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Caterpillar Inc., maker of those iconic yellow bulldozers and other construction and mining equipment, has appointed Suzette Long as general counsel and corporate secretary.

Long, who was traveling and not immediately available for comment, will head Caterpillar’s legal services division along with its global government and corporate affairs division, the company said in a statement. She has served as interim executive vice president and chief legal officer since February.

Long replaces James Buda, who retired on May 1. Buda worked for 30 years in Caterpillar’s legal department, including the last 16 years as chief legal officer.

She reports to CEO James Umpleby. “Since she assumed the interim role in February, Suzette has demonstrated outstanding leadership while also establishing herself as a trusted adviser and counselor to myself and other senior executives,” Umpleby said in a statement. “She is an excellent addition to Caterpillar’s executive office.” 

Long joined Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar in 2004 as a corporate counsel and worked her way up the ladder through various positions, becoming associate general counsel in 2011, and deputy general counsel in 2013.

Prior to joining the company, she spent six years in private practice with Gallagher & Kennedy in Phoenix.

Long and the company face at least three major legal problems, according to Caterpillar’s latest financial filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Aug. 2. The most serious issue appears to be a federal grand jury investigation by the U.S. Attorney Office of the Central District of Illinois over offshore tax practices and export matters.

The investigation led to raids on several offices, including Caterpillar’s headquarters, on March 2. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Long is working with outside counsel and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who was hired two weeks after the raids to negotiate a resolution with the U.S. Justice Department. Barr, the general counsel of Verizon Communications Inc. from 2000 to 2008, currently is a senior attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis.

An unrelated investigation involves two subsidiaries in Brazil and suspicious bid activity for the construction and maintenance of metro and train networks in that country. Brazilian authorities have criminally charged two employees and one former employee, according to the SEC filing.

The company also is under a grand jury probe by the U.S. Attorney of the Central District of California. The SEC filing states that Progress Rail Services Corp., a Caterpillar subsidiary, is the “target of a criminal investigation into potential violations of environmental laws and alleged improper business practices” related to allegations that the company conducted improper railcar inspections and repairs, and improperly disposed of parts and equipment. 

Contact Sue Reisinger at sreisinger@alm.com.

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