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Whirlpool Taps Owens Corning Lawyer to Lead Legal Group

Oct. 28, 2020, 9:31 PM

Whirlpool Corp. has hired Owens Corning general counsel and corporate secretary Ava Harter as the new head of the company’s legal department.

Harter will become chief legal officer at Whirlpool starting Dec. 1, the company announced Wednesday. She succeeds legal chief Kirsten Hewitt, who is retiring after roughly 25 years at the home appliance company.

“Ava brings her deep legal experience and extensive global leadership to the company, and we all look forward to working closely with her in the future,” Whirlpool chairman and CEO Marc Bitzer said in a statement. He also praised Hewitt for the “indelible mark” and “lasting impact” she made on Whirlpool’s culture and wished her well “as she begins her next adventure.”

Hewitt, who was a commercial litigator at Mayer Brown in Chicago before joining Whirlpool, didn’t respond to a request for comment about her retirement plans.

Whirlpool owns consumer brands like its namesake, as well as KitchenAid and Maytag. The company has a number of items on its litigation docket, including disputes over blenders and refrigerators. Earlier this year the Benton Harbor, Mich.-based company lost a $50 million fight over foreign tax income.

Owens Corning disclosed in an Oct. 28 securities filing that Harter will continue in her role as the company’s top in-house lawyer through Nov. 30.

The Toledo, Ohio-based glass and building products manufacturer hired Harter in 2015 to replace former legal chief John Christy, now chief legal counsel at building materials company Titan America LLC.

Harter spent the previous three years as general counsel, chief compliance officer, and corporate secretary for Taleris America LLC, a joint venture between Accenture PLC and GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric Co.

Harter has also worked as general counsel for GE Aviation’s avionics unit, corporate and commercial counsel at the Dow Chemical Co., and general counsel for an insurance settlement startup backed by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s General RE Corp.

In between those in-house stints Harter sandwiched a half-dozen years as a litigation and regulatory affairs associate at Jones Day and Thompson Hine in Cleveland.

Harter received nearly $1.8 million in total compensation from Owens Corning in 2019, per a proxy statement filed by the company for that year. Nearly $1 million of Harter’s remuneration package was in stock. She currently owns more than $2.6 million in Owens Corning stock, according to Bloomberg data.

Owens Corning spokesman Todd Romain said the company has not yet identified a successor to Harter. Owens Corning is currently exploring alternatives to identify her replacement, Romain said.

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