3M appoints new privacy chief after $215M driver data deal

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3M Co.months after agreeing with California drivers on data collection, hired a new privacy officer at Dell Technologies Inc.

Sooji Seo took over 3M’s privacy functions last month after serving as vice president of ethics and compliance and chief privacy officer at Dell.

“I look forward to expanding and broadening my expertise as 3M writes its next chapter in data privacy, security and digital transformation,” Seo wrote on his LinkedIn profile.

His move comes after the Maplewood, Minnesota-based company joined toll operators in accepting a $215 million settlement in February. The agreement ended six years of class action lawsuits related to the collection of personal identification data from drivers using two Southern California toll roads.

3M will pay nearly $12 million in cash to approximately two million class members as part of the settlement, as well as $3 million to class attorneys and $3,000 to each class representative. Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, a major law firm with longstanding ties to 3M, represented the company in the settlement.

Seo and 3M did not respond to a request for comment.

Frances Phillips Taft, an attorney hired by 3M in mid-2020 to be its chief privacy officer, left the company in December, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Taft, a former Faegre attorney who also held the title of assistant general counsel at 3M, led the company’s privacy governance and information security strategy. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Seo had been at Dell since 2007, except for a year as acting chief ethics and compliance officer for cybersecurity firm Secureworks Inc.

Dell promoted vice president of legal Sommer Coutu to succeed Seo as chief privacy officer on May 19, said Meghan Leikin, spokeswoman for the computer products company. Coutu spent nearly a decade in-house at Dell.

Legal challenges

3M is grappling with an estimated $33 billion in legal liabilities stemming from two waves of litigation related to allegedly defective combat earplugs and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as chemicals forever known as PFAS, Bloomberg News reported in February.

The multidistrict litigation over 3M earplug issues is now the largest in US history.

In this context, 3M has made changes to its legal department.

Kevin Rhodes, a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago who joined 3M in 2001, took over in February as the company’s new chief legal officer.

Rhodes took over from former 3M chief legal and policy officer Ivan Fong, who left that month to become general counsel for medical device maker Medtronic PLC. 3M hired Fong as general counsel in 2012.

The firm brought in former Kirkland associate Kate Warner in September as director and assistant general counsel for litigation.

Matar Diouf, a former partner at Womble Bond Dickinson, also joined 3M last year as senior advisor for mergers, acquisitions, integrations and divestitures.

In April, 3M recruited Steven Reich, former general counsel for the Americas and head of strategy and governance initiatives at Deutsche Bank AG, to be its chief counsel for enterprise risk management.

Reich joined Deutsche Bank in 2015 and later helped the German financial services company navigate a series of legal and regulatory challenges. He faces a similar task at 3M.

Legal overhaul

At least three executives with legal backgrounds have recently left 3M.

AmerisourceBergen Corp., a pharmaceutical company with a new chief legal officer, hired Ann Anaya in January to be its chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

Anaya, a former federal prosecutor who was once senior litigation and preventive law counsel at 3M, has spent nearly the past five years as chief diversity officer and vice president of global inclusion.

Marina Pariseau joined 3M in mid-February to replace Anaya.

Kristen Ludgate, a former labor and employment lawyer who worked at 3M for more than a dozen years, resigned a year ago this month as director of human resources at the company. She was replaced by Zoe Dickson.

Ludgate, who was tapped in 2018 to replace retired 3M attorney Marlene McGrath as the company’s head of human resources, is now chief human resources officer at HP Inc.

Omar Vargas, a former Justice Department attorney who served as the company’s global head of government affairs for more than four years, also left 3M.

General Motors Co. hired Vargas last year to head up global public policy. In April, 3M appointed attorney Karen Sisson as environmental resources manager and strategic advocacy and global government affairs manager.

Vargas, Ludgate and Anaya did not respond to requests for comment.

Seo, 3M’s new chief privacy officer, took to LinkedIn this month to advertise a job opening within the company’s legal affairs team for a privacy attorney. information technology procurement and data protection contracts.

An online jobs page at 3M shows that it is looking to hire half a dozen attorneys, including a general health, safety and environmental counsel, a senior trademark attorney and an attorney. principal in enterprise risk management and regulatory compliance.

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