Thursday, November 19, 2020
Recognizing In-House Leadership & Excellence
In 2006, the Forum initiated the Magna Stella® Awards program to recognize in-house excellence in Texas corporations, organizations and government agencies. The name “Magna Stella” means great, or magnificent star. Stella winners are shining examples of the type of leadership the Forum strives to exemplify in its membership. This year’s winners will receive their awards at the 15th Annual Magna Stella® Awards Dinner on the first night of our 2020 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas.
6:00-7:30 PM | Cocktail Reception
7:30-9:00 PM | Dinner & Awards
9:00-10:00 PM | Dessert Reception
10:00 PM | After Stella After Party
Alan Dorantes is an Assistant Vice President, Senior Legal Counsel of Human Resources at AT&T. In this role, Alan supports AT&T’s Chief Diversity Officer and the corporate diversity and inclusion team. He also is a co-chair of the AT&T Legal Department’s Diversity and Inclusion committee and has served as a board member of the committee since its founding. Alan is a member of AT&T’s Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Business Council. In these roles, he goes above and beyond his everyday duties to foster diversity within the legal profession. Throughout his 16-year career with AT&T, Alan has advised clients within several areas of the company, including Government, Education and Healthcare Solutions, Sales Operations, Network Engineering, Corporate Real Estate and Human Resources.
Outside AT&T, Alan champions diversity as a member of the board of the Dallas Hispanic Law Foundation. He has helped organize and raise funds for the annual Amanecer, which funds scholarships for Hispanic law school students. He actively recruits attorneys with fundraising and advocacy skills to join the organization, activities to help stabilize and increase the pipeline for Hispanic attorneys to join the legal profession. Alan has also worked with the Dallas Bar Diversity Task Force, which annually surveys and reports on diversity data and initiatives underway at the largest law firms in the city.
Alan also promotes legal diversity and inclusion programs nationally through organizations such as the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (IILP) where he sits on its Advisory Board and has helped bring IILP’s annual legal symposium to AT&T in Dallas and Los Angeles. He also serves on the Executive Board of the SMU Dedman School of Law, where law school diversity remains a key issue and objective. Alan is active with the Anti-Defamation League serving as a co-chair for the annual 2019 Larry Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award Luncheon. He received his bachelor’s degree from SMU Cox School of Business and his J.D. from SMU Dedman School of Law.
Randall M. Ebner
Exxon Mobil Corporation
Born in New Jersey, Randall (Randy) M. Ebner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and a Juris Doctor degree from Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mr. Ebner joined Exxon in 1980 after graduating from law school. He progressed through a number of assignments in the law department, including litigation, transaction and management positions. From 1999 to 2000, he was a member of the law team supporting the Exxon and Mobil merger. Thereafter, he held law management positions in the Chemical and Gas and Power Marketing Companies. In 2009, he became assistant general counsel for corporate law and in 2013 became assistant general counsel for compliance and corporate law.
Mr. Ebner was elected to his current position as vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil Corporation on November 1, 2016.
He is involved with many legal professional organizations, including the board of directors for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, the National Center State Courts, where he serves as co-chair of the General Counsel committee, Civil Justice Reform Group’s steering committee, board of trustees and chair of the executive committee of the Center for American and International Law, member of the American Petroleum Institute’s committee on law, the National Judicial College’s board of visitors, Southern Methodist University’s Corporate Counsel Symposium board of advisors and the RAND Institute for Civil Justice’s board of overseers.
Mr. Ebner remains active with Tulane University as a member of the Tulane Law School’s dean’s advisory board and board of advisors for the Tulane Center for Energy Law.
In 2019, Chambers and Partners recognized Mr. Ebner as a General Counsel Influencer for his impact on the legal community.
He resides in Dallas, Texas with his wife and two daughters.
Kindel Elam Nuño
Mattress Firm, Inc.
