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A Look at the Top In-House Legal Hires of 2019

Dec. 24, 2019, 10:46 AM

The search for legal chiefs at top companies like Wells Fargo & Co., The Coca-Cola Co., Harley-Davidson Inc., and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. will continue into 2020, after a busy year of in-house hiring across a wide range of industries.

The movement didn’t slow as 2019 came to a close, with ViacomCBS Inc. fleshing out its legal group, law department pioneer Jeffrey Carr preparing for a second retirement, and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board installing a new legal regime.

Here are some of the other notable in-house hires of 2019:

  • Airbnb Inc., the home-sharing giant eyeing an initial public offering, landed former Liberty Media Corp. chief legal officer Richard Baer. Baer, who will work with Airbnb general counsel Rob Chesnut, took over from Belinda Johnson, an attorney elevated to chief operating officer at the San Francisco-based company last year. Johnson has said she will depart as Airbnb’s COO by March 1, 2020.
  • American Airlines Group Inc. welcomed Priya Aiyar as senior vice president and general counsel. Aiyar, a former acting general counsel at the Treasury Department and partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, replaced Paul Jones, who retired from the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline. Chicago-based rival United Airlines Inc. also hired a new general counsel in Robert Rivkin, an aviation industry veteran who served as a deputy mayor in the Windy City and was general counsel at the Transportation Department.
  • Boeing Co., the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer facing a torrent of litigation stemming from its 737 MAX planes, tapped former Boeing Japan president Brett Gerry to be general counsel. Gerry succeeded longtime Boeing legal chief J. Michael Luttig, who now oversees legal matters related to the troubled 737 MAX aircraft as counselor and senior adviser to the CEO.
  • Comcast Corp. raided longtime outside counsel Davis Polk & Wardwell for chairman and managing partner Thomas Reid, who left the high-powered law firm to become general counsel of the Philadelphia-based cable giant. Reid, a native of Scotland, replaced the retiring Arthur Block. Reid’s Comcast role expanded in December to include governmental and political affairs after the company announced that longtime executive David Cohen, a former chairman of Ballard Spahr, would transition out of a day-to-day role.
  • Discover Financial Services Inc. hired Wanji Walcott, who spent almost four years as general counsel for PayPal Holdings Inc., as its new chief legal officer and general counsel. Walcott replaced Kelly McNamara Corley, who retired after more than 37 years at Discover, a financial services firm based in the Chicago suburb of Riverwoods, Ill.
  • Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., the Canton, Mass.-based parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream, hired former Marriott International Inc. deputy general counsel W. David Mann as its chief legal officer. Mann replaced Richard Emmett, who retired from the company and was recently named chairman of the board at boutique retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp.
  • The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., a New York-based cosmetics and beauty care company, recruited former Thomson Reuters Corp. general counsel Deirdre Stanley to replace Sara Moss in the company’s top legal role. Stanley spent the past 17 years as legal chief for Thomson Reuters and its predecessor, Thomson Corp. Moss remains with Estée Lauder as vice chairman.
  • Facebook Inc. hired former Davis Polk partner Jennifer Newstead to replace Colin Stretch as general counsel. Prior to joining the social networking giant, Newstead spent the past two years as the top in-house lawyer at the State Department. While working in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy in 2001, Newstead was an important figure in drafting the Patriot Act.
  • Guggenheim Partners LLC hired former Deutsche Bank AG general counsel Robert Khuzami as managing partner and chief legal officer for the investment firm. Khuzami, a senior federal prosecutor in the case against President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, has also been a partner at Kirkland & Ellis and director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Halliburton Co., the oilfield services giant headquartered in Houston and Dubai, this month hired Van Beckwith as new general counsel. Beckwith, firmwide chair of litigation at Baker Botts in Dallas, succeeds Robb Voyles, who will become chief legal officer on Jan. 1. Halliburton has been a longtime client of Baker Botts, where Voyles also once led the litigation department as a partner.
  • The Motion Picture Association of America, a Hollywood, Calif.-based trade association for the film and television industry, announced this month the hire of Karyn Temple as its new general counsel. Temple, director of the U.S. Copyright Office, which has named her replacement, takes over at the role from Steven Fabrizio, fired by the organization in August amid misconduct accusations.
  • Nordstrom Inc. nabbed veteran Macy’s Inc. in-house lawyer Ann Munson Steines as its new general counsel. Steines spent more than two decades at Macy’s and served as deputy general counsel for the company at the time of her departure. Steines replaced Robert Sari, who retired in March as general counsel for the Seattle-based department store chain.
  • Sequoia Capital LLP, one of Silicon Valley’s largest venture capital firms, recruited Donald Vieira, head of the CFIUS practice at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in Washington, to serve as its new chief legal officer. Vieira had previously been a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and chief of staff in the Justice Department’s national security division.
  • Walmart Inc. expanded its law department by hiring former DaVita Inc. compliance chief Jeanine Jiganti as general counsel for health and wellness and Kerri Ruttenberg, former head of litigation at Jones Day in Washington, as chief counsel for litigation. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant also added David Searle, compliance chief at aviation services firm the Bristow Group Inc., as chief international ethics and compliance officer. Walmart’s head of legal operations, Phyllis Harris, left in February to become general counsel and chief ethics and compliance officer for the American Red Cross.
  • High-profile in-house job changes overseas included Nokia Oyj’s promotion of Nassib Abou-Khalil to chief legal officer of the Finnish technology firm after Maria Varsellona became general counsel at Zurich-based ABB Ltd. Swiss food and drink conglomerate Nestlé SA tapped Leanne Geale, chief ethics and compliance officer at Royal Dutch Shell plc, to be its general counsel. And Swiss health-care giant F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG picked Claudia Böckstiegel to succeed general counsel Gottlieb Keller when he retires next year.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at; Alexis Kramer at