H&R Block Hires Legal Chief as it Fights Jack Dorsey Company (1)

Irina Baranova

H&R Block Inc. hired former Coca-Cola Co. lawyer Dara Redler as its legal chief after filing a lawsuit over the company’s name against billionaire Jack Dorsey’s Block Inc.

Redler succeeds Thomas Gerke, who will retire Jan. 17 after a decade with H&R Block, the company disclosed in a securities filing on Monday. After leaving Coca-Cola, Redler spent two years as the top lawyer for Toronto-based Tilray Inc., which leads Canada in cannabis market share.

She “brings a wealth of experience in leading good governance, driving strategic negotiations, and navigating complex legal and regulatory matters,” Jeffrey Jones II, chief executive officer of H&R Block, said in a statement.

The company, co-founded in 1955 by the late Henry Bloch and his brother, Richard, filed a trademark lawsuit last month against Block Inc., the payments company formerly known as Square Inc. H&R Block claims Block Inc. is a direct competitor after agreeing to buy Credit Karma Tax in 2020.

Block Inc. filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it doesn’t use the brand to sell customer-facing products. Law firms in the case are Debevoise & Plimpton and Kansas City, Mo.-based Berkowitz Oliver for H&R Block and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Armstrong Teasdale for Block Inc.

Redler spent two decades in-house at Coca-Cola in Atlanta, where the former Alston & Bird associate rose to the level of senior counsel for worldwide marketing and growth prior to joining Tilray in 2019.

Bloomberg Law reported last year on Redler being named interim legal chief and corporate secretary for Tilray Brands Inc., a company formed via a $3.8 billion merger between Tilray and legal weed rival Aphria Inc. Redler had previously been general counsel and chief compliance officer for Tilray.

Gerke, the current general counsel and chief administrative officer for H&R Block, will assist in the transition of his duties at the largest U.S. tax preparer to Redler, the Kansas City, Mo.-based company said in its securities filing.

H&R Block hired Gerke in 2012 to fill a general counsel role that had been vacant for two years. He was interim chief executive officer of the company in 2017 until Jones, a former executive at Uber Technologies Inc., was hired to be H&R Block’s leader.

Gerke received more than $2.6 million in total compensation during fiscal 2021, H&R Block’s most recent proxy statement shows. He owns nearly $2 million in H&R Block stock, according to Bloomberg data. Securities filings show that Gerke sold off $4.4 million in company stock last year.

Before joining H&R Block he had been the top lawyer at Sprint Corp. through the company’s 2005 merger with telecommunications rival Nextel Communications Inc.

Gerke later became president and CEO of Sprint spin-off Embarq Corp., which he led through its 2009 sale to CenturyTel Inc., now called Lumen Technologies Inc.

Redler’s compensation at H&R Block wasn’t immediately available. Tilray, in its most recent proxy statement, didn’t list her as one of it or Aphria’s eight highest-paid current and former executives.

Denise Faltischek, a former general counsel at food and beverage company Hain Celestial Group Inc., received nearly $1.2 million in total compensation during fiscal 2021 in her role at chief strategy officer and head of international at Tilray. Faltischek had previously been Aphria’s chief strategy officer.

Tilray, which is looking to expand beyond its cannabis market dominance in Canada, has tapped global general counsel Mitchell Gendel to take over Redler’s former legal chief role. Gendel confirmed in an email that he was hired in July 2021 after Tilray and Aphria completed their union. The combined company streamlined its legal team post-merger to five lawyers, including himself, Gendel said.

Gendel was most recently general counsel for trade show operator Emerald Holding Inc. Among the new additions to Gendel’s legal and compliance team at Tilray are assistant general counsel Edward Cohen, who came aboard last year after serving as corporate counsel at Ascend Wellness Holdings LLC, he said.

Christelle Gedeon, Aphria’s former legal chief and corporate secretary, left amid the company’s tie-up with Tilray. She joined the Metals Co. Inc., a Vancouver, B.C.-based deep sea mining company, in August as its top lawyer and corporate secretary.

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/business-and-practice/h-r-block-hires-ex-coke-lawyer-as-it-fights-jack-dorsey-company

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