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THE LEGAL 500 AWARDS

The Legal 500 Awards > US > 2014 US WINNERS: OUR COMMENTS

In-house winners: comments and photos

To download a PDF of the complete US awards commentary text, please click HERE.

Aviation/aerospace

Individual of the year

Michael McAlevey

Vice-president and general counsel, legal operations and business development – GE Aviation

As the general counsel and business development leader for GE’s $21bn aviation business, Michael McAlevey garners huge respect from inside the business. He has twice received the GE chairman’s award for his leadership of GE’s SEC-related matters.

Team of the year

Honeywell

Led by Kate Adams, senior vice-president and general counsel

As a $37.7bn-dollar company, Honeywell’s legal team is adept at dealing with SEC filings and a range of issues, from disclosure, corporate governance, litigation, acquisitions and divestitures, to government relations and global security. General counsel Kate Adams was named to our inaugural Corporate Counsel 100 list, where we highlighted her demonstrable commitment to diversity, environmental sustainability and ethics.

Automotive

Individual of the year

Howard Harris

Vice-president of legal affairs, general counsel, and secretary – BMW

Having worked for BMW since 1998, and before that for Ford, Howard Harris has a wealth of experience when it comes to navigating the myriad legal issues that the automotive giant regularly finds itself faced with. A judge recently ruled in the company’s favor during a $5m lawsuit blaming allegedly defective airbags for a driver’s severe injuries suffered during a high-speed collision brain injury claim. Pictured: Kevin Healy, BMW

Team of the year

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company

Led by David Bialosky, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary

As a company that is frequently faced with product liability claims, often related to serious personal injuries, a robust legal team is essential. Goodyear’s team frequently attracts praise from the law firms it works with, and its general counsel David Bialosky is renowned for his non-micromanagement style and for ensuring his team take credit where it’s due.

Banking/Capital Markets

Individual of the year

Eric Grossman

General counsel – Morgan Stanley

Eric Grossman oversees all of Morgan Stanley’s advisory law and litigation on a global basis, having been promoted to this position in 2010. Grossman’s main area of expertise is litigation, and past highlights include defending the lender in an almost $1.6bn lawsuit by financier Ron Perelman. Recently, Morgan Stanley’s legal team was successful in defending a $500m breach of fiduciary duty claim.

Team of the year

Bank of America Merrill Lynch – Capital Markets

Led by Lily Chang, managing director and associate general counsel - debt capital markets and Tom Yang, managing director and associate general counsel - equity capital markets

We’ve previously recognised Lily Chang for her ‘extraordinary legal talent, with vast experience coupled with superior business savvy and practicality’. The bank has featured as underwriter on a number of high-profile deals including, on the debt side, ConocoPhillips’ $2bn registered debt offering, and on the equity side, Northern Tier Energy’s $262m IPO of approximately 18.7 million common units representing master limited partnership interests.

Engineering/construction

Individual of the year

Timothy W Triplett

General counsel and president, legal and risk management – Black & Veatch

Over the past 18 months it has become apparent to us that Tim Triplett has tremendous standing in the construction market and beyond. Law firms which have worked alongside him note the significant role he has contributed towards the impressive growth of Black and Veatch. In doing so he has successfully managed what so many in-house counsel aspire to do in establishing himself as a true business partner. He also contributes greatly to the industry as a whole, spreading his knowledge by frequently giving presentations to eager audiences, on topics such as Business Information Models (BIM).

Team of the year

Bechtel

Led by Michael Bailey, general counsel

Bechtel has a highly respected team that is adept in handling complex regulatory and legal issues surrounding the company’s engineering and constructions projects. Areas of particular expertise include licensing, risk management, compliance, and employment. Its expertise is not limited to just the US either – Bechtel has legal operations in almost all of the 50 countries in which it has a presence.

Energy

Individual of the year

Josh McMorrow

Associate general counsel, US and Canada – Weatherford

Josh McMorrow first caught our attention while working at PSC, where he drew praise for his proactive approach to the law – as a lawyer who also has a keen business mind, his favourite tactic is to go on the ‘offense’ rather than the ‘defense’. McMorrow has been hailed as representing ‘the future of the general counsel position’.

