The Neiman Marcus Group Inc. (luxury retailer)
Senior VP, GC, and secretary since April 2001

How I landed my job: Search firm.

Year in a nutshell: The first year was an adjustment for me and my legal team. We weren’t that familiar with retail issues [Bangs was former GC of Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Cos. Inc.]. By necessity, the learning curve had to be quick; we hit the ground running. The first year was relatively quiet. We didn’t jump through hoops till Sarbanes-Oxley hit.

The luxury trade: Sept. 11 [2001] had a huge impact on us — particularly for Bergdorf [Goodman], which we own. There was no business; all our stores were impacted. As high-end retailers, we rely on our core customers. We feel we’re coming out of the funk. We fluctuate less than other retailers.

Big surprise: Other than Sarbanes-Oxley, it is the level of legal reviews by the state of California. In retail, in particular, there seem to be a lot of California initiatives. Between 15 to 25 percent of our projects deal with California.

The ups: Being on a good legal team that works well together. That was what I was most worried about.

The downs: Can’t say there’s any huge low point.

What I’d do differently: Well, that assumes I’ve done something wrong. I don’t think there’s anything so far.

Impact on personal life: Not much. I get in by 6 a.m., and I try to get out of here by 6 p.m. Otherwise, I find I’m not spending time with my family.

Advice to newbie GCs: They have to make up their minds how much outside help they need, particularly in light of Sarbanes-Oxley. They must make sure they have appropriate counsel and focus on minimizing having to restate their financials.

US Airways Group Inc. and US Airways Inc. (airlines)
Arlington, Va.
Executive VP-corporate affairs and GC since April 2002

How I landed my job: I’ve been with the company for 19 years.

Year in a nutshell: It’s only been seven months but it feels like three years. It’s difficult running a bankruptcy and running a legal department. There are days of great hope and days of great despair. Every day we’re on a precipice.

Big surprise: It’s not the easiest transition I’ve ever had. We knew on Sept. 11 [2001] how difficult the industry was; by May we recognized that bankruptcy was a possibility; and by the summer we were preparing for bankruptcy. At the same time, there was a whole new corporate scheme in America. There’s expanded fiduciary responsibility; it’s a new world for boards and officers.

Minding a bankrupt store: What people don’t realize is that bankruptcy is litigation and that you have to do a lot of work to keep it going. It’s a different way of doing business. It’s not how to live up to an agreement; now we ask, do we want to abrogate our responsibility under an agreement?

The ups and downs: They are the same: This is our company’s greatest hour of need, and a lot of responsibility falls on me. I’m very committed to seeing our company succeed. I feel responsible for the livelihood of the 35,000 employees who are still here.

What I’d do differently: I don’t look back.

Impact on personal life: I’m a lot grayer; the circles around my eyes are deeper. It’s stressful right now. I wake up in the middle of the night and ask myself, is this the day we’re not going to be hitting the home run? It’s a life-and-death issue.

Advice to newbie GCs: As far as the general GC role is concerned, it’s important to understand the culture and business needs of the company. Make sure you’re staffed and organized for business objectives — which can change. As for being GC in the bankruptcy context, there’s no way to describe it. You need to be well-prepared to control the process, or it can get out of control.

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