InsideCounsel Magazine just released its list of the ten most innovative corporate legal departments. We were particularly glad to see Qwest listed as the winner for innovation in the area of ethics leadership.
If you read any of the trade periodicals aimed at legal department management, you probably recognize Rich Baer’s name. In 2008, Corporate Counsel Magazine named Qwest the country’s best legal department, commending Rich Baer on cleaning up the ethical morass created by the company’s former CEO Joseph Nacchio. In particular, the magazine lauded the deftness with which Baer and a few top lieutenants safeguarded corporate assets in the face of a blizzard of shareholder lawsuits resulting from Nacchio’s reign. Or, as Corporate Counsel put it, Baer ”rescued the company from the brink of bankruptcy” caused by with “the fallout for Nacchio’s unceremonious departure.” (To see exactly how “unceremonious” Nacchio’s life is these days, check this little modern-day odyssey out).
In a few short years, Baer has transformed Qwest’s legal into a model of ethical innovation. Working with the University of Denver Business School, Qwest now runs training sessions for its people that are aimed at the specific ethical issues confronting corporate lawyers. The program has become so successful that other Denver-area companies now pay to send their legal departments to Qwest training (Qwest donates those fees to charity).
Our Chief Market Development Officer, Dave Curran, was a General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer in previous lives, and he ran several Compliance Risk Management businesses, including Integrity Interactive. Dave notes that at far too many companies, “corporate ethics programs are reactive, motivated by attempts to game federal sentencing guidelines by appearing contrite after a violation has occurred. What Rich has done at Qwest is notable for three reasons: it’s impressively proactive, it makes ethical corporate practice a deep part of Qwest’s culture, and, by involving other companies and the University of Denver, it really drives ethical leadership as part of Qwest’s brand.”
Much deserved congratulations to Rich Baer and Qwest.