 

 

Team of the year

BP

Led by John Lynch, general counsel

BP’s legal battles are well documented, and none more so than those spawned by Deepwater Horizon in 2010, when it took the unusual but effective step of using a ‘virtual law firm’ made up of the very best outside counsel in the market. The challenges facing a company of this size naturally warrants having a huge, international team, and BP’s is one that has been praised for its collaborative, cohesive approach.

Environment

Individual of the year

Jack Balagia

Vice-president and general counsel – ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil’s recent legal activity included challenges before the FERC and the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, a multibillion-dollar ICSID arbitration against Venezuela, and a successful Supreme Court case involving a dispute over oil and gas operations at a ranch in southern Texas. At the helm of the company’s huge legal team is Jack Balagia, who was promoted to the position in 2010, having worked in the litigation department since 1998. Pictured: Jeff Butnick, ExxonMobil; Daniel Hagan, Jones Day

Team of the year

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Led by Avi Garbow, general counsel

The EPA faces a continuous struggle: enforcing regulations while defending itself against challenges. For example, its suite of greenhouse gas regulations have faced myriad challenges by industry coalitions before the Supreme Court, as has the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires states to improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions which contribute to pollution across other states; the industry is arguing that it violates the CAA.

Entertainment

Individual of the year

Michael Fricklas

General counsel and secretary – Viacom

Having been general counsel for the company since 1998, Mr Fricklas is a recognized expert on copyright issues; most notably, he led the company’s high-profile battle against YouTube which ran from 2007-2010. More recent challenges have included class actions brought in relation to unwanted text messages (which were dismissed) and an MDL relating to tracking of cookies sharing user information.

Team of the year

Walt Disney

Led by Alan Braverman, general counsel

Walt Disney’s legal team is frequently faced with high-profile trademark and copyright challenges: a recent example saw the company prevail at a Second Circuit appeal, which upheld a district court ruling that dismissed claims brought by the plaintiff and found that it had the right to buy the Tinkerbell trademark, following its acquisition of rights from a third party.

Food/beverage

Individual of the year

Sabine Chalmers

General counsel – Anheuser-Busch InBev

When Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired Mexico’s Grupo Modelo in 2013, Chalmers led the successful negotiations with the DOJ and a year-long review, putting her background as an M&A lawyer in private practice to good use. An ‘indefatigable advocate’, she is qualified in both England and New York and has been recognized numerous times for her contribution to the legal industry. In addition to being an excellent lawyer, she serves on a number of professional and not-for-profit boards.

 

Team of the year

PepsiCo

Led by Larry Thompson, executive vice-president, government affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary

The legal team at PepsiCo has responsibility for the company’s global portfolio of food and beverage brands – it has 22 different brands that generate more than $1bn each in estimated annual retail sales. The team also plays an important role in the group’s government affairs and public policy organizations.

 

 

Financial services

Individual of the year

Alex Dimitrief

Senior vice president and general counsel – GE Capital

Alex Dimitrief has previously been recognized on our Corporate Counsel 100, for his role in overseeing a legal team of more than 450 lawyers – virtually a law firm in itself. GE Capital as a whole employs 50,000 people in 50+ countries, and Dimitrief oversees the legal functions in all of its business units, which range from commercial lending and leasing to capital aviation services. His background as a trial lawyer across numerous different industries has served him well in this broad-ranging role.

 

Team of the year

JP Morgan Chase

Led by Jill Centella, global litigation head and acting general counsel

From litigation in the Lehman Brothers and Madoff bankruptcy cases, to LIBOR investigations – the nature of JP Morgan Chase’s legal issues mean that having a top-notch team is absolutely crucial. Recently, it has been facing a slew of RMBS suits, which it has been responding to aggressively, and to great effect, establishing new securities law precedent in the process.

 

 

Healthcare

Individual of the year

Farinaz Tehrani

General counsel and chief compliance officer – Sunrise Senior Living

For Ferinaz Tehrani, being at the helm of Sunrise Senior Living’s legal team is a major responsibility – the company operates some 300 retirement communities in the US, Canada and UK, comprising around 29,3400 units, and employs 31,600 people. Tehrani’s knowledge and experience of M&A came to the fore recently when the company was acquired by Healthcare REIT, and its management business was sold to an entity formed by affiliates of KKR.

