Swiss drugmaker Novartis names Karen Hale as new legal chief after GC departs for Moderna

Hale joins from AbbVie, replacing Shannon Klinger who announced her exit earlier this month
Novartis to withhold fees to legal advisers who miss diversity targets

Novartis has pledged to 'reimagine' how it instructs law firms and other legal services providers. Shutterstock

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has appointed Karen Hale as its new chief legal officer, replacing Shannon Klinger who is set to join biotech company and Covid-19 vaccine developer Moderna.

Hale joins from US drug company AbbVie, where she was deputy general counsel and before that, chief ethics and and compliance officer. In total she brings with her more than two decades of legal and compliance experience in the pharmaceutical industry, having also worked in private practice at Sidley Austin in Chicago.

Hale will assume the role in May, with Tom Kendris – global head of litigation at Novartis and president of its US business – continuing as chief legal officer until then on an interim basis. Hale will be based in Basel and will also join the company’s executive committee.

Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said: “Karen is a proven senior legal leader with extensive global experience across key healthcare legal and compliance domains. She also brings to the Novartis executive team deep US experience and a passion to advance racial justice.”

In February last year, Novartis introduced penalties for legal advisers who fail to meet the company’s diversity goals. The programme was unveiled by Klinger, who said Novartis would withhold 15% of fees owed to its advisers if agreed diversity and inclusion targets at those firms were not achieved.

At the time of Klinger’s announced departure earlier this month, Narasimhan praised her for creating ‘one of the most respected legal departments within the industry’, notably for her work on diversity and inclusion.

Klinger will take up her role as chief legal officer at Moderna at the start of June, having officially left Novartis on March 15. She will also serve on Moderna’s executive committee and as company secretary. 

Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel said: “Shannon’s deep global experience in the pharmaceutical industry in both the general counsel and ethics and compliance roles are critical to Moderna as we pivot to a broad international and commercial footprint.

He added: “Her combination of skills across corporate, life sciences, pharmaceutical technology, commercial and multi-national sectors, and her passion for ESG and public health will help Moderna advance our core technology platform, engage critical partners across the globe and help us expand and capitalise on our growing international presence.”

In January, Coca Cola unveiled a series of diversity targets for its US advisers which included a non-refundable 30% reduction in fees for advisers who failed to meet them allied with the threat that their diversity record would be a ‘significant factor’ in determining whether they made its first-ever preferred panel of law firms in 18 months' time.

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