Around the house: US Foods ends hunt to fill vacant GC role, Maximus raids GE Aerospace for GC replacement

This week’s roundup of top in-house moves also includes appointments at Sonder, Dave, Tanger Outlets and Spearmint Energy

US Foods has named Martha Ha as its new GC Michael Vi /

US Foods ends 10-month search for new GC with Medtronic hire

North American food distribution company US Foods has appointed Martha Ha as general counsel, replacing interim GC Andrew Johnstone who has been in the role since November last year.

Ha joins from US medical device and tech company Medtronic where she was most recently chief counsel for corporate governance, M&A and its cardiovascular portfolio. She was also the company’s chief privacy officer until 2020. At US Foods she will be responsible for all legal matters, including food safety and risk management, as well as compliance, corporate social responsibility and corporate secretary work. She will join the company’s executive leadership team and report directly to CEO Dave Flitman.

Flitman said: “With more than 30 years of experience, Martha is a seasoned business advisor with exceptional expertise in corporate governance, commercial transactions and leading high-performing teams.”

Ha spent seven years at Medtronic, having previously been GC at US healthcare business DaVita. She also had earlier stints at WW Grainger as deputy GC and as associate GC at Baxter Healthcare, as well as three years as an in-house lawyer at defunct accountancy firm Arthur Andersen. She started her career at legacy firm Shefsky & Froelich, before moving to fellow legacy firms Ungaretti & Harris and then Bell Boyd & Lloyd, where she became a partner in 1999 prior to joining Arthur Andersen.

Flitman thanked Johnstone for his leadership during the 10 months it took find a replacement for previous GC Kristin Coleman, who left to join chemicals business Albemarle in November 2022 after almost six years at US Foods.

Defence industry specialist takes GC role at Maximus

US government services contractor Maximus has named John Martinez as its new general counsel, replacing David Francis who is retiring at the end of this year.

Martinez joins from General Electric subsidiary GE Aerospace, where he was GC, overseeing the company’s legal strategy across its commercial aviation and defence divisions. At Maximus he will be responsible for all legal matters, including contracts, privacy, ethics and compliance.

Bruce Caswell, president and CEO of Maximus, said: “John brings a wealth of legal and governance expertise that will help guide our company well into the future. His steady leadership and deep commitment to moving people forward will further strengthen our leadership team and the impact Maximus has on the lives of millions of Americans.”

Martinez spent two years at GE Aerospace, having joined from Raytheon, where he spent just over a decade, most recently as GC of its intelligence and space division. Prior to that he spent a year in Washington as deputy GC in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and before that eight years as senior associate GC with the US Intelligence Community. He also spent just under two years as a litigation associate at Greenberg Traurig, having started his career as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Francis is stepping down from Maximus after 25 years as GC at the company. He was previously of counsel at legacy firm Howrey & Simon and a senior counsel at US tech company Teledyne.

Caswell added: “I want to thank David for partnering with John to lead the successful transition of this vital role. I know I speak for the entire Maximus family in expressing our deepest gratitude to David for his service over the decades, helping to build and transform Maximus into the company it is today.”

Sonder finds replacement for former Tesla lawyer

US short-term rental business Sonder has appointed Katherine Potter as its general counsel, replacing Phil Rothenberg, who announced he was departing the company in May.

Potter joins after a brief spell at Greenfield Advisors, where she was a consultant and strategic advisor. At Sonder she will lead the company’s global legal team.

Francis Davidson, co-founder and CEO of Sonder, said: “Katie brings seasoned executive leadership to the Sonder team. She offers more than two decades of experience advising and leading businesses, in sectors including commercial real estate, health and wellness, and hospitality.”

He added: “With her track record at publicly traded companies and expertise in aligning legal considerations with business objectives, she will be an invaluable addition to Sonder as we continue on our mission to revolutionise hospitality.”

Prior to her spell at Greenfield, Potter spent four years at AlerisLife where she was GC before being promoted to president and CEO. She also spent more than six years at commercial real estate-focused asset manager The RMR Group in a variety of roles, and seven years at Five Star Senior Living, which later became AlerisLife during Potter’s second spell with the company. She started her legal career as corporate counsel at Pan Am Railways before moving to private practice, first at Sullivan & Worcester and later at Burns & Levinson.

Potter said: “I look forward to partnering with teams and stakeholders across the business to deliver on our strategy, protect our interests and reputation, and continue developing a world-class legal function.”

