate tax counsel.

Other lawyers going in-house at the company include senior patent counsel Guodong Liu and senior legal counsel Alice Pang. Liu was most recently an associate at Troutman Pepper near Philadelphia, while Pang previously worked at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in San Francisco, according to Bloomberg Law data.

Johnson & Johnson scored a strategic win in February when a bankruptcy judge refused to dismiss a Chapter 11 case filed last year by a subsidiary facing billions of dollars in legal liabilities related to talc-based baby powder products. Jones Day is advising LTL Management LLC in that bankruptcy case, which Johnson & Johnson said last month could take more than a year.

Johnson & Johnson continues to face allegations that the company lied about toxic asbestos in its talc products. In February, amid debate about its controversial bankruptcy strategy for LTL, Johnson & Johnson and its lawyers from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom accused plaintiffs’ law firms of putting their own profits ahead of clients in resisting a plan to set up a trust fund to settle talc cases.

That same month Johnson & Johnson and AmerisourceBergen joined other defendants in taking part in another $590 million settlement with 400 Native American tribes in the US to end opioid epidemic-related litigation.

Earlier this year, a private foundation named after the son of late Johnson & Johnson co-founder Robert Wood Johnson hired its own new general counsel in Ricardo Castro, a veteran nonprofit lawyer who has previously been legal chief for the Clinton Foundation, Ford Foundation, and International Rescue Committee.

(Includes additional detail in the sixth, ninth through eleventh, and last paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com