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Smith & Wesson Finds Successor for Retired Longtime Legal Chief

Nov. 29, 2021, 10:35 AM

Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. has named Kevin Maxwell as its top lawyer following the retirement of its former legal chief.

Maxwell most recently worked at corrugated packaging company WestRock Co. as a vice president, associate general counsel, and assistant corporate secretary.

“Excited to announce that I’ve joined Smith & Wesson,” Maxwell wrote in a post to his LinkedIn profile earlier this month. A Nov. 8 securities filing by Smith & Wesson also confirmed his general counsel role at the company.

Smith & Wesson, along with other gunmakers, has faced litigation from victims of gun violence, including those affected by mass shootings. American Outdoor Brands Inc., a company spun-off last year by Smith & Wesson, made the AR-15 assault rifle used in a 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Smith & Wesson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about Maxwell’s hire.

The company’s most recent proxy statement revealed that Robert Cicero, Maxwell’s predecessor, retired Aug. 1 as its general counsel, chief compliance officer, and corporate secretary, after reaching a separation agreement with the company.

Cicero received more than $1.1 million in total compensation last year from Smith & Wesson, a sum that included $860,800 in cash. He currently owns more than $2 million in Smith & Wesson stock, according to Bloomberg data.

Smith & Wesson hired Cicero in late 2011. He previously spent more than eight years in-house at Chemtura Corp., a specialty chemicals maker sold to Germany’s Lanxess AG in 2017, after beginning his legal career as an associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; and Shearman & Sterling.

Maxwell began his career as a corporate associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he worked in London and Washington. He left the law firm in 2010 to go in-house at Mueller Water Products Inc., a manufacturer of fire hydrants and water infrastructure products. Atlanta-based WestRock hired Maxwell in 2016.

Bloomberg News reported in September that Smith & Wesson is investing $120 million to relocate its headquarters from Springfield, Mass., to Maryville, Tenn., due to a proposed Massachusetts bill that would ban the manufacturing of assault weapons in the state.

Smith & Wesson called the potential legislation “arbitrary and damaging” in a Sept. 30 statement that cited Tennessee’s business-friendly environment and support for Second Amendment rights.

Mexico sued Smith & Wesson and other major gun manufacturers in August over their alleged roles supplying weapons to the country’s warring drug cartels. Court records show that Jones Day and litigation partner Noel Francisco, a former U.S. solicitor general who returned to the firm last year in Washington, have been retained by Smith & Wesson to contest that case.

Smith & Wesson paid $70,000 last year and $20,000 during the first quarter of this year to Steptoe & Johnson for the firm to lobby on its behalf at the federal level on “issues related to the regulation of firearms and firearms manufacturing,” according to filings with the U.S. Senate. Steptoe stopped lobbying for the company in April.

That same month Smith & Wesson retained Mike Williams Capitol Strategies LLC, which the company has paid $120,000 to so far this year for it to handle “legislative and regulatory policy related to the manufacture, distribution, and sale of firearms,” according to Senate records.

More Gun Moves

Smith & Wesson isn’t the only gun industry outfit with a new law department leader.

Silencer Shop, an Austin, Texas-based company that claims to be the largest U.S. seller of silencers, hired Locke Lord partner Christopher Boeck in October as its general counsel and chief legal officer. Boeck spent the past 16 years at the firm, where he worked in its complex commercial litigation group in Dallas.

In June, White Plains, N.Y.-based renewable natural gas company OPAL Fuels LLC announced its hire of general counsel John Coghlin, who spent the past seven years as legal chief at Colt Defense LLC. Coghlin said in an email that he left Colt following its $220 million sale this year to Czech firearms maker CZG Group SE.

Daniel Spencer, CZG’s U.S. general counsel, is now the top lawyer at Colt, Coghlin said. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison represented West Hartford, Conn.-based Colt on its sale to CZG, which was advised on the deal by Stinson.

In March, the American Suppressor Association announced it had brought back former general counsel Michael Williams after he spent four years in the Trump administration. Williams, whose time in public service was detailed last year in a story by the New York Times, previously spent two years as the top lawyer for the American Suppressor Association, which is a trade group for the silencer industry.

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;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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