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Spirit General Counsel Leaves as Customer Boeing Struggles (2)

Jan. 19, 2021, 10:02 AMUpdated: Jan. 19, 2021, 8:18 PM

Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. is looking for a new top lawyer as the fuselage maker faces financial fallout from the struggles of its largest customer, Boeing Co.

Stacy Cozad, who spent five years as general counsel and chief compliance officer at Spirit, will start Feb. 1 as general counsel and corporate secretary for specialty chemicals maker Ingevity Inc. Cozad declined to discuss her new position, which was announced Jan. 13.

Mindy McPheeters, vice president of legal and compliance and a former Stinson partner, will be Spirit’s interim general counsel while it conducts a search to fill Cozad’s C-suite role, company spokeswoman Molly Edwards told Bloomberg Law.

Spirit was part of Boeing’s commercial airplane unit until its 2005 sale to private investment firm Onex Corp., which took the company public the following year.

Within the past year, however, Spirit and other aircraft suppliers have struggled as Boeing suffered from the lengthy worldwide grounding of its 737 MAX aircraft.

Having already laid off thousands of employees last year after pausing fuselage production for the troubled 737, Spirit recently announced it would furlough nearly 450 employees as the manufacturer prepared for further reduced demand due to reported structural defects in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing’s 737 returned to the skies in December but its legal challenges continued this month. The aviation giant finalized a $2.5 billion fraud settlement related to the 737 and coped with the crash of an older aircraft model in Indonesia.

Boeing, which installed a new general counsel last year, earlier this month saw its former longtime legal chief take a senior legal advisory role at the Coca-Cola Co.

Ingevity Additions

Spirit hired Cozad after she served as associate general counsel at Southwest Airlines Co. She spent almost a decade at Southwest after working at two Texas-based law firms, including Dallas-based Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal.

Cozad was not one of the Wichita, Kan.-based company’s top five highest-paid executives in 2019, per a proxy statement filed for that fiscal year. She currently owns nearly $962,000 in Spirit stock, according to Bloomberg data.

Spirit disclosed in a Dec. 1 securities filing that it restored 20% salary reductions taken by its top executives last year stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and grounding of the 737.

At Ingevity, Cozad will replace former general counsel and corporate secretary Katherine Pryor Burgeson, who took early retirement Aug. 1 after receiving a pandemic-related pay cut. Ingevity disclosed in a July 7 securities filing that Burgeson left the company with a lump sum $415,000 payment.

Burgeson received more than $1.4 million in total compensation from Ingevity in 2019 and currently owns $1.41 million in company stock, per Bloomberg data. She didn’t respond to a request for comment about her departure.

Ingevity spokeswoman Laura Woodcock said interim general counsel Ryan Fisher will remain with the North Charleston, S.C.-based company and report to Cozad. Fisher had previously been legal chief of Ingevity’s performance chemicals business.

Lynn Robinson, an in-house lawyer and former chief data officer for global manufacturing at Royal Dutch Shell PLC, joined Ingevity last year as director of data strategy and governance. Woodcock said that Robinson, despite her legal background, works within Ingevity’s information technology unit.

Taking Flight

In-house lawyers are on the move elsewhere in the aviation industry, which was hit hard in 2020 due to Covid-19. They include:

  • Wheels Up Partners LLC, a New York-based private aviation company that last year took over Delta Air Lines Inc.’s private jet chartering business, announced Jan. 19 its hire of Laura Heltebran as chief legal officer. Heltebran most recently served as deputy general counsel at Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Delta, for its part, hired Troutman Sanders partner Margaret Claiborne Campbell last year as an assistant general counsel for environmental compliance and sustainability.
  • Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC announced Jan. 11 its hire of Daniel Antal, general counsel of the civil group at Leidos Holdings Inc. in Reston, Va., as general counsel for its defense business and Rolls-Royce North America. Antal will be based in Washington. Rolls-Royce is a major supplier of aircraft jet engines.
  • United Airlines Inc. hired Sidley Austin corporate partner E. Anna Ha in Houston this month as an assistant general counsel and corporate secretary. The Chicago-based airline, which shed thousands of jobs last year, also recruited former Honigman antitrust partner Jennifer Schwab in November as an antitrust and global competition counsel in the Windy City.
  • Panasonic Avionics Corp. announced Nov. 18 its hire of Jenner & Block partner Abby Bried as its new general counsel. Bried, who served as an associate general counsel at United Airlines before joining Jenner in 2017, reports to Panasonic Corp. of North America general counsel Jessica Hodkinson. Bried takes over from Kimberly Chainey, who left Panasonic Avionics in July to become legal chief for the AptarGroup Inc., a Crystal Lake, Ill.-based drug packaging company.
(Adds in-house legal hire at Delta in 17th paragraph. A previous version corrected the location of Wheels Up Partners LLC headquarters.)

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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