Significant matters – Winter 2024

Comic Relief appoints Shropshire as interim chair

Tom Shropshire (pictured), general counsel and company secretary at Diageo, has been appointed as the new interim chair of Comic Relief.

Shropshire, named GC of the Year at the 2023 Legal Business Awards, has been a trustee of the charity since 2018. Alongside his Comic Relief role, Shropshire is a non-executive director of the Bank of England; a member of the board of trustees at New York University School of Law; and an adviser to the Sir John Parker Review steering committee. Prior to moving in-house, Shropshire was a partner at Linklaters. He will hold the role of chair on an interim basis until a permanent chair is selected.

Shropshire succeeds Eric Salama, who stepped down following a disagreement over Comic Relief’s decision to sign a petition calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict. The Comic Relief board was not consulted about the decision to sign. In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Salama said: ‘There are times in life when principles really matter more than any job. And last week was one of those times when management took an approach to an issue which I thought was profoundly wrong and which I could not live with.’ Salama was already set to retire in March 2024.

Commenting on his appointment, Shropshire said: ‘I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to lead the board and work even more closely with the team at Comic Relief to deliver the charity’s ambitions, and most importantly to have impact and make a real difference on the ground.’

He added: ‘On behalf of the board and team at Comic Relief, I would like to thank Eric for all he has done for the charity, including steering Comic Relief through the Covid-19 pandemic and helping to shape our current strategy. We wish Eric well in the future and look forward to having his continued support in the important work being done by Comic Relief and its partners.’

Clarks refreshes legal panel

South West law firm Clarke Willmott has been appointed to footwear manufacturer and retailer Clarks’ legal panel. The firm will support Clarks with the management of its national retail portfolio and property issues faced by the business.

Commercial property partner and head of retail and leisure sector at Clarke Willmott, Amanda French said: ‘Our experience in the retail and leisure sector, acting for brands such as Lidl and Burger King for more than 15 years, means we understand the challenges and pressures businesses in this sector face. We are also delighted with the symmetry between ourselves and Clarks. Like them, we were founded in Somerset, just a few years later in 1888, and continue to have an office there today.’

Andrea Livingstone, lead relationship partner for Clarks, who joined Clarke Willmott from DAC Beachcroft late last year, added: ‘I am delighted to be able to continue my 10-year relationship with Clarks. The Clarke Willmott commercial property team has an excellent reputation and a fantastic client base, and I am thrilled to be able to carry on supporting Clarks in managing its property portfolio alongside members of this team.’

GC report highlights regulatory risk issue for in-house teams

In its annual General Counsel Report, FTI Consulting and legal tech company Relativity found that 30% of respondents to its survey marked regulatory issues as their top risk for the coming year and 92% ranked regulatory compliance among their top five risk exposures.

‘In the US we usually see anticipation for regulatory risk to increase after a new presidential administration takes office,’ said David Horrigan, discovery counsel and legal education director at Relativity. ‘Regulatory risk jumping to the top concern in this off-year – leapfrogging data privacy and data protection in the process – shows the significant impact regulations are having on business today.’

Data privacy and data protection came in second in GCs’ hierarchy of concerns, with 80% ranking it in their top five. GCs were concerned by issues surrounding emerging data from collaboration platforms, cloud tools and chat applications. Sixty-two per cent of survey respondents said that they had experienced new challenges relating to data protection, investigations, disputes, governance and compliance relating to these technologies.

Standard Chartered creates D&I legal taskforce

Collaborating with Allen & Overy, Eversheds Sutherland, Simmons & Simmons, and Sullivan & Cromwell, Standard Chartered has launched a diversity and inclusion legal taskforce. The taskforce’s ambition is to drive inclusion, equity, and diversity in the UK’s legal profession by focusing on increasing access to opportunities for minority talent.

Group general counsel at Standard Chartered, Sandie Okoro, commented: ‘We want to expand this culture of inclusion to the legal profession, by partnering with our law firms, to understand what barriers exist that deter minority talent from entering and succeeding in the legal profession and take collective action to drive change. Through this diversity and inclusion legal taskforce, we will work together to create an equitable platform for all bright minds to enter the profession and be valued for their unique perspectives.’

Okoro, who has long campaigned for increased diversity in the profession, including holding an ambassadorial position for the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme and chairing the World Bank’s anti-racism task force during her time as its general counsel, received an OBE in the New Year Honours List 2024 for services to diversity in international finance.

Moves that matter

  • Zaffrin O’Sullivan has joined ITN as its new general counsel. She moves from Virgin Media O2 where she was legal director. O’Sullivan has worked previously at BBC Studios, UKTV and Endemol and succeeds James Scorer, who is retiring after a 27-year stretch at ITN. Working alongside ITN’s chief executive Rachel Corp, O’Sullivan will have ultimate responsibility for all legal matters, including regulatory, property and contracts. She will also have ultimate responsibility for the legal compliance of ITN’s broadcast output.
  • Anna Suchopar, formerly general counsel and company secretary at ASOS, has joined online travel agency Agoda as general counsel. While at ASOS, Suchopar was a member of the company’s executive leadership committee and oversaw its charitable foundation. She has also worked as brand and IP manager at Virgin Group management company and trained at Taylor Wessing.
  • Melissa Hetherington, formerly head of strategic projects, group legal at AXA, is set to join Aptia. Aptia is a pensions, health, and benefits administrator,
    which launched at the beginning of 2024 following a deal funded by Bain Capital. As the newly appointed group general counsel and company secretary, she will have responsibility for the global legal, risk and compliance functions of Aptia. She joins the newly formed executive team, including Bala Viswanathan, group CEO, Dominic Burke, group chairman, and Mike Methley, group president, and chief administration officer.
  • Global medical technology company Olympus Corporation has announced the appointment of Neil Boyden Tanner as its next global general counsel. He
    will report to its president and chief executive officer Stefan Kaufmann. Boyden Tanner will succeed Donna Miller, who is set to retire from the company at the end of June 2024. He was previously SVP and general counsel, finance, strategy and international markets at Cigna.
  • Mark Shelton, the former general counsel of Barclays International, has joined State Street as executive vice president and general counsel. He will report to chairman and chief executive officer Ron O’Hanley and succeeds David Phelan. Previously, Shelton was the Americas general counsel and global head of investigations at UBS and prior to that was a partner and financial institutions group head at Gibson Dunn.
  • Volvo Cars has appointed Helen Hu as general counsel, chief legal officer, and as a member of its executive management team. She succeeds Maria Hemberg who was general counsel and chief legal officer since 2012. Hu moves from Volvo Cars Switzerland, where she was managing director. She was previously general counsel – Asia at Italian eyewear conglomerate Luxottica.
  • Northern Rail has appointed Anusha Price as its head of legal. She moves from Starling Bank where she was SME collections strategy lead. Prior to this she was a director at British Business Bank. She replaces Jenny Henderson, who has joined the Department for Transport OLR Holdings Limited (DOHL) as group general counsel. DOHL is a government agency responsible for LNER, Northern Trains Limited, TransPennine Trains and SE Trains.
  • Jennifer Miller has joined generative AI writing app Grammarly as general counsel. She moves from robotics company Starship Technologies where she was general counsel and chief legal officer.