Team of the year

American Hospital Association

Led by Melinda Reid Hatton, senior vice-president and general counsel

American Hospital Association’s legal team recently filed a suit challenging Medicare policy denying payment under Part B after Recovery Audit Contractors (RAC) denials. Other activity included filing amicus briefs on the Affordable Care Act, and dealing with all manner of fraud and abuse matters, in addition to the myriad regulatory issues it faces on a daily basis.

Insurance

Individual of the year

William Casazza

Executive vice president and general counsel law and regulatory affairs – Aetna

William Casazza has been at Aetna for 20 years, and has been its general counsel since 2005, overseeing its legal, regulatory and compliance affairs. The company has had some high-profile matters of late, most notably its $2bn SEC-registered senior notes offering and its $7.3bn acquisition of Coventry Health Care.

Team of the year

Liberty Mutual

Led by James Kelleher, senior vice-president and chief legal officer

Major challenges for Liberty Mutual lately have included a coverage dispute with Eli Lilly when the latter was facing mass tort claims in a labor case, and separately, various nationwide cases involving Chinese drywall claims. The team is also noted for being one of the first in-house groups to develop a formal pro bono program.

IP

Individual of the year

Kathryn Barrett Park

Senior counsel, advertising and brand management – GE

She has been described as ‘quite simply, one of the leading trademark lawyers of her generation’, although Kathryn Barrett Park also likes to ensure that her ‘amazing team’ receive due credit too. As past president of INTA and a member of the Trademark Public Advisory Committee, she is an influential and respected figure in the IP community.

 

 

Team of the year

Google

Led by Kent Walker, senior vice-president and general counsel

Google’s legal team likes to experiment with new approaches to assessing the company’s legal issues and risks. Its 750-strong team has developed a tool to help its members analyse and manage legal spend at the company through the use of an internal dashboard. In a particularly groundbreaking move, it recently teamed up with The Legal 500 US to add its rankings data to the dashboard, thus enabling all team members to effectively weigh up both the cost and quality of outside counsel. Other initiatives include a ‘gHarmony’ project to match its team members with projects that interest them, and exploring alternative ways of helping users resolve disputes online.

Labor and employment

Individual of the year

Neil Rosolinsky

Head of employment law – RBS

The financial crash of 2008 caused inevitable repercussions for RBS, and as head of employment law, Neil Rosolinsky faced what he described as a ‘unique and challenging time’. During a painful period of layoffs and bonus reductions, he dissuaded scores of people from filing claims, and where they did, he negotiated numerous favorable resolutions. As a result, the bank was able to minimize related litigation and arbitration.

 

 

Team of the year

Sterling Jewelers

Led by Christina Janice, vice president and associate general counsel (head of litigation) and Lynn Dennison, senior vice president of corporate affairs and general counsel

Sterling Jewelers’ legal team achieved success recently in a major post-Wal-Mart class and agency discrimination case, where The US District Court for the Western District Of New York granted its motion for summary judgment in EEOC v Sterling Jewelers Inc and dismissed the lawsuit. It found that the EEOC had failed to carry out a full nationwide investigation before making the accusation.

Litigation

Individual of the year

PD Villarreal

Senior vice president, global litigation – GlaxoSmithKline

PD Villarreal is a pioneer of early dispute resolution, having implemented policies at two previous companies before joining GSK. When he came on board in 2009, the company was undergoing multiple investigations, and Villarreal was able to drastically reduce the number of cases. In addition to being an innovator of ADR, Villarreal is known as an innovator generally in the legal world, and is also highly committed to diversity.

Team of the year

Comcast

Led by Arthur Block, senior vice president and general counsel

Comcast’s legal team has been attracting much attention of late due to its involvement in a class action regarding the acquisition of cable systems in Philadelphia; the high-profile nature of the case is owing to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to accept an appeal against the plaintiff’s class certification. On the M&A side, a notable deal was the company’s purchase of a 49% stake in NBC Universal.

