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These are tough times for diesel engine makers. With federal regulators tightening limits on diesel emissions, manufacturers that don’t keep up will be left behind. Those that work with regulators on the standards, however, have a chance to dominate the market for cleaner diesel trucks and buses — a business that’s likely to boom when the new rules go into effect in 2007. Michele Smith, 47, associate general counsel at International Truck and Engine Corp., third among the nation’s leading heavy-duty-truck makers, has put herself at the center of this make-or-break issue. She’s the “foreman” of International’s “green diesel” program, which uses a mix of legal, public policy, and communications initiatives in an effort to help craft the new emissions standards. Taking on the toughest problems is typical of Smith, says her boss, GC Robert Boardman. “She gravitates toward the major issues and has an innate sense of responsibility,” he says. “When she sees a big problem, she’s going to fix it.” Smith joined International, an operating company of Navistar International Corp., a decade ago, from the white-collar fraud division of Chicago’s U.S. Attorney’s Office. At Warrenville, Ill.-based International, she managed litigation involving truck dealers, then moved up to head commercial litigation. “She’s an extraordinarily savvy attorney, with an acute ability to use the litigation and settlement process to further her client’s business goals,” says outside counsel Ezra Rosenberg, a partner in Dechert’s Princeton, N.J., office. The managing lawyer for operations, Smith is also GC for the engine division. It’s the fastest growing part of International’s business, which in 2001 had overall revenues of $6.7 billion. Boardman stresses that he’s “only 55,” and that Smith is not his “anointed successor.” But even if it’s not at International, Boardman says Smith is GC-caliber: “She’s got the tools.”

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