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Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel MCI Inc. 2004 Revenues: $20.7 billion Lawyers in Legal Department: 185
The problems just kept mounting for MCI Inc. It was late in the summer of 2003, and the Ashburn, Va.-based company, struggling to distance itself from the most massive corporate fraud in history, got slapped with criminal fraud charges filed by the Oklahoma state attorney general’s office. General counsel Anastasia “Stasia” Kelly knew the stakes were high. And if Oklahoma prevailed, other states would likely follow. Kelly placed a few phone calls to the office of Drew Edmondson, the Oklahoma AG. “But we weren’t making much progress,” she recalls. “So we decided to send Carol down there to handle it.” Enter Carol Ann Petren, MCI’s deputy general counsel, and a former federal prosecutor. Kelly and Petren had spent two years together in the legal department at Sears, Roebuck & Co., and Kelly had, a month earlier, convinced Petren to join her at MCI. “Carol’s people skills serve her so well,” says Kelly. “If anyone could come to a creative solution [with the Oklahoma matter], it was Carol.” Petren met with Edmondson and his team and stressed that MCI differed from its fallen predecessor company WorldCom Inc. Petren “saw right into the heart of what was really motivating Oklahoma, that it preserve the 40,000 jobs MCI had in the state,” adds William Single IV, then an MCI government affairs lawyer. (Single is now the company’s vice president of compliance.) Petren devised a settlement under which Oklahoma would drop the charges against MCI in return for assurances that the company would, over the course of ten years, add jobs in the state. Edmondson signed on. (The Oklahoma AG’s office did not return calls for comment.) Former and current colleagues rave about Petren’s legal smarts. But it’s her so-called emotional intelligence that gets her pinstriped cohorts talking like a bunch of New Agey Californians. “She’s able to figure out what makes people tick and infuse them with this amazingly positive energy,” says Maureen Del Duca, the vice president of litigation at MCI. She needs that positive energy: As the head of MCI’s litigation, regulatory and compliance work, and legal department operations, Petren oversees some 60 lawyers. Petren, 52, began her career as a federal prosecutor in Kansas City, Mo., and in 1982 moved to private practice in Washington, D.C. In 1994 she became managing partner of New York-based Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker’s D.C. office. Then she went in-house: In 2001 Kelly, a longtime friend and, at the time, the general counsel at Sears, convinced Petren to trade in her partnership and become Kelly’s deputy in charge of litigation. What’s next for Petren? At press time the boards of New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and MCI had just agreed to a $6.8 billion merger. Predictably, Petren claims she’s too busy to worry about any fallout from a merger. But in regard to her long-term ambitions, she’s candid. “I’d like to be a general counsel,” she says. “I think I’m cut out for it.”

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