28 August 2019

Trio of general counsel in controversial departures

Boardroom battle, regulatory probes and an arrest in controversial but unrelated departures of trio of general counsel in America's arms, oil and movie industries.

By Dr David Cowan


David Lehman, general counsel of the National Rifle Association of America powerful lobbying arm, has resigned. Meanwhile in Houston, SAExploration has fired its general counsel at the same time as replacing its ceo. 

Boardroom battle

Mr Lehman was with the nonprofit organization for 17 years, and is the latest in a string of lawyers, executives and board members to leave the NRA, embroiled in gun law controversy, in the past four months. Mr Lehman held the role of executive director and top lobbyist briefly following the suspension, and subsequent resignation, of then-executive director Christopher Cox in June. NRA also dismissed its longtime outside counsel, Charles Cooper, chairman of the D.C. law firm Cooper & Kirk. Troubles erupted at the NRA in April when a highly power struggle erupted between chief executive Wayne LaPierre and then-president North. Mr North has accused LaPierre of financial improprieties. The board backed Mr LaPierre and ousted Mr North and the board’s own outside counsel, J Steven Hart, who reportedly wanted the board to pursue the allegations against Mr LaPierre. Making matters worse, New York attorney general Letitia James opened an investigation into the NRA’S tax-exempt status, allowing her office to review the NRA’s financial records.

SEC probe

Facing an Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe, the global oilfield services firm told investors that "material weakness exists in the company's internal control over financial reporting and that disclosure controls and procedures were ineffective" from 2015 through 2019. Brent Whiteley, the firm’s top lawyer and chief financial officer, has been replaced by Kevin Hubbard, a partner at the Houston accounting firm of Ham, Langston & Brezina, as serving as interim CFO. Mr Whiteley joined SAExploration in 2011 from French oil company CGGVeritas, where he worked for nearly 11 years as general counsel for the western hemisphere and promoted in 2008 to senior vice president. SAExploration ceo and chairman Jeff Hastings has been placed on administrative leave and resigned from the board, according to the SEC filing.

Sexual assault

The Motion Picture Association of America fired its general counsel Steven Fabrizio following his arrest in Washington DC on second-degree sex abuse and blackmail charges. The Metropolitan Police Department issued a statement, “There was a Steven Bernard Fabrizio, 55, of Chevy Chase, MD, arrested on Friday, August 23, 2019, for a Second Degree Sex Abuse-threats and a Blackmail offense that occurred...on Tuesday, August 20, 2019.” In an email obtained by Fox TV’s The Wrap, MPAA chairman-ceo Charles Rivkin told the organization’s board Monday morning that Mr Fabrizio was terminated for “violating certain terms of employment.” The company issued a statement that they had “no prior knowledge of this behavior before these charges were publicly filed” and “if true,” the charges “are both shocking and intolerable to the Association.”

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