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Adtalem Recruits Hub Group General Counsel as New Top Lawyer

June 14, 2021, 9:15 PM

Adtalem Global Education Inc. announced Monday its hire of Hub Group Inc. general counsel Douglas Beck as its new law department leader.

Beck, who began his career as an associate at Seyfarth Shaw before taking in-house jobs at Allegiance Healthcare Corp., Navistar Inc., and Alberto-Culver Co., spent more than a decade in-house at Hub, where he was promoted to general counsel in 2015.

At Adtalem he’ll oversee commercial, corporate governance, intellectual property, labor and employment, litigation, real estate, regulatory and compliance, and securities, the Chicago-based company said in a statement.

Beck succeeds Chaka Patterson, who resigned from Adtalem’s general counsel role after a little over a year in the position. Patterson, a former Jones Day partner, submitted his resignation April 30 in order to “pursue another opportunity,” according to an Adtalem securities filing.

Patterson’s departure wasn’t the result of any dispute or conflict with the management or board of the for-profit education provider, Adtalem said.

Patterson, who didn’t respond to a request for comment about his next endeavor, last year turned to a team of five Black and female lawyers to handle Adtalem’s $1.5 billion all-cash acquisition of Walden University from Laureate Education Inc.

Beck’s hire by Adtalem marks the latest in a series of in-house additions in the education technology space. He will also serve as the company’s corporate secretary.

Adtalem’s new top lawyer has an “impressive track record of leveraging deep legal expertise, thorough understanding of the business, and strong client relationships to deliver business results,” Adtalem Chairman and CEO Lisa Wardell said in a statement. Wardell, a Stanford Law School graduate, is one of the few Black female leaders of a major publicly traded U.S. company.

Hub paid Beck nearly $1.2 million in total compensation last year, according to a recent proxy statement by the Oak Brook, Ill.-based transportation management company. He owns more than $5 million in Hub stock, according to Bloomberg data.

A Hub spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment about Beck’s potential replacement as the company’s legal chief.

Wrangling Over Walden

Two investors that own a stake in Adtalem—Engine Capital LP and Hawk Ridge Capital Management LP—earlier this year urged the acquirer to freeze its proposed purchase of Walden until the Justice Department completed an inquiry into the Minneapolis-based, for-profit education company.

Engine Capital and Hawk Ridge said in a Feb. 25 open letter to Adtalem’s board that it would be a “complete dereliction” of their fiduciary duties if the company completed its purchase of Walden prior to the completion of a Justice Department inquiry that could saddle Adtalem with liabilities stemming from the probe.

Adtalem’s acquisition of Walden is expected to be completed by mid-2021, pending regulatory approvals and other closing conditions. Adtalem spokeswoman Kelly Finelli confirmed to Bloomberg Law the deal is on track to close in the latter half of this year after the Justice Department declined to push forward with its investigation.

Richard “Rick” Sinkfield III, who took over last summer as Laureate’s chief legal, compliance, and ethics officer following the departure of predecessor Victoria Silbey for the top legal job at Frontline Education Inc., referred a request for comment about the Walden deal’s status to Laureate spokesman Adam Smith.

Smith told Bloomberg Law the pending transaction is still slated to close and that Walden has succeeded in getting the Higher Learning Commission to remove an “under governmental investigation” designation. Laureate disclosed in an April 29 securities filing that the Justice Department’s civil division had declined to intervene in a False Claims Act lawsuit against the company and Walden.

Sinkfield, profiled by Bloomberg Law last year as part of its Black General Counsel Project, is overseeing an outside legal team on Laureate’s sale of Walden led by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, and Jones Day. Covington & Burling and Akerman have taken the lead advising Adtalem.

In April, Adtalem publicly disclosed that it paid $60,000 to Thompson Coburn during the first quarter of this year to lobby on matters related to the Higher Education Act of 1965. Adtalem paid $240,000 to the law firm for federal advocacy work in 2020.

Patterson’s departure saw Adtalem appoint associate general counsel Lawrence Bachman to serve as its interim general counsel. Finelli, the Adtalem spokeswoman, confirmed that Bachman remains with the company, which has also recently hired Cavalry Compliance Group LLC president Courtney Hogwood as a senior corporate counsel and director of legal operations Stacy Lettie, who previously held the same role for the Law School Admission Council and Advance Publications Inc.

Adtalem also brought on former Seyfarth associate Rhandi Childress Anderson in November as a corporate counsel for employment and added Chicago lawyer and data privacy expert Chevez Wells in September as an associate general counsel for privacy and marketing, Finelli said.

A month prior to Patterson’s exit, Adtalem disclosed that its former CFO, Michael Randolfi, would step down and be replaced on an interim basis by Robert Phelan. Adtalem’s most recent proxy statement showed that Randolfi received more than $4.2 million in total compensation during fiscal 2020, while Patterson wasn’t listed among the company’s highest-paid executives.

Wardell, Adtalem’s CEO, received nearly $7 million in total compensation last year, while the company’s COO, former Schiff Hardin associate Stephen Beard, had a pay package valued at nearly $2.2 million. Beard owns $1.1 million in Adtalem stock and Wardell’s stock in the company is valued at almost $12 million, per Bloomberg data.

Adtalem initially hired Beard, a former general counsel at executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., to be its legal chief in 2018. He was promoted to COO the following year and relinquished the general counsel title in early 2020 to Patterson, elevated from his former deputy general counsel role at Adtalem.

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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