Kindel Elam Nuño currently serves as EVP, Legal, General Counsel and Secretary of Mattress Firm, Inc., the nation’s largest specialty mattress retailer operating over 2,500 retail stores across the country. She joined Mattress Firm in July 2012 as its sole attorney, in the role of Vice President and General Counsel. She was promoted to Executive Vice President in January 2014. Ms. Nuño is primarily responsible for the oversight and management of the legal, risk, compliance, insurance and internal audit functions. She regularly advises on strategic transactions and provides guidance and assistance in connection with acquisitions, marketing, merchandising, operations, safety, real estate and lease administration, commercial, corporate governance, intellectual property, employee relations, franchisee and financing matters. She handled the public securities filings for the company from July 2012 until Mattress Firm was taken private in September 2016. In 2017, Ms. Nuño won the company’s Integrity Award, which is one of three annual value awards given to an employee for exemplifying the core values of the company: Service, Integrity and Passion. Throughout the fall of 2018, Ms. Nuño managed the Chapter 11 restructuring of Mattress Firm, including the negotiation of DIP and exit credit facilities involving parties in Europe and Africa as well as over 1,000 lease amendments. After graduating from The University of Texas School of Law in 2004 until mid-2012, Ms. Nuño worked at the Houston office of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., an international law firm (now known as Norton Rose Fulbright LLP). During that time period, Ms. Nuño spent one year on secondment in Tokyo, Japan with Mitsui & Co., Ltd., a large trading company traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. At Mitsui, she advised on oil and gas matters involving North and South America. Since January 2016, Ms. Nuño has served on the board of directors and finance committee of Children at Risk, a Texas non-partisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of poor public policies affecting children in the areas of health and nutrition, early childhood education, parenting, human trafficking and immigration. Ms. Nuño holds a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. She lives in Houston with her husband and two dogs but enjoys exploring the world at every opportunity.
Platinum Dermatology Partners, LLC
Mauri Miller is a young, dynamic Elkhart, Indiana native who currently serves as the sole lawyer, General Counsel, and Chief Compliance Officer at Platinum Dermatology Partners, LLC – a growing dermatology-focused physician services organization. With his mergers and acquisitions background, Mauri leverages his exposure to a breadth of legal issues to efficiently hone in on the nuances of the legal and compliance risks he encounters. In more than two years at Platinum, Mauri has focused his efforts on (i) improving general contract review and approval; (ii) overseeing Platinum’s M&A activity; and (iii) working closely with Platinum’s clinical advisory boards that ensure physicians maintain control over the clinical decisions impacting Platinum’s affiliated clinics. In his recently appointed compliance role, Mauri is developing and implementing a compliance program applicable to over 500 employees across 30+ locations in 3 metropolitan areas in 2 states.
Before joining Platinum, Mauri actively participated in pro bono projects as a big law associate. Mauri’s commitment to pro bono services continued after going in-house through partnerships with his outside counsel. Mauri encourages his outside counsel to assist with pro bono projects as a critical part of the RFP process. Since partnering with outside counsel, Mauri’s efforts have resulted in more than 125+ hours of pro bono services from 8 lawyers (including 3 bilingual lawyers) across two law firms. Collectively, the group has represented 11 clients in U-Visa and special immigrant juvenile cases. As a fluent Spanish-speaker, Mauri is often tasked with explaining the complex immigration system and translating documents for his Spanish-speaking clients. Additionally, Mauri volunteers at various clinics and workshops hosted by the North Texas Dream Team and Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.
Mauri’s commitment to pro bono is matched by his commitment to diversity by requiring that minority associates take growth roles on Platinum matters. Recently, Mauri oversaw the RFP process for one of Platinum’s largest transactions to date during which he specifically underscored the importance of having diverse lawyers on the team. After awarding that transaction, he worked closely with the firm’s Chief Diversity Partner to build the deal team. The partner noticed Mauri’s commitment to diversity and commented, “[she] was blown away by [his] commitment to ensuring diverse lawyers are getting these critical experiences.”
When he is not at the office, Mauri enjoys Notre Dame Football, pick-up basketball, and traveling. Mauri currently resides in Dallas with his wife, Ashley, and four-year-old son, Logan.
