14 April 2021

Around the House: new GCs for McDonalds and SUNY

Round up of senior in-house moves also sees Coinbase continue department shake up

By Madeline Anderson

McDonald's GC Desiree Ralls-Morrison and State University of New York GC Anta Cisse-Green

McDonald's GC Desiree Ralls-Morrison (L) and State University of New York GC Anta Cisse-Green (R) Images courtesy of McDonalds and SUNY

Fast food giant McDonald’s named Desiree Ralls-Morrison as its new general counsel and corporate secretary, taking over for Jerome Krulewitch, who retired last October on health grounds.

Ralls-Morrison was most recently general counsel and corporate secretary at medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific Corporation. She previously served as general counsel and corporate secretary at German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim and general counsel of the consumer group at Johnson & Johnson and currently sits on the board of directors of Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s president and chief executive officer said: “I’m thrilled that Desiree is joining our team not just for the strong experience she brings, but for the values-based leadership that has defined every aspect of her career. Her commitment to leading with integrity, along with her work to support positive change in communities, will strengthen our efforts to bring our values to life across our business.”

Ralls-Morrison’s in-house career landed her a spot on the Financial Times’ global top innovative GC list in 2020.

SUNY appoints first female African American GC

Legal strategist, operations partner and nonprofit executive Anta Cissé-Green made history at the State University of New York (SUNY) by becoming the school’s first female African American to be appointed to the role of senior vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel.

Cissé-Green will join SUNY from her role as associate general counsel and director of legal operations at NYU Langone Health where she led key departmental projects, including the selection and implementation of technology and efficiency of legal operations.

She currently serves as the president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, which works to advance equity by ensuring people of colour can succeed in the legal profession.

SUNY board of trustees chancellor Jim Malatras said: “Anta’s enthusiasm for the law and for issues of diversity, equity and inclusion is contagious and will be invaluable as SUNY works to close racial equity gaps across our system. We are excited to have her join the SUNY team.”

Coinbase shake-up

Coinbase, the largest US cryptocurrency exchange platform, tapped Morgan Stanley veteran Ian Rooney as its new head of enterprise compliance and Molly Abraham, former general counsel for flying car startup Kitty Hawk, as associate general counsel for commercial.

The double-hire is the latest move in a prolonged in-house legal shake up spearheaded by Coinbase CLO Paul Grewal as the company gears up for its public market debut, which is set to take place later this month.

Rooney spent nearly a decade at Morgan Stanley, where he was most recently a managing director and global anti-money laundering counsel in the investment firm’s New York headquarters. Abraham, a former associate at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, joins Coinbase after a four-year stint at California-based Kitty Hawk.

Robinhood change

Elsewhere in the tech world, spend management platform Airbase snagged former Robinhood lawyer Archit Shah for its newly created general counsel position.

He joins the San Francisco-based spend management platform after four-and-a-half years as Robinhood’s general counsel, exiting the trading company’s legal ranks just weeks before it attracted intense regulatory scrutiny for the Gamestop trading saga that saw Robinhood brokers bring the company’s stock trades to a standstill.

Robinhood hired Shah from Kirkland & Ellis in 2016, where he specialised in “high-stakes” intellectual property litigation. In his new role with Airbase, Shah will focus on the company’s efforts to build its legal and compliance functions.

Airbase founder and CEO Thejo Kote said the hire, along with the appointment of former Dropbox sales director Jaakko Iso-Jarvenpaa as VP of sales, will help the company move forward with its “ambitious” growth targets.

CFTC chairman for Citadel

Citadel Securities has found a new chief legal officer in former US Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman Heath Tarbert, who has taken over from current general counsel Steve Luparello.

Luparello, a former director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s trading and markets division, stepped down from his legal duties ahead of his retirement later this year. 

Tarbert, who previously served as Allen & Overy’s bank regulatory practice head before moving in house, joined the Chicago-based hedge fund on April 5, just 27 days after resigning from the CFTC following an 18-month tenure.

“Citadel Securities has been a leading advocate for open and transparent markets,” Tarbert said in a statement. “I look forward to working with its outstanding team to build upon the firm’s track record of creating better markets for investors.”

Tarbert’s appointment comes at a contentious time for the firm as it continues to face regulatory scrutiny for its role in January’s Reddit-fueled Gamestop trading frenzy. 

KLM transition

Deloitte Legal has added the head of Dutch airline KLM’s legal department Rozemarijn Bloemendal to its corporate team in Amsterdam.

A corporate lawyer by trade, Bloemendal started out at Dutch firm Van Doorne and then spent 15 years in-house at KLM, joining the airline as senior corporate legal counsel in 2006 before moving up to head of legal in 2019.

Bloemendal will co-lead the department at Deloitte alongside John Paans, who arrived just two months prior from Baker McKenzie. The double hire strengthens Deloitte’s deal making team at a crucial juncture for the Dutch capital in the wake of Brexit, which saw Amsterdam surpass London as Europe’s largest share trading center, according to a report by Law.com

Automotive veteran retires

W. Gerald Flannery, executive vice president and chief legal officer at Hyundai Motor America, retired 1 March with no immediate successor announced.

Flannery arrived at Hyundai in 1987 as senior corporate counsel, just two years after Hyundai set up shop in the US, and played a key role in building the company’s US venture. Throughout his career, he became known in the automotive industry for his work in the areas of product liability, regulatory and safety matters as well as his role in establishing Hyundai’s government relations efforts in the US.

Prior to joining Hyundai, Flannery was a senior attorney in the office of the general counsel at Ford.

“The Hyundai story has been one of impressive transformation and I’m enormously proud of everything we accomplished together,” Flannery said in a press release announcing his retirement, adding that he’s “confident that the best is yet to come for the Hyundai organisation.”

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