Rothenberg spent almost five years at Sonder before departing for Envision Digital, where he started in July. He was previously deputy GC and vice president for legal at Tesla.

Digital bank Dave replaces veteran GC

US challenger bank Dave has named Joan Aristei as its chief legal officer, replacing general counsel John Ricci, who is retiring this month.

Aristei joins from digital banking platform Oportun, where she served most recently as GC and chief risk officer. At Dave, she will provide counsel on legal matters and business strategy.

Jason Wilk, CEO and founder of Dave, said: “[Aristei’s] extensive experience and deep consumer financial services and fintech law knowledge make her an excellent fit to steer Dave’s legal department as we forge ahead toward profitability.”

Aristei spent just over nine years at Oportun, having originally joined as vice president for regulatory, legal and compliance, before becoming GC in 2018. Prior to that she spent almost four years at Citigroup’s private bank as head of investment finance and banking product compliance, and more than seven years as chief compliance officer and assistant GC at JPMorgan Chase. She started her legal career as a counsel at Nissan’s vehicle financing unit, before moving to Toyota Financial Services.

She said: “I’ve always been drawn to companies operating at the frontier of consumer finance to expand access and equity. I look forward to leading the legal team and collaborating with leadership as Dave continues its growth.”

Ricci is stepping down after a 30-year legal career, the last three of which spent at Dave, where he helped the neobank go public in 2022. Prior to joining Dave he spent almost two decades at Green Dot, having been an associate at Strategic Law Partners and a staff attorney and branch chief at the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Wilk added: “John has been a trusted counsellor, strategic business partner and invaluable leader who drove the culture of Dave’s legal and compliance team. He strengthened the legal function while supporting the execution of our business strategy as Dave reached new milestones.”

Tanger shopping centres names new GC

US open-air shopping centre operator Tanger Outlets has appointed Jessica Norman as its general counsel, replacing Chad Perry who left the company in April.

Norman joins from Independence Realty Trust, where she was chief legal officer. At Tanger, she will oversee the company’s legal function and serve as company secretary. She will also sit on its executive leadership team, reporting to CEO and president Stephen Yalof.

Yalof said: “Jessica has a wide range of public company experience in the real estate industry across multiple legal functions, from securities filings and corporate governance to transaction financing, M&A and regulatory compliance. Her experience and leadership capabilities will immediately add value as we continue to grow our portfolio and develop our legal and compliance team.”

Norman spent close to seven years at Independence Realty in a number of roles, starting out as corporate counsel before being promoted to GC in 2019 and then CLO in 2021. She had one other in-house role prior to that at RAIT Financial Trust. She started her legal career in private practice at Dechert in its finance and real estate group, before moving to Klehr Harrison and then legacy firm Drinker Biddle & Reath.

She said: “I look forward to using my experience in the REIT industry and commercial real estate expertise to enhance the capabilities of the legal department.”

Perry, a former Ropes & Gray associate, had spent more than 11 years at Tanger before departing for RLJ Lodging Trust earlier this year.

US battery storage start-up hires first GC

US renewable energy storage company Spearmint Energy has hired Tara Young as general counsel, a newly created role.

Young joins from energy storage peer Plus Power, where she was deputy GC. At Spearmint, she will lead all legal matters and provide business support, bringing with her 20 year’s of experience across compliance, governance and regulatory affairs.

Richard Cardone, chief operating officer at Spearmint, said: “Tara’s demonstrated commitment to supporting complex commercial contracts, corporate and project finance, and regulatory and compliance matters for leading renewable energy companies makes her an excellent fit to lead our legal team. We look forward to leveraging Tara’s expertise to strengthen our legal process in an ever-evolving regulatory landscape as we drive the next stage of growth for Spearmint and our battery energy storage projects.” 

Young spent almost two years at Plus Power, having joined from Berkshire Hathaway Energy, where she was a senior attorney. Prior to that she had in-house spells at NV Energy, Ahern Rentals and Diamond Resorts International. She started off in private practice with legacy firm Kummer Kaempfer Bonner & Renshaw in Las Vegas.

She said: “I have witnessed Spearmint quickly advance into one of the most innovative and efficient battery energy storage companies supporting our country’s grid today.”

In June, Spearmint Energy secured a $200m credit facility to help finance its expansion.

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