Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, Government Affairs and Corporate Secretary
When A. Verona Dorch joined Peabody in 2015, the company was a study in contradictions. The coal producer had a legacy dating to the 1800s and operations on six continents. It also had $10.1 billion in debt.
That didn’t scare Dorch away.
“I like to think of myself as a bit of a crisis lawyer,” she said. “I do like to solve problems.”
Dorch was part of a management team that guided the company as it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2016. The St. Louis-based company emerged one year later, with debts cut nearly in half and a new optimism.
Dorch’s journey to St. Louis and Peabody started oceans away. Born in the United Kingdom, Dorch moved to New York with her family as a child. She attended Dartmouth College and briefly initiated a career in commercial banking. But she’d done summer internships at law firms during college, and she quickly realized her interests and talents were in law.
“One of my rotations was with corporate lawyers, M&A lawyers, and I really fell in love with that side of the law,” Dorch said. “I knew from early on that I did not want to be a litigator . . . I loved that art-of-the deal side of things.”
After graduating from Harvard University School of Law, she worked at several law firms — including Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman of San Francisco, and Freidman, Kaplan, Seiler & Adelman of New York — handling mergers and acquisitions, securities and other forms of corporate law.
She made the jump to in-house work in 2006 when she joined Pennsylvania company Harsco as assistant general counsel. Dorch worked her way up to chief legal officer, tackling such issues as mergers and acquisitions, risk management and strategic initiatives. But even though she was based in the northeast, the challenge of Peabody beckoned.
In addition to the financial challenge, Dorch said she was attracted to the top-notch management team headed by CEO Glenn Kellow.
“I could look at a problem and see it was very much a finance problem and about debt,” Dorch said. “One way or another, the company was going to have to deal with and resolve that issue in the near term. I really felt strongly that I could be part of that solution.”
Dorch is heavily involved in finding solutions for up-and-coming lawyers and for even younger generations. At Harsco, she founded the Women’s Initiative Network to increase the number of women at the company through training, sponsorship and mentoring. In her new city of St. Louis, she sits on the board of the St. Louis chapters of Girls, Inc., which aims to provide girls with opportunities to succeed through service and advocacy, and the United Way.
“My goal is to focus on what can I leave behind as a lawyer that makes the profession better for other lawyers,” Dorch said. “I am a strong believer in developing other people to ensure that the doors are open for everyone . . . I’m a true advocate for change.”
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