Thomas M. Moriarty, general counsel, CVS Caremark
Thomas M. Moriarty, the general counsel of retailer and healthcare company CVS Caremark, knows a thing or two about health. But it’s not just his role as chief health strategy officer that drives him; it’s maintaining the health of the in-house legal department of one of the 50 largest companies in the world. This month, Moriarty sat down with InsideCounsel to discuss his priorities upon taking the job in 2012 and how his role as GC has evolved over the years.
How has the GC’s role in the company evolved between your first high-level in-house job and your current work at CVS Caremark?
CVS Caremark operates in a complex ecosystem within a heavily regulated industry. This necessitates an increasingly strategic role for the general counsel, one that encompasses not only traditional litigation and corporate legal work, but also public policy, regulatory affairs, government relations and public affairs. It requires us to have an understanding of how each of these areas intersects and how they can impact a company’s overall business strategy and the solutions it brings to the marketplace. What once may have been perceived as a largely tactical role is one that is deeply strategic.
Including your current work at CVS Caremark and your previous position in the biopharmaceutical industry at Celgene, you have worked for a long time in healthcare. What in particular draws you to this industry?
Healthcare is a dynamic industry that’s being shaped by numerous forces, from the regulatory environment to the changing demands of the marketplace with the consumer front-and-center taking control of health care decisions. No other industry is so deeply personal because good health is fundamental to one’s well being. When we looked broadly at our nation’s public health goals, CVS Caremark’s size and unique combination of businesses has positioned the company to lead and to accelerate positive change with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health. And nowhere has the power of this ability been better represented than in our decision earlier this year to stop the sale of tobacco products in our stores. With our pharmacists and nurse practitioners playing an increasingly vital and prominent role, we recognized the fundamental inconsistency of selling tobacco in a healthcare setting.
What is one challenge of being in the GC role that someone who is not in your position may not realize?
An immense challenge that we face as GC is the growing need to look at legal issues in a much broader context than what has been done traditionally. Legal work cannot be done in isolation. Our work must take into account the environment in which a company operates, the industry it is in, the multitude of stakeholders from regulatory and legislative bodies to “non-government” regulators who ultimately have a say in the role your company plays and the position and reputation it enjoys more broadly with consumers and purchasers.
What advice do you have for young in-house lawyers looking to rise up to senior-level positions?
As a first year associate fresh out of law school working at a firm in New York City, I was assigned a research project. I wrote what I thought was the precise legal memo to address the question. When I reviewed the memo with the senior partner, I learned that—while I addressed the issue—I did not really translate what the case law meant in a meaningful way for the client to apply. That piece of advice has stayed with me ever since. As an attorney, what I really needed to understand was not only what does the law say, but also what it means—how it translates to the business and how it would be perceived externally.