In a reorganization of its legal department, Microsoft named longtime company lawyer Horacio Gutierrez as the company’s general counsel, replacing Brad Smith.

Share story

Microsoft has named longtime company lawyer Horacio Gutierrez as its general counsel, succeeding Brad Smith, who was recently named the company’s president.

Gutierrez will oversee the day-to-day operation of Microsoft’s legal affairs and report to Smith, who also holds the title of chief legal officer.

His appointment was one of a slate of personnel moves announced Friday that highlights the role of the Redmond company’s legal unit outside the courtroom.

The roughly 1,300-person group, led by Smith, is charged with managing the company’s relationships with governments, universities, nonprofits, and the rest of the technology industry on public-policy issues, as well as companywide coordination of privacy, security and accessibility issues, a Microsoft spokesman said.

In an email to employees Friday, Smith said the group’s name would change from Legal and Corporate Affairs to Corporate, External and Legal Affairs.

Gutierrez was born in Venezuela, and he worked as a lawyer there and in the U.S. before joining Microsoft in 1998. He recently led Microsoft’s intellectual-property group, spearheading the effort to put the company’s vast patent portfolio to work through license agreements with competitors that make use of the company’s patented innovations, notably in smartphones that run Google’s Android operating system.

Microsoft’s preference has been to settle patent disputes on friendly terms with license agreements, though that hasn’t stopped it from taking rivals to court when the company thought it wasn’t being adequately compensated for use of its technology.

Other changes announced Friday:

• John Seethoff replaces Smith as Microsoft’s corporate secretary, the liaison to the board of directors and overseer of the company’s corporate-governance policies.

• Scott Charney, chief of the trustworthy computing cybersecurity group that had been in Microsoft’s enterprise-engineering organization, will move with his organization into the new group.

• Mary Snapp, the first female attorney Microsoft hired when she joined the company in 1988, will oversee the company’s philanthropic work. Previously she was a deputy general counsel for the company’s business-development group.

• John Frank, a deputy general counsel who previously led the law enforcement and digital crimes unit, will move to Brussels, Belgium, to head European Union government affairs.

Seethoff will report to Gutierrez. The other three executives will report to Smith.

Microsoft, IRS get day in court

Microsoft and the Internal Revenue Service sparred in court Friday over the agency’s power to investigate taxpayers.

Microsoft, seeking a court order to overturn a portion of an IRS probe into its books, says the tax agency’s reliance on outside lawyers in the investigation sets a dangerous precedent for taxpayer confidentiality, and it could embolden the agency to use powers Congress never intended it to have.

The government’s lawyers counter that a ruling in favor of Microsoft may curtail the IRS’ ability to bring in outside experts to help make sense of complex tax matters, sabotaging the system the government relies on to make sure companies pay the appropriate amount of tax.

Judge Ricardo Martinez questioned lawyers on both sides about what limitations exist on the IRS use of contractors and the agency’s process, but he didn’t rule Friday on the issue of whether the IRS summonses would be enforced.