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Name and title: Mary Elcano, general counsel and corporate secretary Age: 54 About the Red Cross: The American Red Cross, chartered by Congress in 1905, is a nonprofit corporation with $2.7 billion in revenues, 35,000 employees and more than 1.2 million volunteers active in 896 chapters and 36 blood services regions throughout the United States. As one of the leading humanitarian organizations, the American Red Cross is committed to helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Working with federal, state and local governments, the Red Cross responds to more than 67,000 disasters annually, providing food, shelter and clothing at no charge to the public and businesses domestically and internationally. These disasters range from single-family fires to multistate hurricanes like Isabel to the California wildfires that raged for days. Accounting for about 45% of the nation’s blood supply, the Red Cross is also committed to ensuring a safe blood supply and being in compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory requirements. Legal issues: “There are numerous issues regarding the FDA regulation of blood and blood products,” said Elcano. “The American Red Cross is committed to ensuring the safety of the blood supply and complying with all FDA regulations. The Red Cross is regulated by the FDA, as blood is considered a drug. “This requires compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices and other FDA regulations for all aspects of blood donations, testing, and quality controls of processes and computer programs. In addition, the Red Cross and FDA have a consent decree that imposes requirements on the Red Cross in terms of reporting and quality controls.” Elcano elaborated: “The key legal issues facing the American Red Cross are compliance with [this consent decree] and the corporate transactions for the businesses in the biomedical services area. In addition, a new corporate governance structure is being introduced, known as the Service Area System, to coordinate the quality of services by the chapters and national headquarters. Finally, while the Red Cross is not covered by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we are reviewing the best practices for good governance.” She also said that “legal issues can sometimes arise regarding the American Red Cross personnel deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, relating to the important need for our staff to operate as neutral and impartial representatives of this organization. However, most issues regarding those areas of the world are handled either by the local Red Cross/Red Crescent Society or the International Committee of the Red Cross.” (Elcano was interviewed before the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross in monitoring the abuses in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was widely reported on.) Elcano’s team: “The Red Cross office of general counsel is organized like an in-house law firm, comprising 18 in-house attorneys and outside counsel,” said Elcano. She said that the office is organized into five major practice areas: litigation and ADR; regulatory affairs; compliance and ethics; corporate transactions; and employment and labor law and Red Cross policy. The total number of staff in the office of general counsel is about 40. “I report to the president and CEO and the board of governors of the American Red Cross,” Elcano said. She added, “In conjunction with human resources, we have streamlined dispute resolutions by training human resources professionals to act as facilitators or negotiate disputes between employees and managers within weeks of the dispute.” Outside counsel: “We use outside counsel for employment and general litigation and for those practice areas where we do not have internal expertise,” said Elcano. “In the corporate transactions, we hire outside counsel to assist in the negotiations, for independent legal opinions and for some due diligence work. We use both national law firms and some regional firms with local contacts.” “The biggest administrative challenges are related to outside counsel,” she said. “We have recently concluded a request for proposals from outside law firms to reduce the number of firms used, to match legal work with the appropriate outside attorneys and to negotiate better fee arrangements. There is now better management of Red Cross cases and legal issues with fewer firms at better rates; the firms in turn receive a more consistent assurance of work and compensation. The net result is better legal services.” Most rewarding aspect: “The Red Cross is an excellent humanitarian organization whose leaders are dedicated to improving the services to the American public,” said Elcano. “For me, one of the most interesting features of the Red Cross has been the 1.2 million volunteers and the very significant impact that volunteerism has on the culture.” Route to the top: After law school, in the mid-1970s, Elcano worked for the Baltimore Legal Aid Bureau in family law and civil rights cases. “I then moved to the federal government, where I represented the U.S. Department of Labor challenging illegalities in union officer elections and union governance corruption cases,” she said. “From there, I went to the U.S. Postal Service in 1982, where I spent the next 18 years of my career. Starting as a trial and appellate attorney in labor and employment law matters, I next moved to the ‘client’ side and became a manager in various positions in human resources. I was the executive director of equal employment opportunity for the Postal Service and later the Northeast regional manager of human resources. “After eight years in human resources, I returned to the practice of law in 1992 as the general counsel for the Postal Service, where I remained for eight years. In addition, I was made executive vice president of human resources. I left the U.S. Postal Service in 2000.” From 2000 to 2003, she was a partner at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, where she advised corporations on matters related to the postal business and postal legislative reform. “When a headhunter contacted me about the American Red Cross, I was intrigued,” said Elcano. “After interviewing with Marty Evans, the president and CEO, her top executives, and David McLaughlin, the chairman of the board, I knew that I wanted to work with them at the Red Cross . . . .Not for a minute have I regretted my decision.” Last books: Embers, by Sandor Marai, and The Footprints of God, by Greg Iles.

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