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Walmart Hires Jones Day Partner, New Ethics Director (2)

Oct. 20, 2020, 9:49 AMUpdated: Oct. 20, 2020, 6:01 PM

Walmart Inc. has made two more notable legal and compliance hires, the latest in a string of additions by the retail giant.

John Kinton, who since 2012 has been a patent litigation partner at Jones Day in London and San Diego, joined Walmart this month as lead counsel for intellectual property litigation. Walmart has also welcomed aboard Emily Buchanan as a director of ethics and conflicts of interest.

Neither Buchanan nor Kinton responded to requests for comment.

Both hires follow Walmart’s recent recruitment of international general counsel Deborah Vaughn, who will start her new role Nov. 2. All three in-house lawyers are based out of the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

The moves come as Walmart agreed to acquire a stake last month in embattled social media platform TikTok.

Walmart spokeswoman Allison Van Matre said Kinton will handle IP litigation matters for the company’s U.S. business but not oversee its entire IP portfolio. She said Buchanan’s new role, which was first noted earlier this month by trade publication Radical Compliance, is on the ethics and compliance team within Walmart’s global governance organization.

Kinton reunites with Kerri Ruttenberg, a former head of litigation at Jones Day in Washington who joined Walmart last year as a senior vice president and chief counsel for litigation. Ruttenberg jumped to Walmart shortly before the company hired David Searle as international chief ethics and compliance officer.

Buchanan spent nearly the past six years at Noble Drilling Services Inc., a unit of bankrupt offshore oil driller Noble Corp. PLC, where she was a director of corporate compliance and regulatory governance in Sugar Land, Texas. Noble reached a key litigation settlement in September that could allow it to exit Chapter 11 proceedings.

In-House Changes

Walmart in March hired former Seyfarth Shaw wage-and-hour litigation practice co-chair Alexander Passantino in Washington. The company has watched two other top lawyers leave its ranks this year.

James Roe, who spent eight years at Walmart as senior director of global ethics and compliance and other roles, left the company earlier this year to join South Korean e-commerce company Coupang as deputy general counsel for its U.S. operations.

Roe reunites at Coupang with Jay Jorgensen, a former global ethics and compliance officer at Walmart who last year joined the Seoul-based company as its general counsel and compliance chief. Jorgensen didn’t respond to a request for comment about Roe’s hire.

Also leaving Walmart after almost two decades at the company is Craig Sharkey, who most recently served as general counsel for technology, shared services, IP, and privacy. Sharkey left his role leading a digital-focused legal team at Walmart in June to become deputy general counsel and chief privacy and data governance officer at Denver-based payment services giant Western Union Co.

Sharkey didn’t respond to a request for comment about his departure.

Walmart’s Van Matre declined to discuss those personnel changes and related organizational alignments.

The company, like other major retailers, has eliminated hundreds of corporate jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to its push to pick up part of TikTok, Walmart shook up its e-commerce operations by selling off two online brands and winding down Jet.com, which it acquired for $3.3 billion in 2016.

(Adjusts headline to clarify Buchanan's new compliance role.)

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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