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Applied Materials Appoints New Top Lawyer Amid U.S.-Huawei Fight (1)

June 8, 2020, 7:55 PMUpdated: June 8, 2020, 10:38 PM

Applied Materials Inc. announced Monday its hire of a new law department leader from rival semiconductor equipment manufacturer KLA Corp.

Teri Little, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at KLA since 2017, has joined Applied Materials as senior vice president and chief legal officer. Little takes over from Thomas Larkins, a longtime in-house legal chief at Applied Materials, as he prepares to retire from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

Larkins, hired by Applied Materials in late 2012 to replace retiring general counsel Joseph Sweeney, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about his timeline for leaving the company. Applied Materials said Larkins will assist Little in the leadership transition of its in-house legal group.

“Today, our legal team is better than ever. Tom built a very strong team that is a great partner all across the company,” Applied Materials president and CEO Gary Dickerson said in a statement. He also praised Little, saying that her experience and insight in the semiconductor sector will be an asset to Applied Materials as it enters “the era of artificial intelligence and big data.”

Little said in her own statement she’s excited to work with Dickerson and the company’s legal group to “pursue new opportunities and markets where Applied can bring unique advantages.”

Companies like Applied Materials and Milpitas, Calif.-based KLA supply services, equipment, and software used by microchips that allow flat panel computer displays, high-definition televisions, smartphones, and solar panel arrays to function. Last year Applied Materials and KLA were barred from doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies Co., which has run afoul of the Trump administration.

In late 2017, federal prosecutors charged four former Applied Materials engineers with trying to steal microchip designs and sell them to a Chinese startup. That case is still pending.

Little, who began her legal career in the mid-1990s as an associate at Heller Ehrman and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, went in-house at KLA in 2002. The company promoted her to general counsel in 2015. A KLA spokeswoman told Bloomberg Law the company is conducting a search to replace Little and has assigned interim leadership of its legal group from “within the executive staff.”

Bobby Bell, a non-lawyer serving as chief people officer at KLA, is now the interim head of the company’s legal group and will work closely with its primary outside counsel at Wilson Sonsini. The latter advised KLA on a $10.6 billion merger with rival Lam Research Corp. that was called off amid antitrust opposition in 2016.

Little owns almost $345,000 in KLA stock, according to Bloomberg data, which values Larkins’ stock holdings in Applied Materials at $26.52 million. Neither Larkin nor Little were listed last year as among their respective company’s highest-paid executives.

More Tech Moves

Other recent in-house appointments in the technology sector include:

  • Acacia Research Corp. announced June 5 its hire of general counsel Meredith Simmons at a salary of $400,000 per year, according to securities filings. Simmons also received $131,000 in consulting fees from Acacia during its last fiscal year, said the Irvine, Calif.-based patent licensing platform. She most recently served as general counsel and compliance chief at Mason Capital Management LLC and a partner at private equity and hedge fund consulting firm Thistle Partners LLC.
  • Pittsburgh-based electrical products distributor WESCO International Inc. confirmed June 1 a new executive leadership team upon completing its $4.5 billion merger with Glenview, Ill.-based Anixter International Inc. WESCO’s general counsel Diane Lazzaris, who Bloomberg data shows owns $621,000 in company stock, will be legal chief of the combined company. Securities filings by Anixter reveal its general counsel Justin Choi is in line to receive over $3.89 million in total golden parachute payments resulting from the merger. Choi owns $4.58 million in Anixter stock, per Bloomberg data.
  • MagnaChip Semiconductor Corp. said in a May 25 securities filing that executive vice president, general counsel, and chief compliance officer Theodore “Ted” Kim will no longer serve as the South Korean company’s CFO. Kim, who has worked at MagnaChip since 2013, stepped into the CFO role on an interim basis in March. Kim owns $1.47 million in MagnaChip stock, according to Bloomberg data.
  • The Rubicon Project Inc. and Telaria Inc. completed a merger in April creating a leading computer software advertising company, one whose combined C-suite now includes two in-house legal chiefs in general counsel and corporate secretary Aaron Saltz and general counsel for commercial and privacy Eve Filip. Saltz previously served as Telaria’s general counsel, while Filip had been co-general counsel at Rubicon, where she owns $1.07 million in stock, per Bloomberg data. Former Rubicon co-general counsel Jonathan Feldman, who owns $610,000 in company stock, has left the combined company.
(Adds information on KLA's interim legal group leader in ninth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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