Shawn Murphy, Vice President, General Counsel, & Corporate Secretary of Mazda North American Operations.
Shawn Murphy, Vice President, General Counsel, & Corporate Secretary of Mazda North American Operations. ()

COMPANY PROFILE

Based in Irvine, Calif., Mazda Motor of America Inc. sells and distributes Mazda vehicles in the United States and Mexico through about 700 independent franchises.

The company sells about 300,000 car and trucks each year in the United States; its bestseller is the Mazda 3. Mazda, which manufactures its vehicles in Japan and Mex­ico, reported about $8 billion in U.S. revenue during 2013. It had the highest fleetwide adjusted fuel economy performance for the 2012 model year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

LEGAL TEAM

Shawn Murphy heads a team of four attorneys in Irvine who handle products liability consumer litigation claims including warranty and “lemon law” complaints, and asbestos litigation cases. Other concerns include dealer-related issues; contract review (Mazda enters into as many as 700 contracts each year with advertising vendors, trainers, suppliers and marketers); employment and human resources support; corporate secretarial activity; and trademark filings.

Another four lawyers oversee Mazda’s interests in Washington. Murphy oversees the audit group.

OUTSIDE COUNSEL

Mazda taps local counsel in each state to handle litigation, overseen by the Irvine legal team.

The company turns to Hogan Lovells attorneys in Los Angeles, New York and Washington for franchise, bankruptcy, privacy and data-protection work. Davis & Gilbert’s New York office takes on marketing and advertising matters. Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis of Los Angeles handles employment and human resources matters. Products liability litigation and consumer litigation go to Bowman and Brooke.

DAILY DUTIES

Murphy has been spending more time on governmental affairs, often working with industry associations, in response to “fairly onerous and extreme state franchise bills being proposed.” He’ll confer with counsel when significant litigation nears trial or settlement. He structures dealer incentives to ensure that they comply with state law. Mazda has about a dozen active patent cases pending — Murphy blamed “trolls.”

He said, “It’s an area of growing frustration because it’s a whole sector of work that never existed before and now it’s a lot of work.”

ROUTE TO THE TOP

Murphy earned an undergraduate degree in finance and aspired to become a Wall Street trader, but the 1987 market dive ended those plans.

Raised in Detroit, he began work as a buyer for Ford Motor Co. and attended the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law at night. Graduating in 1995, he joined the Ford Motor Credit Co. and served as counsel to Ford Motor before leaving in 2006 to become general counsel to Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover North America, which Ford then owned. He joined Mazda as general counsel in 2007.

PERSONAL

Murphy enjoys mountain biking, beach volleyball, tennis, swimming, softball and spending time with son Cole, 10, and daughter Cameron, 9. He retains allegiances to the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers but follows the local Angels. His car: a Mazda CX-9.

LAST MOVIES AND BOOKS

Murphy most recently caught “Nebraska” and “The Monuments Men.” His reading material is predominantly work-related, he said, and he doesn’t have much time left for leisure reading.