Gerri Kelman, the general counsel and interim CEO of Waystar Royco, showcased the power and influence that lawyers can have within a company. This is a message that lawyers should appreciate, as they often work behind the scenes but possess more power than people realize. One prime example of this is Viet Dinh, the chief legal and policy officer of Fox Corp. Dinh has been widely reported as the power behind the throne at Fox, effectively steering a company nominally led by CEO Lachlan Murdoch and his father, Chairman Rupert Murdoch. This led to speculation about whether Dinh is the most powerful lawyer in America.
Dinh’s rise through the legal profession has been nothing short of meteoric. As a refugee from Vietnam, he came to the US at the age of 10 and went on to graduate from Harvard Law. He then clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the US Supreme Court and achieved success as a professor at Georgetown Law, a senior Justice Department official, and a partner at Kirkland & Ellis. In 2018, Dinh assumed his current position at Fox.
However, Dinh’s reputation took a hit when Fox entered into a $787.5 million settlement of a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems Inc. Many blamed Dinh for the outcome of the case. Despite remaining silent about Dominion until recently, Dinh argued that Fox was simply doing its job when covering the 2020 election and reporting on then-President Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. He blamed the legal outcome on the trial judge’s erroneous rulings and the long-term damage a trial would have done to Fox’s ability to cover the 2024 election.
This narrative raises several questions. Wasn’t the real issue not that Fox aired Trump’s claims, but that it endorsed or affirmed them? Why didn’t Fox settle the case early, before damaging evidence was unearthed during the discovery process? What did Fox lawyers know about these damaging documents, and when did they know it?
Unfortunately, Dinh has declined to answer these questions. Shareholder lawsuits blame the massive settlement on management missteps, and any admission of error by Dinh could be used against him. Instead, Dinh has stuck to his arguably self-serving story.
Speculation about Dinh’s departure from Fox suggests that the opposing factions within the company reached a compromise. Dinh is being removed as CLO, but his departure has been pushed to the end of the year, with a generous severance package and an advisory role for two years. While Dinh refused to comment on this speculation, he did note that his departure comes at a natural time for transition, with other leadership changes occurring at Fox.
When it comes to hiring, Dinh encourages a holistic view of candidates. He believes that observing how a person interacts with their spouse or partner can be a good indicator of their ability to interact with colleagues. Dinh likes to include lunches or dinners with candidates and their spouses in the hiring process to gauge cultural fit.
Dinh also shared his approach to work-life balance, emphasizing the importance of spending time with family. He believes in setting boundaries and prioritizing his health and well-being.
In terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Dinh stated that Fox is aggressive about nondiscrimination and welcomes talent wherever they can find it. He believes that a diverse workforce with a diverse set of skills and viewpoints naturally results from this approach. Dinh also stressed the importance of civility in maintaining an inclusive workplace.
Regarding personnel decisions based on viewpoint, Dinh believes that institutions have the prerogative and legal right to hire and fire based on their values. However, he is uncomfortable with decisions that are solely based on viewpoint, rather than character or judgment.
As our conversation drew to a close, Dinh offered advice to fellow legal leaders, emphasizing the importance of good judgment. Despite the looming shareholder lawsuits and questions about his leadership during the Dominion litigation, Dinh remains optimistic and focused on his personal life, including a second honeymoon with his wife to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
In conclusion, Gerri Kelman and Viet Dinh exemplify the power and influence that lawyers can have within a company. While lawyers often work behind the scenes, their impact can be significant. Dinh’s rise through the legal profession and his role at Fox demonstrate the potential for lawyers to shape the direction of a company. However, the Dominion settlement has raised questions about Dinh’s judgment and leadership. Despite this, Dinh remains optimistic and focused on his personal life as he transitions from his role at Fox.
Original Story at news.bloomberglaw.com – 2023-11-01 07:00:00