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Career Education Corp. recently hired its first general counsel — just in time, too. Janice Block, 42, joined the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based education provider in the midst of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a class action lawsuit. One of the largest private educators in the world, CEC runs 81 schools and colleges with 18,000 employees and close to $2 billion in revenue. Block joined the company from Greenberg Traurig’s Chicago office, where she had a one-year layover as chairperson of the firm’s technology and media practice. From 1998 through 2002 she worked as central region counsel for Microsoft Corp., managing lawyers in 17 states. At Microsoft, Block honed her skills in litigation, compliance, and governmental affairs. She also developed other talents useful to a GC, like coordinating with other departments in business development and marketing. “I loved it,” Block says of her time at Microsoft. “I liked the strong interaction between the business units and the law department.” A former television reporter with a master’s degree in journalism, Block had nonlegal skills to offer the software giant too. “I served as a media spokesperson for the company,” Block says. “I enjoy being able to combine what I’m doing as a lawyer with media skills.” Brought to CEC by the recruiting firm of Russell Reynolds Associates Inc., Block was told that the company needed a GC with a range of academic credentials and legal experience. “Everything they were looking for were all the things that interested me the most,” says Block.She will have to tap all of her skills to steer CEC through the legal minefield it’s currently stuck in. Last summer the board of directors of CEC formed a special committee to investigate allegations of securities laws violations. Those allegations were made by CEC shareholders who argued that the company misrepresented facts such as its enrollment numbers, causing stock-pickers to buy at artificially high prices. Although in May the committee found no evidence that CEC engaged in securities laws violations, legal proceedings remain active. “Our response is that the lawsuit fails to state proper legal claims,” says Block. On another front, the company is facing investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC. Block says CEC is unsure what the government is investigating but is working with regulators. “We are cooperating with both bodies and support whatever it is that they want to know,” Block says. “We will provide whatever information they need.” A mother of three young children, Block says that it’s her keen interest in education that motivates her in the legal battles ahead. “I’m very passionate about what CEC does, the industry that they’re engaged in,” she says. “It’s an excellent time to help the company get past its legal challenges and move on to the primary focus, on our students.” Equally comfortable swooshing down a Vermont hillside on skis, quietly knitting, or reorganizing her company’s ownership, Susan Blount personifies flexibility. That is, at least in part, why Prudential Financial Inc. named her its general counsel on May 2. At age 47, she joins only 71 other women in America who are legal chiefs at Fortune 500 companies. In announcing her promotion, Prudential chairman and CEO Arthur Ryan cited her “record of excellence,” which includes “playing a critical role in our demutualization.” Ryan was referring to Newark-based Prudential’s move in December of 2001 to remake itself from a mutual company owned by policyholders to a public company owned by shareholders. Blount says in an e-mail that her role in the restructuring included drafting the company’s organizing documents, advising on corporate governance, establishing the shareholder services department, and organizing due diligence for regulators, as well as coordinating other related roles within Prudential’s law department. For her efforts Prudential named her vice president and chief investment counsel in 2004 — no small job for a company that reported $500 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2004. Blount, a University of Texas grad, began her career in private practice. In 1985 she left Kirkland & Ellis to join Prudential as an attorney in its commercial real estate operation. During her 20 years at Prudential, she has held various posts, including assistant GC for Prudential’s Residential Services Company. In her new post, she supervises 600 employees (148 of them lawyers) in Prudential’s law, compliance, and business ethics departments. In addition to skiing and whipping up handmade sweaters, Blount volunteers. She serves on the board of trustees of Montclair State University in New Jersey and on the board of Apostle’s House, a social services agency in Newark.

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