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Semiconductor Giant Adds Top Lawyer Amid Huawei Battle

Sept. 22, 2020, 8:50 AM

KLA Corp., a top U.S. microchip maker caught up in the federal government’s ongoing fight with China’s Huawei Technologies Co., announced Monday its hire of MaryBeth Wilkinson as chief legal officer.

Wilkinson will be based out of KLA’s second headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., and also hold the title of corporate secretary. Wilkinson spent the past decade in-house at O-I Glass Inc., a Perrysburg, Ohio-based glass container manufacturer that promoted her to general counsel in 2017.

She succeeds Teri Little, who left KLA in June to become legal chief for Applied Materials Inc., which has also watched its share price slip in recent weeks due to a potential decline in Chinese sales as the Trump administration escalates its crackdown on Huawei and other companies with close ties to China.

Applied Materials and KLA, along with U.S. companies in other industries, are coping with the financial fallout from increased tensions between policy makers in Washington and Beijing.

At KLA, which is also based in Milpitas, Calif., Wilkinson will oversee all legal, policy, and regulatory affairs for the semiconductor manufacturer and report to CEO Richard “Rick” Wallace.

Wallace, in a statement, said that Wilkinson’s “deep legal, business, and operational experience in the industrials and manufacturing sectors” will help KLA advance its strategic goals.

KLA agreed to a $10.6 billion merger with rival Lam Research Corp. in 2015 that fell apart the following year on antitrust grounds. Fremont, Calif.-based Lam hired Ava Hahn in January to succeed the retiring Sarah O’Dowd as its chief legal officer.

Wilkinson earned nearly $1.2 million in total compensation—including roughly $500,000 in cash—from O-I Glass in 2019, according to an annual proxy statement filed by the company for that year.

Prior to joining O-I Glass in 2010, Wilkinson was an associate and partner at Hogan Lovells in Chicago. Darrow Abrahams, a former commercial litigation associate at Hogan Lovells, was hired in-house by Wilkinson in 2012. He’s now succeeded her as legal chief.

O-I Glass disclosed in a securities filing last month that Wilkinson would be replaced on Sept. 4 by Abrahams, its new general counsel and corporate secretary. O-I Glass said Abrahams has had a key role in the bankruptcy of Paddock Enterprises LLC, a real estate subsidiary that sought Chapter 11 protection in January in order to address decades-old asbestos claims.

The Justice Department’s bankruptcy watchdog has objected to the professionals hired by Paddock in that insolvency case. O-I Glass adopted its current name in January as part of a restructuring, having previously been known as Owens-Illinois Inc.

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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