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He roots for the Red Sox. But that may be the only bad call Brackett Denniston, vice president and senior counsel for litigation at General Electric Co., has ever made. Consider that legendary GE GC Benjamin Heineman Jr. throws him superlatives like “my right-hand man” and “one of the most productive people we have.” That’s because Denniston, 55, shoulders responsibility for all of the company’s litigation, arbitration, and compliance. That heavy load is not immediately apparent from a glance at GE’s organizational chart: Only four of the company’s 950 lawyers report directly to Denniston. Yet as his company’s chief litigator, Denniston has “dotted-line” responsibility for the work of about 50 lawyers. Those attorneys, spread across GE’s 13 divisions, currently have 211 pending cases, each with claims of $5 million or more. Although Denniston concentrates primarily on the five to 10 biggest cases, it’s still a huge docket. Small wonder then that Heineman calls Denniston’s job one of the most important in the company and praises his deputy’s “voracious appetite for tough matters.” Another Denniston asset: saving the Fairfield, Conn.-based behemoth money. In 1999, three years into his tenure at GE, the attorney helped set up its Early Dispute Resolution program. Denniston says that by averting lawsuits, EDR has saved GE “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Litigation costs, he adds, have dropped from 43 percent of the law department budget in 1998 to 29 percent in 2001. Denniston’s reward? More responsibility. Since 1999, he’s chaired GE’s compliance board, which ensures that employees conform with company ethics standards that often exceed state and federal laws in their strictness. The question, of course, is whether Denniston will win the ultimate trophy: Heineman’s job. The senior counsel certainly has the pedigree: Harvard Law School, law review, an impressive start at Boston’s Goodwin Procter, where he made partner in 1981. Denniston also headed the major frauds unit at Boston’s U.S. Attorney’s Office under William Weld. And when Weld was elected Massachusetts governor, Denniston became chief legal counsel. Besides credentials, Denniston clearly has political acumen. “Most CEOs are looking for a GC who’ll keep them and their companies out of trouble,” points out Sally King, chief operating officer at New York’s Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman and a former senior manager of legal administration at GE. As a former federal prosecutor, Denniston is “squeaky clean,” she says. But following Heineman, 58, is a bit like replacing Yankee centerfielder Joe DiMaggio, says Jonathan Lindsey, a partner in recruiting firm Major, Hagen & Africa. “To succeed him,” says Lindsey, “you have to be at least as good as Mickey Mantle.” That analogy might appall a Red Sox fan like Denniston. To put it in terms of his loyalties: It’s a much better bet that Denniston will make GC than that the curse of the Bambino will be broken anytime soon.

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