Media

Individual of the year

Stanton Dodge

EVP and general counsel – DISH Network

Stanton Dodge is one of few GCs who can claim to be a home-grown talent of his company, having started there as an unpaid intern. Among his many achievements at DISH, he has implemented a successful e-discovery system, and obtained the necessary approvals to pave the way for the company’s entry into the mobile broadband business.

Team of the year

Aereo

Led by Brenda Cotter, general counsel

Aereo has been surrounded by lots of noise in the legal world due to its high-profile copyright battle. On June 25th, a judge ruled in favor of television broadcasters, but not before the battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, with the company’s robust legal team behind it every step of the way. The decision has now been returned to the lower court, and further steps are being mapped out by the team.

Not-for-profit

Individual of the year

Joanna Pressman

General counsel – The Robin Hood Foundation

In 2008, the Robin Hood Foundation needed to hire its first-ever general counsel, and selected Joanna Pressman. It provided a unique opportunity to define and shape a role that, given she was and still is, sole counsel, would have to be broad in scope. Pressman has proven adept at turning her hand to a wide variety of legal issues, including intellectual property and employee benefits and compensation, as well as event planning.

Team of the year

MoMA

Led by Patty Lipshutz, general counsel and secretary

The Museum of Modern Art’s proposed expansion and purchase of the American Folk Museum building has been keeping its legal team busy; meanwhile, it continues to work on the usual array of labor and employment, copyright, corporate governance, contract, and provenance of ownership issues. A high-profile case in 2009 saw it settle a lawsuit brought by the descendant of the Jewish owner of the Picasso painting Boy Leading a Horse.

Pharmaceuticals

Individual of the year

Bryan Supran

Senior vice president and associate general counsel – Pfizer

‘The Pfizer approach’ means taking decisions and carrying out processes that may once have fallen to outside counsel, and bringing them in-house. Bryan Supran was one of the pioneers of this approach. In recent years, he’s had hands-on involvement in some major M&A deals, such as the sale of its global nutritional business to Nestlé, and the divestiture of its animal health business.

Team of the year

Johnson & Johnson

Led by Michael Ullmann, vice-president and general counsel

Johnson & Johnson’s legal team has recently had to deal with a multitude of issues, including litigation brought by the State of Oregon following the company’s recall in 2009 and 2010 of certain medicines, and a False Claims Act case that settled in 2013. On the M&A side, there was its $650m acquisition of Aragon Pharmaceuticals, including up to $350m in contingent payments, allowing Aragon’s remaining assets to be spun out into a new biotechnology company.

Private equity

Individual of the year

John Finley

Senior managing director and general counsel – Blackstone

During his tenure at Blackstone, John Finley has helped the group navigate the choppy waters of increased regulation for funds, post-Lehman. Finley joined Blackstone in 2010 following 22 years at Simpson Thacher. The firm’s longstanding role as chief outside counsel to the leading fund manager meant Finley was well versed in his new employer’s needs and issues before joining. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s chairman and CEO, has called Finley ‘one of the most outstanding corporate lawyers of his generation’. Pictured: Daniel Lee

Team of the year

The Carlyle Group

Led by Jeffrey Ferguson, managing director and general counsel

The Carlyle Group’s recent high-profile transactions include a $3.3bn acquisition of Getty Images and its acquisition of NGP Energy Capital Management, including the purchase of a 40% stake from Barclays Natural Resource Investments. The group recently had its first foray into retail registered investment products, and announced that it had raised $308m for Carlyle Peru Fund LP and its parallel vehicles, extending its South America investment presence.

Real estate/housing

Individual of the year

Madison Grose

Co-general counsel – Starwood Capital Group

Madison Grose has been Starwood Capital’s general counsel since 1992, joining just one year after its launch. He has been involved in the restructuring of its interests in the Starwood Hotel Group, and also led the structuring and investment process for the fund’s first energy investment. These days the majority of his time is spent on strategic projects, as well as overseeing the legal function of the fund’s growing energy portfolio, which focuses on infrastructure investments. Grose works alongside co-general counsel Ellis Rinaldi.

