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Wolverine Hires Ex-Party City Legal Chief During PFAS Litigation

Jan. 25, 2023, 4:14 PM

Wolverine World Wide Inc. has hired Reginald Rasch as general counsel while the footwear maker grapples with lawsuits tied to so-called forever chemicals.

Rasch until November was the top lawyer at Party City Holdco Inc., which filed for bankruptcy last week. He joined the party goods retailer in 2021 after serving as Americas head of legal at Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten Group Inc.

Wolverine makes work boots for companies such as Caterpillar Inc. and Harley-Davidson Inc. and owns personal footwear brands such as Hush Puppies, Keds, Merrell, Saucony, Sperry, and Stride Rite.

The litigation the Rockford, Michigan-based company has been fighting is related to drinking water contamination stemming from fluorinated chemicals, better known as PFAS, which Wolverine used to weatherproof its shoes.

Wolverine and 3M Co. agreed last year to pay $54 million to settle a proposed PFAS class action. 3M had previously agreed to pay $55 million to Wolverine to help clean up PFAS pollution in Michigan.

Wolverine disclosed Rasch’s hiring in a securities filing this month. Rasch and Wolverine didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Rasch succeeds former general counsel Kyle Hanson, who left Wolverine last year to join over-the-counter pharmaceutical maker Perrigo Co. as its top lawyer.

One previous general counsel at Wolverine, James Zwiers, is president of the company’s global operations group, and another, Blake Krueger, stepped down as CEO in 2021 after serving about 14 years in the position. Krueger is now executive chairman at Wolverine, which paid him $9.6 million in 2021, per a proxy filing.

Warner Norcross & Judd, where Krueger was once a partner, has been a go-to law firm for Wolverine within the past five years with nearly 22% of the company’s cases in US federal courts during that period, according to Bloomberg Law data. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm has touted its groundwater contamination litigation work.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com