Apple names new legal chief as general counsel announces retirement

Apple has announced that general counsel Bruce Sewell will retire from the company at the end of the year.

He will be replaced by Katherine Adams, who joins the California-based tech giant from US conglomerate Honeywell International, where she was GC and senior vice-president.

In addition to the GC role, Adams will also serve at Apple as senior vice-president of legal and global security. She will report to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“Apple has had a tremendous impact on the world and it’s an honour to join their team,” Adams said in a press release. “I’m excited to help Apple continue to grow and evolve around the world, protecting their ideas and intellectual property (IP), and defending our shared values.”

Adams will be stepping in as Apple’s patent dispute with chipmaker Qualcomm heats up. After Apple accused Qualcomm of charging improper royalties on its patents, Qualcomm accused Apple of illegally selling and importing phones, which it claims infringed six of its patents, including technology to improve battery life. The accusations led to a US International Trade Commission probe into Apple’s patents.

Prior to joining Honeywell in 2003, she worked as a partner at Sidley Austin in New York. She also previously served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

At Honeywell, Adams will be replaced by Anne Madden, deputy GC of the performance materials and technologies business group.

“We appreciate all of Kate’s contributions to Honeywell and, under her leadership, we built a deep bench of legal talent,” said Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk.

Sewell, who did not immediately respond for comment about his retirement, had been GC of Apple since 2009.

He gained a new level of notoriety last year when Apple became entangled in a very public fight with the FBI after the agency issued a court order in efforts to access a passcode-protected iPhone belonging to one of the individuals involved in the San Bernardino mass shooting in 2015.

In March 2016, Sewell testified before the House Judiciary Committee as Apple fought to avoid giving the FBI a ‘back door’ into its iPhone technology.

“Bruce has our best wishes for his retirement, after eight years of dedicated service to Apple and a tremendously successful career,” Cook said in the press release. “He has tirelessly defended our IP, our customers’ right to privacy and our values. Bruce has set a new standard for general counsels, and I am proud to have worked with him and proud to call him a friend.”

Since joining Apple, Sewell has been one of the highest paid GCs, according to Corporate Counsel’s annual General Counsel Compensation Survey, which is based on base salary and non-equity. In 2016, Sewell’s take-home pay was $2.79m, between the $1m salary he earned and non-equity pay of $1.79m. Sewell also cashed in on $75.7m-worth of stock options.

Law firms to have worked with Apple in recent years include Hogan Lovells, which advised on its $6.5bn bond offering in 2015 and its $17bn US bond issue in 2013.

Last year, the company instructed Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer after the European Commission ordered it to pay up to €13bn in back taxes to Ireland, while Berwin Leighton Paisner is advising on the development of its new London HQ at Battersea Power Station.