Photo by Matthew Busch/Bloomberg
Photo by Matthew Busch/Bloomberg

Microsoft Shakes Up Legal Team, Names New GC

Microsoft Corporation said on Friday that it had reorganized its in-house legal department and named a new general counsel.

Effective immediately, Horacio Gutierrez, who has worked at Microsoft since 1998 and focused on international legal work in Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, will assume the role of general counsel, Microsoft said on Friday.

Gutierrez is little more than a year into another role he had taken on at Microsoft. In June, 2014, he was appointed to head up the company’s products team. He had previously been in charge of patent licensing and intellectual property.

Gutierrez received his JD in 1998 from the University of Miami School of Law, and in the 1980’s he had studied commercial law at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, a private university in Venezuela, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Between 1994 and 1998, he was an international consultant for Morgan Lewis & Bockius, the profile said.

Gutierrez could not immediately be reached for an interview.

Among other changes in Microsoft’s in-house team, Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, will lead Microsoft’s philanthropic endeavors, while John Frank, another corporate vice president and deputy general counsel in Seattle, will move to Brussels and become vice president, EU Government Affairs.

The staff changes are the result of a new group within Microsoft, called Corporate, External and Legal Affairs (CELA), which was created by Brad Smith, the company’s recently-appointed President and Chief Legal Officer.

In September, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced in a company email that Smith, who was at that time executive vice president and general counsel, would become President and Chief Legal Officer to take on responsibilities that “extend beyond that of the General Counsel role.”

“I’m asking him to lead more new initiatives working closely with his peers on the Senior Leadership Team,” said Nadella. “I’ll look to Brad to play a bigger role in strengthening our external relationships and representing the company publicly.”

Nadella added: “I’ll also look to him internally to partner with others on the (Senior Leadership Team) to lead the work needed to accelerate initiatives that are important to our mission and reputation such as privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion, to start.”

Scott Charney, corporate vice president of trustworthy computing at Microsoft, will also report under the CELA umbrella, along with John Seethoff, who will take on the role of corporate secretary in addition to existing responsibilities as vice president and deputy general counsel.

Microsoft provided Big Law Business with an explanation as to the rationale behind the formation of the Corporate, External and Legal Affairs division.

The organizational and leadership changes are designed to deliver on the goals that Satya set when he asked Brad to take on the new role:

1. Continue to deliver on the existing work that the team has been driving.

2. Strengthen the company’s external relationships, with a priority on the company’s connections with governments and universities, as well as support for the nonprofit community and relationships with the rest of the tech sector on public policy issues.

3. Advance critical work that connects the company’s mission with our external responsibilities, with a focus on privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability, and digital inclusion.

Microsoft said that none of the individuals involved in the reorganization were available for comment. It also said that there would be no downsizing as a result of the change.

In the Fall of 2013, Horacio Gutierrez spoke at George Washington Univeristy Law School on “IP & Software Innovation.”

(UPDATED: This story has been updated to include Microsoft’s comment that there is no downsizing as a result of the change.) 

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