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Philip Morris Hires Ex-U.S. Steel General Counsel as Legal Chief (1)

June 11, 2020, 4:51 PMUpdated: June 11, 2020, 6:19 PM

Philip Morris International Inc. announced Thursday its hire of Suzanne Rich Folsom to head its legal, ethics, and compliance functions as of July 1.

Folsom, a former general counsel at U.S. Steel Corp., will succeed Marc Firestone, who Philip Morris said will retire from the global tobacco giant later this year. Firestone joined Philip Morris in 2012, having previously served as general counsel at Kraft Foods Inc., now called Mondelez International Inc.

Philip Morris said in a statement that Folsom is a “results-oriented business leader with decades of broad international experience and a track record of successfully driving transformation within public and private corporations during periods of heightened regulatory and public scrutiny.”

Folsom wasn’t available to discuss her new role but said through a Philip Morris spokesman that she’s “thrilled to be a part of PMI’s transformation to a smoke-free future.” Folsom will be based out of the company’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Globe-trotting is familiar ground for Folsom. Philip Morris cited the roles she’s held for “several heads of state and their families.”

Prior to starting her legal career, Folsom served as the private secretary and chief of staff to Queen Noor of Jordan. She was also once a special assistant to First Lady Barbara Bush, first family liaison to President George H.W. Bush’s inaugural committee, and chief of staff to the late Maureen Reagan, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee and daughter of President Ronald Reagan.

Folsom went on to work as an associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in New York and then relocated to Washington, where she spent eight years as an associate and special counsel at O’Melveny & Myers. She left private practice in 2003 to embark on an in-house career that would see her join several organizations in times of crisis.

In-House Expertise

Folsom’s spent five years at the World Bank as director to its department of institutional integrity, a position she and several aides resigned from in 2008 during an anti-corruption campaign at the Washington-based international financial institution.

Folsom subsequently became deputy general counsel and chief regulatory and compliance officer at American International Group Inc., where she assisted the insurance industry leader on its massive federal government bailout at the start of the 2008 global financial crisis.

In 2011, Folsom joined private military contractor Academi LLC—formerly known as Blackwater—as general counsel and chief regulatory and compliance officer. She held that role until February 2014, when United States Steel Corp. hired Folsom to serve as general counsel, chief compliance officer, and senior vice president of government affairs for the Pittsburgh-based steel producer.

Folsom resigned Dec. 27, 2017, from U.S. Steel, which said in securities filings that it paid her nearly $3.95 million in total compensation during her final year at the company. She went on to serve as an adviser to fintech startup EqualFuture Corp. before joining Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in April 2019 as a partner and co-chair of the law firm’s investigations, compliance, and strategic response group.

Enhancing Reputations

At Manatt, where Folsom is based in Washington, she reunited with John “Jack” Quinn, a veteran lobbyist and former board member at Academi who was hired by the firm in 2017 to head its federal regulatory and government practice.

Philip Morris, Folsom’s new employer, doesn’t operate in the U.S., having separated in 2008 with former parent Altria Group Inc. The two companies engaged in discussions last year about a reunion between the cigarette and vaping product purveyors, but both sides broke off those merger talks in September.

In its statement announcing her hire, Philip Morris credited Folsom’s “ability to solve complex business challenges,” as well as her “innovative thinking, consensus-building, and crisis management skills.” The company also cited Folsom’s track record in “driving stability and enhancing corporate reputations.”

Firestone, Folsom’s predecessor, was tapped in January 2018 to serve as Philip Morris’ president of external affairs. He will continue to hold that role until a replacement is named, the company said.

Bloomberg data shows that Firestone currently owns $15.45 million in Philip Morris stock. The company also disclosed in its 2019 proxy statement that it paid nearly $7.37 million in total compensation—including $2.99 million in cash—to Firestone last year.

Firestone, a co-founder and chairman of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, previously spent 15 years in the legacy legal group at Philip Morris Cos., now called Altria, before returning to Philip Morris eight years ago. Philip Morris CEO André Calantzopoulos called Firestone a “diplomatic statesman beyond compare” in a statement that praised him for his counsel in creating a “science- and technology-based company that is providing a better way forward for tobacco harm reduction.”

In her new role, Folsom will report to Calantzopoulos, who said she “is a champion of inclusion and diversity who has established a reputation for diligence, courage, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to ethical conduct.”

((Adds comment from Folsom in fourth paragraph.))

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mike Ferullo at, Seth Stern at