Carolina de Onis
Teacher Retirement System of Texas
Carolina de Onís is the general counsel for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (“TRS”), the sixth largest public pension fund in the United States. TRS manages approximately $150 billion in assets, providing retirement security to over 1.5 million public education employees in the state of Texas. Carolina is responsible for all legal services and compliance for the pension fund and the two health care funds administered by TRS, and serves as general counsel for TRS’s headquarters located in Austin, Texas and the foreign investment office located in London, U.K. Carolina’s legal practice includes a strong litigation and regulatory background with extensive experience before both state and federal courts and agencies. She has more than 20 years of experience on Wall Street, having successfully navigated litigation and regulatory issues ensuing from the 2008 financial crisis. She has represented numerous large financial institutions throughout her career, including eight years with Barclays’ investment banking division and six years with Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP, both in New York. She is an accomplished public speaker on a variety of topics, including fiduciary matters, governance, private investment funds, compliance matters, and securities litigation. Carolina is a Finance Fellow with the Aspen Institute and serves on the Board of Directors of Austin’s children’s museum, Thinkery. Carolina holds a bachelor’s degree in government and a juris doctor degree, both from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a member of the Texas and New York bars. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Fabien and two daughters.
Monica Karuturi is Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at CenterPoint Energy, an energy delivery company with regulated utility businesses in eight states and a competitive energy business footprint in nearly 40 states. She has responsibility for the company’s corporate and finance, securities and governance, commercial and strategic transactions and regulatory legal teams and leading the legal department’s operations.
Since joining CenterPoint, Karuturi has led more than $20 billion in mergers and acquisitions and financing transactions, including the Company’s $6 billion merger with Vectren Corporation and related financing activities.
Karuturi joined CenterPoint Energy as Associate General Counsel in August 2014. Prior to joining the Company, she served as corporate counsel for LyondellBasell Industries, one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies, and as a corporate associate at Baker Botts LLP. While at LyondellBasell, she created the company’s first pro bono program.
Karuturi is currently serving her second term as a Commissioner for the Texas Access to Justice Commission, which was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 2001 and is charged with developing and implementing initiatives to expand access to, and enhance the quality of, justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. In that capacity, she also chairs the Commission’s Technology Committee. She is also the chair of the CenterPoint Energy Pro Bono Program, a board member for the Company’s charitable foundation and serves as a member of the Texas Bar Association’s Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, on the Advisory Council of the Tahirih Justice Center and on the Houston Pro Bono Joint Initiative Planning Committee.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy and American Institutions from Brown University, a Master in Public Health degree from Columbia University and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center.
Southwestern Energy Company
For more than 15 years, Chris has provided pragmatic and strategic solutions for executives and senior managers in a wide array of high value and high impact matters. He currently is Associate General Counsel and Assistant Secretary for Southwestern Energy Company.
His success at Southwestern started in the courtroom after he joined the company in 2014 as the first litigation-only hire for the legal team. The company faced multiple, competing class actions brought on behalf of over 12,000 royalty owners who sought in total in excess of $300 million. Chris assembled a team from four outside law firms, and, following a host of twists and turns in both state and federal court, achieved a rare, complete defense jury verdict, which was recently affirmed by the Eighth Circuit.
His duties have expanded in recent years from chief litigation counsel to handling a wide array of corporate functions, including strategic acquisition and divestiture activity, corporate secretary and governance issues, SEC compliance, and more.
Among Chris’s more critical recent work for the company, he helped oversee the outside legal team and served on the core due diligence and negotiating team in a $1.865 billion asset divestiture that greatly improved the company’s balance sheet and reset the Company’s strategic focus.
Chris also worked directly with the CEO and executive leadership team on a $430 million commercial deal that almost fell through, when at the last minute, the counter-party made an aggressive tactical move and sought to reduce the deal value by more than 60%. He helped develop the strategy that ultimately saved the deal.
He also recently headed up Southwestern’s team charged with revamping its proxy statement. Applying skills and strategies learned in court, and working with a cross-functional team, he helped simplify and improve the company’s strategic and executive compensation narrative in its proxy statement and helped develop a shareholder engagement plan designed to increase the Company’s say-on-pay vote, which worked.
