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Name and title: Michael A. Duff, senior vice president and general counsel Age: 43 Keep on truckin’: Headquartered in Reading, Pa., Penske Truck Leasing is the nation’s largest commercial truck leasing firm. The company is a partnership of Penske Corp. and General Electric Co., with GE holding a majority ownership interest as limited partner, and Penske calling the management shots as general partner. Penske Truck owns a fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles, ranging from light-duty trucks to 18-wheelers. About 80% of the Penske Truck’s $3.4 billion in annual revenues comes from its long-term truck leasing and maintenance contracts, and from freight transport and warehousing services offered by wholly owned subsidiary Penske Logistics. The balance of the firm’s business is short-term commercial and consumer rentals. The 20,000-employee company operates in 900 locations in North America, South America and Europe. Duff’s domain: Duff supervises an in-house staff of five attorneys, two paralegals and two administrative assistants, and reports to company President Brian Hard. He manages an annual law office budget of about $2 million. Penske Truck’s in-house lawyers handle most of the contracts, commercial transactions and corporate acquisitions. His staff drafts the standard contracts for leasing, maintenance and logistical services, and becomes involved if the company or its customers want to tweak this boilerplate. In-house lawyers advise the human resources department on employment disputes and pension matters. Company attorneys handle Equal Employment Opportunity Commission matters through the administrative process, handing off the cases to outside counsel if they proceed to the courts. The company’s in-house lawyers in Reading could make more money in New York or Philadelphia law firms, said Duff. “People can live with earning a few bucks less than they think they deserve, but they won’t stay if they don’t feel appreciated,” he said. Duff assigns interesting work to all staff lawyers and tries to make the law office a fun place to work. To keep on top of legal developments in the company’s far-flung, roadbound empire, Duff keeps in close contact with the top managers of Penske Truck’s five North American regions. “Nobody’s bashful about picking up the phone or sending me an e-mail,” said Duff. He tells his staff not to “shoot the messenger when someone calls with a problem, or pretty soon they’ll stop calling.” Asset security: Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Duff has helped Penske Truck beef up its asset security procedures-including stricter identification requirements for customers and better security of vehicles and parking lots. The company has also instituted anti-money laundering procedures in accordance with the USA Patriot Act. “You have to make sure you know your customer and the red flags for illegitimate activities,” he said. Litigation: Outside counsel handle all of Penske Truck’s litigation, which mainly arises from employment matters, commercial disputes and truck accidents, said Duff. The company’s risk management department oversees most personal injury litigation, but the lawyers get involved in high-dollar or high-publicity matters. Those who lease Penske Trucks must provide their own insurance, and customers’ insurers handle the “overwhelming majority” of accident-related litigation, said Duff. The company is occasionally sued over crashes allegedly caused by mechanical or repair problems, but is rarely found liable in such cases, said Duff. In a lawsuit filed in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, a driver who lost an arm in a 1999 accident in a Freightliner 18-wheeler leased by Penske Truck sued both the manufacturer and lessor. In a December 2003 verdict, the jury socked Freightliner with a $15.5 million verdict, but found that Penske Truck was not liable for the vehicle’s cruise-control design defect and poor crashworthiness. In September 2003, a federal jury in Philadelphia returned a defense verdict for both Penske and Freightliner in a lawsuit filed by a driver who suffered a spinal cord injury after slipping from the wet steps of his truck. The co-defendants pointed out that the steps were used on hundreds of thousands of trucks without incident-persuading the jury to reject the plaintiff’s negligent-design claim. Risk management: Penske Truck and subsidiary Penske Logistics cannot so easily avoid liability in accidents alleging negligence by their own drivers. However, the company limits its liability through an intensive training program, in which drivers learn to anticipate and avoid common problems, said Duff. In the event of an accident, drivers are instructed to call immediately and cooperate with law enforcement and other emergency responders. After securing the accident scene, they are then expected to contact their dispatcher, who will send an investigator to the scene to take photographs and witness statements. The company defends its own drivers in court, and tries to get their cases dismissed or settled as soon as possible, said Duff. Principal outside counsel: Penske Truck has a long-term relationship with Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle & Reath, which handles major commercial transactions, such as the 2001 purchase of Rollins Truck Rental & Leasing, and debtor/creditor and pension matters. “Drinker is the firm I call if there’s something I don’t know what to do with,” Duff said. For employment litigation, Duff calls on San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson. Clifford Chance handles legal matters in Europe. Route to the top: The Baltimore native graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1982 with a B.A. in history, and earned his J.D. in 1985 from the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he was an editor of the law review. He then signed up as a real estate associate at Baltimore’s Venable Baetjer & Howard, as the firm was then known, primarily representing real estate developers and institutional lenders. He was hired by Penske Truck Leasing in 1991, and was named general counsel in April 2001. Personal: Michael and wife Diane, an elementary school teacher, are raising Alex, 16, and Steven, 14, in Sinking Spring, Pa., a suburb of Reading. A self-described homebody, Duff is an avid sports fan and tennis player. Last book and movie: Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand, and Barbershop 2.

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