BAE just wants to comply

When Philip Bramwell inherited BAE Systems’ legal team in January it was chaos. It had one of the smallest in-house groups of any FTSE100 company, nobody knew who they reported to and it relied unhealthily on its law firms.

When the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation hit, it wasn’t ready for it. The team didn’t have a compliance officer. Luckily someone thought to reach for the phone and call Allen & Overy.

It was Bramwell’s brief to sort it out. It’s taken the best part of a year for Bramwell to reveal his masterplan to his team. And when he did, one of his team merely remarked that what Bramwell thought of as a “superbly crafted organogram” looked more like a “flat hedgehog”.

“In a room full of 100 lawyers, there’s bound to be one who’s intimately acquainted with roadkill,” says Bramwell. (Bear that in mind at your next partner conference.)

It is this flat hedgehog that Bramwell hopes will drag BAE’s legal team into the 21st century.

There are not many in-house teams that have undergone such a dramatic overhaul. The most recent that springs to mind is Trevor Faure’s at Tyco. Along with Enron and WorldCom, Tyco was held up as an example of the American dream gone sour.

In the UK BAE has begun to garner a similar reputation, although here it should be noted that the judicial review that was granted on Friday (9 November) was against the decision of the SFO to drop its investigation into bribery allegations. BAE was not even present in court: it is an only an interested party.

But Faure and Bramwell talk the same language. Both talk of building a “world-class” legal team. Both have created an elite cadre of chief counsel to take responsibility for specific areas. And both have put compliance at the centre of those efforts.

One of Faure’s first moves was to recruit his trusted deputy Enrique Aznar from his previous company Dell as chief compliance officer. Corporate lawyer Mark Serfozo has got the gig at BAE.

And potentially it’s a good gig. In the US the compliance chief role is seen as a good step on the road to a general counsel job. Compliance chiefs normally have access to every level of the company. But Serfozo will have to be… er… bullet proof. It’s a high-profile role.

To read The Lawyer’s article on BAE, click here.