Team of the year

Tishman Speyer

Led by Michael Benner, senior managing director and general counsel

Tishman Speyer recently acquired the $422.5m Wilshire Courtyard office and entertainment complex in Los Angeles, and embarked on a joint venture with China Vanke for the latter’s first investment in North America – acquiring a 1.7-acre parcel of land located at 201 Folsom Street as well as the acquisition of 1400 Mission Street for $620m. It also arranged for the lease renewal, expansion and restructuring of 520 Madison Avenue in New York, which is owned by the company.

Sport

Individual of the year

Bill Daly

Deputy commissioner and chief legal officer – National Hockey League

The National Hockey League (NHL) recently signed a C$5.23bn, 12-year agreement with Rogers Communications for nationwide broadcast in Canada and multimedia rights to NHL games. At the center of all the league’s legal activity is Bill Daly, and his remit is to oversee all legal issues involving all of the hockey clubs and their staff, including co-ordinating litigation.  

 

Team of the year

Major League Baseball

Led by Ethan Orlinsky, senior vice president and general counsel

Recent high-profile work for the MLB team includes conducting a crackdown on counterfeit sales of merchandise and tickets during the World Series. Contentious matters included a grievance filed by Alex Rodriguez challenging his 211-game suspension for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, and a high-profile lawsuit brought against the New Jersey governor challenging the authorization and licensing of gambling on it and other sports leagues’ athletic events. The league also has an impressive patent portfolio of innovations.

Tax

Individual of the year

Todd Freebern

Managing director, director of tax – JC Flowers

Todd Freebern’s background is in accounting, but as director of tax at JC Flowers he interacts regularly with the legal world. He oversees a vast array of domestic and international companies, and has been described as ‘extremely bright and able’ and a ‘master not only of the various fund structures JC Flowers uses for its investors but also of the far-flung portfolio companies in which the funds invest’. He has vast knowledge of the taxation of investment partnerships and of financial services companies both inside and outside the US.

Team of the year

Hertz Global Holdings

Led by Anthony Fiore, staff vice president of global tax

The tax team at Hertz, and particularly Anthony Fiore, are said to be ‘masterful at optimizing the company’s worldwide tax position’. The relatively small team is responsible for a vast array of companies and handles myriad complex tax issues, making theirs a very demanding job. It uses outside advisers wisely and to great effect, by ‘treating them as partners in achieving Hertz’s goals’.

Technology

Individual of the year

Steven Greenspan

Associate general counsel – United Technologies Corporation

When we hosted our Corporate Counsel 100 roundtable in January 2014, Steven Greenspan impressed the room when he told them how he had reduced 72% of UTC’s outside counsel spend to something other than the hourly rate. He and the legal team are widely viewed as leading the way when it comes to AFAs. Greenspan oversees some 300 significant legal matters across the globe.

Team of the year

Altec

Led by Robert Hunter, senior vice-president, general counsel, and secretary

The highly effective legal team at Altec have an excellent track record – in recent times it has seen some 60% of cases dismissed without trial. General counsel Robert Hunter, who was previously recognized in our Corporate Counsel 100 list, has overseen the introduction of various new safety features, product improvements and a training program, which resulted in accidents involving the company’s products dropping to just 5% of what they had been.

Telecoms

Individual of the year

Raj Kumar

Senior counsel, corporate – Time Warner Cable

As a key member of Time Warner Cable’s corporate division, Raj Kumar has attracted praise from outside counsel who have worked with him. Significant activity from the company of late includes its investment in Clearwire Corporation and its distribution agreement with SportsNet LA.

Team of the year

AT&T

Led by Wayne Watts, senior executive vice president and general counsel

The AT&T legal team recently worked on a significant acquisition – that of Atlantic Tele-Network’s US retail wireless brands. The deal meant that former Alltell subscribers in six states now have access to AT&T’s 4G LTE, which has speeds up to ten times faster. It also recently acquired prepaid wireless provider Leap Wireless International, which operates under the Cricket brand, giving the company access to Cricket’s distribution channels and expanding Cricket’s presence to additional US cities.

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