Oct 16 2019

Chemours stock

(Last Updated On: 15/10/2019)

Chemours stock-Chemours stock
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David Shelton,
general counsel and corporate secretary Laura Beth Taylor, senior counsel

Chemours is the spin-off of DuPont’s chemical arm which has been officially trading for less than a year. The legal team is mostly former DuPont in-house lawyers supplemented by some new hires. Unlike the large former DuPont legal team however, the Chemours team numbers about 25 attorneys globally. These are mostly based in the US with one lawyer in Europe, three in Asia and two in Latin America. The US-based team covers all of North America from its Wilmington Delaware, base. We met with David Shelton, general counsel and corporate secretary, and Laura Beth Taylor, senior counsel, to discuss the challenges the newly minted Chemours team have faced.

A strategic partnership with the business has been in the legal team’s DNA from the start and general counsel, David Shelton, conceived that quality as the core building block of the team. Laura Beth Taylor commented that: ‘on the commercial legal team, we are considered “chief business partners” for the businesses and lawyers sit on global leadership teams with the businesses. That means our input is valued as legal advisors but also as a business partners. It’s been extremely interesting and challenging for us as lawyers to become strategic business thought partners.’ Shelton adds that it has really pushed the entire team to grow. ‘Whether their practice area focuses on litigation, transactions, IP, environmental or employment matters — everyone has had to step out of their comfort zone to become more connected with the business. What we need to hear from legal is “how can I help? ”not “that’s not my job’.”

The road to this new company and its legal team has not been an easy one. The separation from DuPont and setting up of the new entity was described initially as Project Beta and the set of tasks in the checklist was daunting. What was even more daunting for Shelton and his team was realizing that the original checklist from DuPont only really covered the spin off from the parent, not the plethora of tasks needed to start a new publicly listed company. These ran the gamut from forming and training a board, being listed on the NYSE, designing a Section 16 program and ensuring other programmatic filings with the SEC, formulating the charters and calendars of board committees and so on – all in a nought to sixty time frame. This mammoth task was definitely what Shelton would point to as his legal team’s greatest achievement but also their greatest challenge.

While the new Chemours legal team is much smaller than the legacy DuPont team that many of them were used to working for, Shelton describes the defining characteristic of the Chemours legal team as ‘right-sized legal advice.’ Primarily this has meant that the lawyers are less siloed and more generalist, able to turn their hands to a range of issues. But this approach is also something Shelton feels melds well with the aim to become more effective as business partners to the rest of the company.

Taylor adds that this is also a time to reevaluate processes and think about how to make them more efficient. ‘In DuPont we frequently had multiple step approval processes. Now at Chemours, refreshing simplicity is a core value across the company as a whole. Whether we’re tackling a business problem or a legal issue. This all goes back to our fundamental goal of finding ways to bring value to the business.’

Part of the reason this has been possible is the focus on streamlining that has been embraced by the whole business generally. The DuPont Legal Model was innovative and worked well as a model for a huge global company with a similarly large and diverse legal department. But for Shelton and his team it has really been a chance to reinvent and make sure that what they have is really fit for Chemours. Thus far the reinvention around process has encompassed areas such as injecting paralegal oversight and client self-direction in the way confidentiality agreements and trademark licenses are processed. In both these cases working hand in hand with the business has been key in utilizing these new approaches so they are more efficient for everyone involved.

‘We’ve moved the work to where it can be handled most efficiently, empowering people along the way.’ Shelton explains, ‘We gave stretch tasks to people on the team and trained, empowered and entrusted them and it’s working.’ An example of this is the company’s trademark portfolio which is being largely managed on a day to day basis by a paralegal and a legal assistant with guidance from a business attorney.

Another good example Shelton points to is the company’s new code of conduct which was a fundamental building block of the new compliance processes. ‘We took the existing DuPont code of conduct’ Shelton explains, ‘but simplified it and shortened it. The document has gone from 39 pages to 20. We’ve also focused on making it much more positive and designed to help build a culture. Don’ts have become dos and we focus on best practice not just prohibitions.’ Over 50 employees from around the world collaborated to draft and publish the Chemours Code and supporting policies. It is clear and to the point, focuses on what matters and is refreshingly simple. Just like the new legal team.

The value proposition of this approach is built on knowledge sharing, business intimacy and resource optimization. Business intimacy allows legal to give more responsive and proactive answers, with faster uptake. Knowledge sharing ensures all are armed with the lessons of the past to avoid, and the opportunities to gain. Resource optimization means it’s everyone’s job to determine the most efficient way to provide legal services, which includes sometimes admitting that it can be done best by the client or does not have to be done at all.

Where the new streamlined approach really comes to the fore is in managing talent. The size and scope of the DuPont legal department meant that it was diverse and departmentalized with a lot of specialists. The new leaner Chemours legal team has to think quite differently. As Taylor explains: ‘We all have to think more laterally. This has had the effect of broadening opportunities for everyone on the team which is definitely energizing. I am now responsible for a much wider range of areas and this gives me exciting challenges to look forward to as I come to work each day.’

Chemours as a chemical company has inherited a healthy share of litigation challenges. But the culture of reinvention is core here as well, as Shelton explains. ‘We revamped and restructured how we manage a lot of existing asbestos cases and have lowered legal spend on these to about fifty percent off what it was historically.’ There’s likely to be no let up as challenges come from all sides, as Shelton comments; ‘we inherited an activist as well’. The activist investor, Nelson Peltz, tried to force a takeover of DuPont, and by virtue of owning DuPont stock, then received Chemours shares. ‘Our investor base in the first sixty days traded over fifty percent of its total volume, so our owners are constantly shifting.’

While this might seem like a raft of challenges, Shelton feels his team are up to it and have already proved this. ‘We have a really good team, and people are really hard working and dedicated and everyone has a vested interest in making the company a great success. We all have a personal stake in making it successful and if it fails, it’s a failure for us as well.’

What is driving this in Shelton’s eyes is the team oriented nature of his lawyers, ‘Having a team orientated mindset is what will make us a really great legal department.’

For the lawyers at Chemours though it’s the variety and scope of their new challenge which is energizing the team. As Shelton explains. ‘You are solving problems and you there’s nothing routine about it from one day to the next. Typically only about ten percent of any solution is purely legal knowledge. The rest of it is your experience and judgment, and that is what adds value to the business. It’s about knowing the legal boundaries but also really knowing the business.’

In speaking to Shelton and Taylor, we are reminded more of lawyers in start-ups than a publicly traded company, which is part of America’s corporate tradition. But this may be they key to the team’s success as Shelton summarizes it, ‘We’re a 200 year old start up. We get to create the culture – which is a cool place to be.’


Chemours stock


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