Bloomberg Law
Aug. 28, 2020, 4:10 PMUpdated: Aug. 28, 2020, 10:15 PM

Walmart, Eyeing Expansion, Hires International Legal Chief (1)

Brian Baxter
Brian Baxter

Walmart Inc., one of several suitors vying for video-sharing app TikTok’s assets, has hired a new top lawyer for its international business.

Deborah Vaughn, currently vice president and chief legal counsel for the Asia-Pacific region at Kimberly-Clark Corp., will join Walmart as a senior vice president and general counsel for international.

Walmart general counsel Karen Roberts said in a statement that the Singapore-based Vaughn will join the company Nov. 2 at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. She will report to Roberts and take over from Samuel Reeves, who retired earlier this year after 18 years in-house at Walmart.

Vaughn was unavailable to discuss her new role. She said in a statement she’s looking forward to “immersing myself” in Walmart’s international business during an “unprecedented time” as customer demand spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shifting Strategy

Walmart is in the process of reshuffling its retail and e-commerce businesses to focus on its core website and compete with online retail leader Inc.

Bloomberg News reported that Walmart’s bid with Microsoft Corp. for parts of TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd., has been spurred by a desire to reach younger shoppers by establishing a presence in the technology and social media space.

No deal has been reached and a Walmart spokeswoman declined to discuss the company’s legal advisers for its TikTok negotiations.

Hogan Lovells represented Walmart on its $16 billion buy in 2018 of Indian e-commerce company Flipkart Online Services Pvt. In 2017, Hogan Lovells and Weil, Gotshal & Manges advised Walmart on its $310 million acquisition of Bonobos Inc., an online fashion retailer. Walmart tapped Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to handle its $3.3 billion purchase in 2016 of Inc.

In-House Changes

Vaughn joins Walmart as the retailer has moved to eliminate hundreds of corporate jobs over the past few months, although the company has also made some legal additions like Alexander Passantino, a former co-chair of the wage-and-hour litigation practice at Seyfarth Shaw who joined Walmart in March.

This month Walmart hired senior counsel for health and wellness Adam Kent, who had most recently been in-house at USAble Life Insurance Co. in Little Rock, Ark. Chad Pekron, a partner at Quattlebaum Grooms & Tull in Little Rock, also joined Walmart in March as lead appellate counsel.

In May, veteran Walmart lawyer Timothy Cheatham left the company to become general counsel at The Michaels Cos. Inc. Cheatham and Reeves, Vaughn’s predecessor at Walmart, had worked together as emeritus members of the board of directors for the Retail Litigation Center, the legal arm of trade group the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Rachel Brand, a former No. 3 at the Justice Department who joined Walmart in 2018 as chief legal officer and executive vice president of global governance, said in a statement that Vaughn’s “extensive background, collaborative nature, and global experience” will help the company as its e-commerce footprint expands abroad.

Vaughn joined Kimberly-Clark in 2018 after more than a decade at Whirlpool Corp., where she worked in Shanghai, Italy, and Michigan. Prior to going in-house, Vaughn was in private practice at several firms and had also previously been a journalist in New Zealand and an English teacher in Malaysia, according to Walmart.

(Clarifies Reeves' retirement timeline in third paragraph and adds other hires in 10th paragraph.)

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at; Rebekah Mintzer at