BAE ‘resets’ legal dept in wake of SFO inquiry

Defence giant BAE Systems has revolutionised its legal team, creating 15 new roles, including the company’s first-ever global compliance chief and its first lawyer in Saudi Arabia.

The company saw a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into its business dealings with Saudi Arabia dropped on Government orders earlier in the year, a decision that Lord Justice Moses ruled on Friday (9 November) will get a full judicial review in February.

Group general counsel Philip Bramwell, who joined from O2 in January, said: “In essence it’s a fundamental system reset of the legal department.”

Bramwell’s three-year plan to bring BAE’s legal function up to date kicks off with the appointment of corporate lawyer Mark Serfozo as chief counsel for compliance and regulation, while Andrew Guest will move overseas to become BAE’s first chief counsel for Saudi Arabia.

Serfozo led BAE’s involvement in the SFO investigation into the company’s business dealings.

Bramwell said compliance would be a major focus for BAE as the company tries to put allegations of bribery behind it.

“We’re talking about investigations into deals that happened in the 1980s,” said Bramwell. “They don’t have much bearing on the group today. Now we have to be world class in our approach to compliance generally.”

Bramwell has appointed global heads of M&A, capital markets, employment, property and litigation and has transferred Mike Jewess’s IP team from BAE’s commercial department, merging it with legal. Internal promotions have filled all of the new posts.

Andrew Gallagher will remain as associate general counsel, but will serve as interim senior counsel for corporate development while the company looks to fill the post.

Overall BAE expects to hire around 20 new lawyers, boosting the total number to 120.

BAE will review its relationships with law firms in the second half of next year.

Bramwell, who started his career as a barrister, has also developed an in-house cab-rank system. Lawyers will now turn to three centrally based senior counsel if they need help instead of instructing a law firm.

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