General Counsel March Moves Roundup

This month has brought some major personnel changes at the top of companies’ legal departments.

(Franck-Boston)

This month has brought some major personnel changes at the top of companies’ legal departments.

On March 10, Arthur Chong stepped in as general counsel of Yahoo to replace Ronald Bell, who left his post after an investigation revealed his team did not sufficiently follow up on a massive cybersecurity breach at the company.

Another giant, Viacom, announced earlier this month it was promoting from within to replace departing veteran legal chief Michael Fricklas. The company named Christa D’Alimonte, a former outside counsel for Viacom turned deputy GC for the company, as Fricklas’ replacement.

But these aren’t the only moves that have happened this month. Here are some other notable general counsel comings and goings:

Avon Products Inc.

Another legal department leader to announce retirement after a long career is Jeff Benjamin, senior vice president, general counsel and chief compliance & ethics officer at Avon.

Benjamin, whose successor has not yet been announced, has been with the beauty and skincare company since 2012.  According to a report from the Wall Street journal, he joined Avon just as it was trying to settle foreign bribery charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act connected to Avon’s operations in China. The $135 million settlement was completed in December 2014.

The Avon GC spent most of the previous four decades of his career as an attorney at healthcare company Novartis, formerly Ciba-Geigy Corp.

"With the announcement of Jeff's retirement, in the coming months we will be working to ensure a smooth transition to a new general counsel & chief ethics and compliance officer, said Sheri McCoy, Avon’s CEO in a March 20 statement announcing Benjamin’s departure. “I would like to thank Jeff for his counsel and support throughout the past four and a half years and I wish him and his family good health and happiness."

Western States Petroleum Association

The Western States Petroleum Association, a lobbying group and trade association for companies involved in petroleum exploration and production in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Nevada, has named Oyango Snell its first-ever general counsel.

"Oyango is an outstanding attorney with extensive and successful experience in working with industries like ours," WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, said in a March 23 statement announcing the hire. "He will play a key role at WSPA as we confront the complex legal challenges facing our members."

Snell joins the association from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, where he served as counsel for state government relations.  According to his LinkedIn profile, he previously worked as director of legislative and governmental affairs at the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel and as elections counsel to Ohio’s Secretary of State.

Snell has taken a stab at elected office as well. In 2010, he ran for the Ohio Senate in as a Democrat, but lost in the primary, according to state records.

Churchill Downs Inc.

Gaming, racing and online entertainment company Churchill Downs has named Brad Blackwell as its newest general counsel. The company, which owns the venue for the world famous Kentucky Derby and owns Big Fish Games—one of the largest distributors of games for computers and mobile devices in the U.S.—promoted Blackwell March 1.

The new general counsel has held positions at the company since 2005, most recently vice president in charge of operations. Before joining, he worked as assistant general counsel and secretary at retailer Michael’s Inc.

“I look forward to leading our outstanding legal team and working closely with our numerous businesses to continue the growth of CDI,” said Blackwell in a statement.

Visa Europe

As reported March 17 by sibling publication, Legal Week, Emma Slatter, who used to head up global strategy for legal at Deutsche Bank, has joined Visa Europe as general counsel.  She replaces Niamh Grogan in the role.

According to Legal Week, Slatter joined Deutsche Bank in 1995, serving as general counsel for the bank’s operations in the U.K. and Western Europe between 2010 and 2015, before taking over the legal department’s strategy and operations in early 2016.  Later that year she left Deutsche Bank to become an independent consultant.

Originally published on Corporate Counsel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Contributing Author

Rebekah Mintzer

Rebekah Mintzer is one of the staff reporters at Corporate Counsel and Law.com. You can email her at rmintzer@alm.com or follow her on Twitter 

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