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Adams will join Apple when current GC Bruce Sewell steps down at the end of the year.

Apple Inc. general counsel Bruce Sewell announced he is retiring from the company at the end of this year. Fulfilling his role will be Katherine Adams, who joins the Cupertino, California-based company from Honeywell International Inc. where she acted as GC and SVP.

In addition to the GC role, Adams will also serve at Apple as senior vice president of legal and global security. She will report to CEO Tim Cook.

“Apple has had a tremendous impact on the world and it’s an honor to join their team,” Adams said in a press release Friday. “I’m excited to help Apple continue to grow and evolve around the world, protecting their ideas and IP, and defending our shared values.”

Adams will be inheriting a legal department of what could be close to 300 lawyers, according to LinkedIn. She steps in as Apple’s patent dispute with chipmaker Qualcomm heats up. After Apple accused Qualcomm earlier this year of charging improper royalties on its patents, Qualcomm accused Apple of illegally selling and importing phones, which it claims infringed six of its patents, including technology to improve battery life. The accusations led to a U.S. International Trade Commission probe into Apple’s patents. 

Prior to joining Honeywell in 2003, Adams was partner at Sidley Austin in New York for about nine years, and previously a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. In a 2012 interview with The National Law Journal, Adams said she was “grateful and indebted” for two “transformative” experiences earlier in her career–when she clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and for Justice Stephen Breyer when he was chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

At Honeywell, Adams will be replaced by Anne Madden, deputy GC of the performance materials and technologies business group, the company announced Friday.

“We appreciate all of Kate’s contributions to Honeywell, and under her leadership, we built a deep bench of legal talent,” Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk said in a statement.

Sewell did not immediately respond for comment about his retirement. A spokesperson for Honeywell declined to comment beyond the press release.

Sewell had been GC of Apple since 2009.

Sewell gained a new level of notoriety last year when Apple became entangled in a very publicfight with the FBI after the agency issued a court order in efforts to access a passcode-protected iPhone belonging to one of the shooters involved in the San Bernardino mass shooting in 2015.

In March 2016, Sewell testified before the House Judiciary Committee as Apple fought to avoid giving the FBI a “back door” into its iPhone technology.

“Bruce has our best wishes for his retirement, after eight years of dedicated service to Apple and a tremendously successful career,” Cook said in the press release. “He has tirelessly defended our IP, our customers’ right to privacy and our values. Bruce has set a new standard for general counsels, and I am proud to have worked with him and proud to call him a friend.”

Since joining Apple, Sewell has been one of the highest paid GCs, according to Corporate Counsel’s annual General Counsel Compensation Survey, which is based on base salary and nonequity. In 2016, Sewell’s take home pay was $2.79 million, between the $1 million salary he earned and nonequity pay of $1.79 million. Sewell also cashed in on $75.7 million worth of stock options.

“To have worked with this amazing executive team and all the incredibly smart people at Apple, especially my colleagues in legal and global security, has been the honor of a lifetime,” Sewell said in Friday’s announcement.


Contact Stephanie Forshee at sforshee@alm.com. On Twitter: @InOtherNewsNow

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