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Xcel Energy, Baker Hughes Tap New In-House Legal Chiefs (1)

April 28, 2020, 9:43 PM; Updated: April 29, 2020, 1:38 PM

Scott Wilenksy will step down June 1 after an almost decade-long run as leader of Xcel Energy Inc.’s law department and make way for successor Amanda Rome, the company said Tuesday.

Rome, who has been in-house at Xcel since 2015, currently serves as vice president and deputy general counsel for the regulatory and commercial groups at the Minneapolis-based utility holding company. She had previously handled litigation and regulatory matters while working as an associate at Winston & Strawn in Chicago and Faegre Baker Daniels in Minneapolis.

“Xcel Energy has a strong focus on succession planning, and we are thrilled to have Amanda move into this role on the executive team,” said a statement from chairman and CEO Ben Fowke announcing her promotion. “She has been instrumental to our success in our Steel for Fuel strategy, the nation’s largest multi-state wind energy expansion.”

Wilensky, who is retiring after 21 years at Xcel, will stay with the company through June 30 to assistant with the transition to Rome. He told Bloomberg Law in an email that he was grateful for his time at Xcel and now looking forward to spending time with his family and “hoping that we will be able to add travel back into our retirement plans soon.”

At Xcel, Wilensky was one of more than two dozen law department leaders who partnered last year with five law firms to create the Move The Needle Fund, a $5 million pilot project seeking to combat an ongoing lack of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Wilensky took over as general counsel n September 2011 from predecessor Michael Connelly, who also served as Xcel’s senior vice president of strategy and planning. Before becoming general counsel, the energy utility expert served as a vice president of regulatory and resource planning at Xcel. Prior to joining the company, Wilensky spent a decade as an assistant attorney general in Minnesota.

Xcel disclosed in a 2019 proxy statement that it paid $2.43 million in total compensation last year to Wilensky, a slight raise over the $2.24 million he received in 2018. The bulk of Wilensky’s pay package is comprised of $575,000 in base salary, $650,480 in non-equity incentive plan compensation, and more than $1.05 million in stock awards. Bloomberg data shows that Wilensky owns $5.36 million in Xcel stock.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius has handled over 22% of Xcel’s outside litigation work since 2007, with Baker Botts, Briggs and Morgan, and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck each handling 7.2% of the utility’s caseload during that time, according to data from Bloomberg Law. Briggs and Morgan, a Minneapolis-based law firm, was absorbed Jan. 1 by Ohio-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister.

Baker Hughes Hires Jones

Regina Jones has been named chief legal officer for Houston-based oilfield services giant Baker Hughes Co., a little more than a week after leaving her role as general counsel at Delek US Holdings Inc., a suburban Nashville-based downstream energy company.

Jones didn’t respond to a request for comment about her new role, which she listed on her LinkedIn profile and registry with the State Bar of Texas. Nor did William Marsh, who has served as Baker Hughes’ chief legal officer since 2017.

Baker Hughes said in a statement to Bloomberg Law that Jones started April 20 and that Marsh is no longer with the company. Baker Hughes did not list Marsh as among its highest-paid executives last year, according to a 2019 proxy statement recently filed by the company, which General Electric Co. acquired three years ago in a $7.4 billion deal.

That transaction, now the subject of litigation in Delaware, eventually saw Baker Hughes become independent again last year after GE sold its majority interest in the company as the industrial conglomerate sought to focus itself on core assets. Marsh owns almost $634,000 in Baker Hughes stock, per Bloomberg data, which shows that Jones’ Delek stock holdings are valued at roughly $484,000.

Other Energy Additions

Bloomberg News reported last month on Sempra Energy parting ways with president and chief legal officer George Bilicic Jr., a former investment banker and Cravath, Swaine & Moore partner who only joined the San Diego-based utility network last year.

A Sempra spokeswoman told Bloomberg Law that deputy general counsel Robert Borthwick and Erbin Keith have taken over leadership of its legal group. Bilicic owns $4.29 million in Sempra stock, according to Bloomberg data. Lazard Ltd. announced April 20 that Biliic had rejoined its ranks as vice chairman and global head of power, energy, and infrastructure.

Several other companies and entities in the U.S. energy sector have also made notable in-house legal appointments in recent weeks:

  • The Tennessee Valley Authority announced April 6 its hire of David Fountain as senior vice president and vice general counsel. The new role will see Fountain oversee administrative and operational functions in the general counsel’s office and litigation, enterprise records, and compliance. Fountain will report to TVA general counsel Sherry Quirk after he starts June 1. He is senior vice president of legal, chief ethics and compliance officer, and corporate secretary at Duke Energy Corp.
  • Exelon Corp. announced March 16 its hire of former federal prosecutor David Glockner as executive vice president of compliance and audit, a newly created role at the Chicago-based energy giant. Glockner most recently served as chief compliance officer at Citadel Enterprise Americas LLC, a hedge fund founded by billionaire investor Ken Griffin.
  • JEA, a publicly owned electric utility in Jacksonville, Fla., coping with an investigation into a scuttled sale process, announced March 23 it had brought back its former chief legal officer Jody Brooks in order to “provide continuity and guidance.” Brooks spent nearly three years as JEA’s top in-house lawyer until leaving in March 2019. His successor, Lynn Rhode, resigned in December.
  • Core Development Group LLC, a Mahwah, N.J.-based solar energy developer, announced March 2 its hire of Dana Hall as general counsel. Hall is a renewable energy expert who spent the past decade running her own small firm in Harrington Park, N.J.
(Adds Jones' start date at Baker Hughes in 11th paragraph and TVA hire information in 16th paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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