General Counsel | Brickworks
General Counsel | Brickworks
What are the most significant cases and/or transactions that your legal team has recently been involved in?
In February 2020, Brickworks completed its third US acquisition purchasing the manufacturing operations of Redland Brick ($48m) in North America. Combined with its acquisition of US brick manufacturers (Sioux City Brick ($47m) and Glen-Gery ($151m) both acquired in 2019, Brickworks now has significant scale in the US (now the fourth largest brick manufacturer in the US) with more than 1,000 employees, 12 operating brick plants and an extensive network of company owned retail outlets. In August 2021 Brickworks acquired the assets of Illinois Brick Company ($70m) the largest independently owned and operated brick distributor in the USA with 17 showrooms and distribution outlets across Illinois and Indiana building scale within the existing Glen-Gery distribution network. Gaining a new and substantial presence in the brick manufacturing in the north east of the US through a series of business acquisitions over a short two-year period has provided significant learnings and challenges and in particular: (i) understanding key differences in legal and corporate governance regimes between US and Australia and educating Board members; (ii) tailoring board policies and compliance training programs for US employees; (iii) streamlining compliance reporting in key areas such as workplace health and safety and environment; (iv) ensuring appropriate international legal resourcing and communication structures; (v) navigating the US legal system.
How do you feel the pandemic has changed the world of work for in-house counsel and the function of the general counsel?
The general counsel role has become more strategic over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, as in-house lawyers have taken part in decision-making at the highest levels of their organisation including with a more proactive approach to risk mitigation. During the initial response to Covid-19, quick decision-making was required in a climate of continually changing rules. With extensive in-house legal involvement Brickworks successfully navigated through the extensive legal, regulatory, and continuous disclosure obligations during the pandemic. This was evident in the development, implementation and revision of policies and procedures required to protect staff and, in the Company’s, co-ordinated response to a government order in Pennsylvania closing all non-life sustaining businesses thereby forcing the shut-down of five of our brick manufacturing plants there. In house counsel is needed to interpret the rules so that effective business decisions can be made. This demand for legal advice has meant that in house counsel is in a position to take a more strategic approach to risk management in the future. The pandemic created new pressures that have led more legal functions to pursue or consider automation, especially those around major corporate transactions despite long being resistant to change in this area. The challenge now is deciding which technologies to embrace to drive real business outcomes.
General counsel and company secretary | Brickworks
Having gained an intimate and extensive knowledge of legal and business issues that confront organisations in the construction and building products industry, Susan Leppinus is rightly regarded as one of...