General Counsel Consulting Career Feature
Brackett B. Denniston, GE By Rebecca Neely Brackett B. Denniston III has been senior vice president and general counsel of GE since 2004.
Mr. Denniston reports directly to GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt. He is responsible for the GE legal organization worldwide and for all GE legal operations. As well, he is a member of GE’s Corporate Executive Council and GE Capital’s Board of Directors. He is also chair of the company’s Policy Compliance Review Board. Mr. Denniston joined GE as vice president and senior counsel for Litigation and Legal Policy in September 1996. From 1993 to 1996, Mr. Denniston served as chief legal counsel to Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld. His responsibilities included judicial selection, litigation, criminal justice issues and legislation. Mr. Denniston was an associate and later a partner at Goodwin, Procter and Hoar in Boston. There, he specialized in complex civil litigation, securities matters and white-collar crime. He represented parties in cases involving insider trading, pharmaceutical prosecutions, securities fraud and banking cases. He was a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and numerous other firm committees. From 1982 to 1986 Mr. Denniston served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office as Chief of the Major Frauds Unit, where he was responsible for white-collar crime prosecutions. A member of the Attorney General’s White Collar Crime Operations Committee, he was awarded the Director’s Award for Superior Performance by the Department of Justice for his role in more than 100 successful prosecutions. Mr. Denniston served as a law clerk to the Honorable Herbert Y. Choy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1973-74. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Kenyon College and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Active in civic and charitable pursuits, Mr. Denniston is a trustee and secretary of Kenyon College, a former chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals of Duxbury, Massachusetts, a chair and trustee of the New England Legal Foundation, and a member of the Board of the American Arbitration Association and the Pro Bono Partnership. In the July 2008 article at boardmember.com, entitled ‘’Meet Five Great GCs’’, Denniston is described as a ‘creative cost cutter.’ His GE brainchild, an early-dispute-resolution program, has ‘saved GE hundreds of millions of dollars in just three years, a figure that will grow to billions saved, ultimately’, Denniston said. He explained the program ‘measures litigation cost and impact and tries to control it by the use of early case analysis and earlier dispute resolution, before most of the cost and impact is incurred’. ‘’When you cap early by settling a dispute, he says, ‘it saves the company on collateral damage, on frayed relationships, and on the burden these cases place on leadership. GE will litigate when necessary, but only after its attorneys analyze the potential costs, the chances of winning, and the risks, usually within 90 days of when a lawsuit is filed against the company.’’ Denniston has changed GE’s entire philosophy on hiring outside counsel. When he first became GC, the company was using 450 outside firms. However, he didn’t think they were employed often enough to develop a strong feel for GE’s products and needs. Today, only 108 firms get the majority of GE’s business. This resulted in a 12% reduction in costs between 2003 and 2005. ‘’We needed a more systematic process,’’ Denniston said. ‘’We had to focus on people and quality.’’
Denniston has changed GE's entire philosophy on hiring outside counsel. When he first became GC, the company was using 450 outside firms. Ho...