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Occidental Adds Oil, Gas Veteran to Replace Retired Legal Chief

Jan. 25, 2023, 10:20 PM

Occidental Petroleum Corp., an oil and gas company backed by Warren Buffett, has appointed Sylvia Kerrigan to be its new chief legal officer.

Kerrigan confirmed via email her new position at the energy exploration and production company. She takes over from longtime Occidental general counsel Marcia Backus, who stepped down Dec. 31 but will remain an executive legal adviser to the Houston-based company prior to her official retirement March 1.

Buffett last year received approval from US energy regulators to acquire up to 50% of Occidental. The billionaire has gradually assembled a larger stake in the company after investing in its merger with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. before the pandemic.

Kerrigan previously spent nearly 16 years at Marathon Oil Corp., including eight as the company’s top lawyer. That role saw Kerrigan spearhead major acquisitions, diversity initiatives, and be one of the top paid law department leaders in Texas.

During her time at Marathon, Kerrigan took a two-year hiatus to work for a United Nations program arbitrating energy disputes arising from the Gulf War. She left Marathon in mid-2017 and for the last five years has served on corporate boards and been executive director of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Energy Center for business, law, and policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

Backus, a former partner and head of the energy transactions and projects practice at Vinson & Elkins, didn’t respond to a request for comment. She also was Occidental’s chief compliance officer.

Occidental disclosed in a securities filing that Backus will receive approximately $131,250 per month from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2024, as part of a transition services and separation agreement. The company’s most recent proxy filing shows that Backus has spent the past decade as the top lawyer at Occidental, which gave her a roughly $5.2 million pay package in 2021.

An employment agreement between Kerrigan and Occidental shows that she’ll receive $700,000 in annual base salary and at least $2.6 million in restricted stock per year that will vest over a three-year period. Kerrigan’s move to Occidental was brokered by executive search firm Preng & Associates.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at; John Hughes at