Prior to joining Southwestern, Chris spent eight years at a large, international law firm and two years at a Houston-based trial boutique. Chris is a 5-time Texas Rising Star, and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston Law Center, ranked fifth in his class. He currently is a member of the board of directors for Redeemed Ministries, a non-profit that seeks to help victims of sex trafficking, and previously served on the advisory board of the Houston-based nonprofit Every Village, which focuses on water wells and radio towers in Africa. Chris and his wife also host a home group for their church, and have three highly energetic boys, ages 7, 9, and 11.
Mattress Firm, Inc.
Mindy Harper is Vice President and Senior Litigation Counsel for Mattress Firm, the nation’s largest mattress specialty retailer with over 2,500 retail stores in 49 states. Since joining the company in 2016, Mindy has managed its nationwide litigation and claims docket, which includes commercial disputes with competitors, suppliers, vendors, and landlords, various trademark and intellectual property matters, premises liability, product liability, and auto lawsuits and claims, and individual and class action consumer disputes. Mindy also serves on the Safety Committee and regularly partners with risk management, loss prevention, and customer service to mitigate risk and solve operational challenges. Mindy was previously Risk Management Counsel for oilfield services provider Baker Hughes. In that role, she managed all personal injury and third-party property damage lawsuits, while also acting as national counsel on the mass toxic tort docket. Prior to joining Baker Hughes, Mindy was Senior Litigation Counsel for Eaton (formerly Cooper Industries), an international electrical and industrial equipment manufacturer. Her responsibilities there included overseeing a diverse docket of commercial, product liability, intellectual property, general litigation, and toxic tort matters. Mindy began her career in the litigation section at Fulbright & Jaworksi, LLP, now known as Norton Rose Fulbright. During her seven years at Fulbright, Mindy handled all aspects of case development in various commercial, insurance coverage, ERISA, and products and personal injury litigation matters.
Mindy received her J.D. cum laude from Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University, where she served as Managing Editor of NAFTA: Law and Business Review of the Americas, and Vice President of the Women in Law Society. She earned her B.S. in Journalism from Texas A&M University.
Mindy serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Women Attorneys Foundation, and previously served on the boards of Opera in the Heights and I Have a Dream Houston. Mindy and her husband Thomas actively volunteer in various support and fundraising roles for organizations their three children are involved in, including the Houston Boychoir, the High School for the Performing & Visual Arts, and local youth football and baseball leagues.
Kuljit S. Ghata-Aura
The Boeing Company
Kuljit Ghata-Aura is vice president and assistant general counsel for Boeing Global Services. In this role, he is responsible for all legal advice and counsel to the businesses and capabilities that compose Boeing Global Services. Ghata-Aura is responsible for the development and implementation of the strategy and activities of the legal and compliance teams including business structuring, transactional support and governance.
Prior to this assignment, Ghata-Aura was regional counsel for Europe, Russia and Israel. In that role, he was responsible for Boeing’s legal and compliance issues within the region, particularly business structuring, transaction support and governance.
He previously served as regional counsel for India, Middle East, Turkey and Africa based in Dubai. In addition to his legal responsibilities, he also served as director of UAE Market Development, where he was responsible for planning and implementing key company initiatives in the United Arab Emirates.
Before joining Boeing, Ghata-Aura was a founding partner of Eversheds in Abu Dhabi. He previously spent 13 years practicing law in London, predominantly focusing on cross-border mergers & acquisitions, cross-border joint ventures, capital markets and general corporate and commercial work.
Ghata-Aura grew up in the United Kingdom, where he graduated from Oxford University and the College of Law. He was admitted as solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1997.
- Nominees are not required to be a Forum member, but must be a general counsel or managing counsel of a corporation, non-profit, or government agency in the state of Texas.
- A previous winner is not eligible for nomination in the same category. To view previous years’ winners, click here.
- Please submit a detailed statement of why the nominee should be considered along with the nomination form. When preparing your justification, please provide the information noted in the form for the respective category. Note: Objective measures are more useful for the judging panel than general subjective statements.
- If a nominee is nominated for more than one category, please add relevant comments and details for all categories nominated.
- Please keep your nomination confidential until the winners are announced. We will select one winner per category. Winners are notified in advance and must be present at the dinner.