Top 10 career moves of 2012

The year's most notable departures and arrivals at companies and in the government

Every other week, we publish a slideshow of noteworthy in-house career moves, to help you keep track of the comings and goings of inside counsel. This gave us a lot to sort through when it came time to narrow it down to the ten biggest moves of the year, but eventually we settled on these. There were shakeups at some of the most recognizable company names in the nation, appointments made to combat scandals and turnover at government agencies. 

So here you have it: the year in review, career moves-style. Feel free to disagree, and tell us who we missed in the comments.

Chasing Compliance

It’s been a rough year for Wal-Mart. After the New York Times accused its Mexican unit of bribery, and the parent company of covering it up, the world’s largest retailer suffered a serious blow to its public image. Wal-Mart has been hard at work trying to clean up the mess, and part of that effort involved creating the position of international compliance chief.

In October, Daniel Trujillo received the honor, and the immense responsibility, of being the first person to hold that post. Trujillo came to Wal-Mart from the oil field services company Schlumberger Ltd., where he was deputy general counsel and director of compliance. He is a native of Argentina, and speaks five languages, according to Wal-Mart.

Public Servant Goes Private

Joseph Wayland had a short stint as acting head of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division. He was appointed to the position in April, after Sharis Pozen stepped down, and in November announced he would be leaving to join Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as partner. He was a litigation partner with the firm for 20 years before joining the DOJ.

Wayland started at the Antitrust Division in 2010, as its deputy assistant attorney general for civil enforcement. During his time with the DOJ, he oversaw several high-profile mergers and acquisitions challenges, including the Antitrust Division’s first successfully litigated merger challenge in eight years: the prevention of H&R Block’s acquisition of TaxAct.

“It’s time for me to go,” Wayland told the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. “I’ve been serving on borrowed time for some time.”

Personal Parting

In October, Transocean Ltd. Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Assistant Corporate Secretary Nick Deeming announced that he was leaving the company after an approximately five-year tenure. The statement released by Transocean cited “personal reasons” as the catalyst for Deeming’s departure.

Whatever his reasons may be, we imagine anyone would need a bit of a break after steering Transocean through the disaster that was 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Not surprisingly, the company has seen some serious time in the courtroom since then.

Picking Politics

In April, longtime Starbucks General Counsel Paula Boggs left the post she had held for 10 years to join President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. (Spoiler alert: It worked.)

But the campaign wasn’t Boggs’ first walk around the political block. She started her legal career as a U.S. Army Officer in the Pentagon and as a staff attorney for the White House. In 2010, Obama appointed her to the White House Council for Community Solutions, which works on community-developed solutions to issues like education and employment.

Boggs was succeeded at Starbucks by Lucy Lee Helm, who was appointed executive vice president, general counsel and secretary in May.

Hacking Headaches

When former Williams & Connolly partner Gerson Zweifach took the top legal spot at News Corp. in February, he arrived to a pretty big mess on his plate. The British tabloid News of the World, owned by News Corp., has been embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal in which several of its journalists were accused of hacking into the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and even a murder victim.

Zweifach stepped up, though, and faced the scandal head-on, taking over for News Corp. executive Joel Klein as head of the hacking investigation committee. The committee’s findings have led to numerous arrests.

Scandalous Shakeup

The aftershock of former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse scandal resonated throughout the university. General Counsel Cynthia Baldwin announced her resignation in January, and was replaced by Stephen S. Dunham (pictured above) in May.

Stepping down did not remove Baldwin from the spotlight, though, as former FBI Director Louis Freeh criticized her role in the investigation of Sandusky in a report released in July. Among the things Freeh objected to was Baldwin’s advice to university personnel that Sandusky could not be banned from school grounds or be terminated, as he had not been convicted of a crime.

Our Inside Experts columnist Eric Esperne, counsel for Dell Services, wrote that he believed Freeh criticized Baldwin too harshly, and that she did the best she could in an ugly situation.

Climbing the Lender Ladder

In June, Timothy Mayopoulos, general counsel of government mortgage giant Fannie Mae, was named its next CEO, replacing Michael J. Williams. Mayopoulos (pictured above) joined Fannie Mae in 2009, and according to a statement released in conjunction with his promotion, “he is an experienced and effective leader on a remarkable management team that has stabilized the company and positioned Fannie Mae to return value to taxpayers in the years ahead.”

Mayopoulos’s ascension left the top legal spot at Fannie Mae up for grabs. That role was filled in October, by Pfizer chief litigation counsel, senior vice president and associate general counsel Bradley Lerman. Lerman replaced Judith Dunn, who had served as interim general counsel between Mayopoulos’s promotion and Lerman’s appointment.

Rotating Roles

In a sort of three-card monte-style change-up in the C-suite, Kraft Foods Inc. saw several lawyers cycle through this year. First, general counsel Marc Firestone resigned and defected back to his old employer, Philip Morris International. Then, Avon GC Kim Rucker left the beauty company, which has been plagued by Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, to join Kraft as general counsel and corporate secretary of its new spinoff company, Kraft Foods Group Inc.

Then Avon got into the game, pulling former Novartis Corp. lawyer Jeff Benjamin out of retirement to serve as general counsel, bringing with him some clearly-needed litigation and compliance experience.

Tech Troubles

Just two months after Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson resigned over accusations that he lied on his resume, longtime Yahoo general counsel Mike Callahan announced his departure in July.

Ron Bell, deputy general counsel for products and the Americas region, served as interim general counsel until the company officially named him to the GC spot in August. Since then, Bell (pictured above) has been plagued by a mole within the company who has been leaking internal memos to the press. He announced that anyone found responsible would be fired, and even possibly prosecuted, but the memo containing his announcement was leaked, because, of course it was.

Bowing Out

As 2012 draws to a close, so does Jeh Johnson’s tenure as general counsel of the Department of Defense (DOD). Johnson held the top legal spot in the DOD throughout President Barack Obama’s first term and was part of such accomplishments as the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian individuals—and the successful raid on Osama bin Laden. He also took over the Sept. 11, 2001 prosecution upon his appointment as GC.

Johnson will be stepping down on Dec. 31, and has said he may possibly return to his former law firm, Paul Weiss.

Contributing Author

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