October 18, 2016
ExxonMobil announced that Randy Ebner (L ’80) is expected to be the company’s next general counsel.
Photo courtesy of Randy Ebner
The story of Randy Ebner’s rise to the head of ExxonMobil’s legal team is old-fashioned yet thoroughly modern.
Ebner (L ’80) started working as a law clerk in Exxon’s New Orleans office during his last semester at Tulane Law School. Over subsequent years, he learned the business inside and out, not just the legal side but the intricacies of operating a global energy corporation. Come Nov. 1, he’s set to become vice president and general counsel of ExxonMobil, overseeing more than 420 lawyers working in every region of the world.
The company announced Sept. 30 that the board of directors is expected to elect Ebner as successor to Jack Balagia, who is retiring.
Ebner called the new position “a dream come true.”
The legal team’s goal, he said, is to provide “proactive, high-quality legal services to our clients.” That includes providing legal advice on commercial and transactional matters; and advising and training on compliance with the vast array of U.S. and international laws and regulations, such as environmental and labor and employment laws, intellectual property, corporate governance and litigation.
“Safety and integrity are the two key, most important foundational priorities of ExxonMobil,” he said.
In some ways, Ebner has taken a traditional path from the bottom of the law department to the top. And he said his Tulane education, including its global focus, helped prepare him to take on opportunities as they arose at ExxonMobil. Among other duties, he’s defended oil and gas royalty and antitrust suits; handled legal work related to the merger of Exxon and Mobil; coordinated commercial law issues for the company’s chemical business; overseen the legal side of the global liquefied natural gas business; and advised on corporate governance matters.
By understanding the complexities of the business, he’s been ready for the challenges that await today’s in-house corporate attorneys. Ebner has been ExxonMobil’s assistant general counsel for corporate since 2009 and added compliance responsibilities in 2013. He’s seen the vast changes in regulatory demands that come against the backdrop of an increasingly complicated global climate.
“Compliance is a pillar of good corporate behavior, reputation and success,” he said. That means staying abreast of the ever-increasing complex regulatory landscape, including keeping track of and understanding political developments at home and abroad.
For a major corporate entity, he said, “it’s very difficult to divorce … the legal work from the geopolitical aspects of it.”
A member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, he has been vocal about preparing new law graduates for this reality. In 2014, he and his wife, Ricki, established The Ebner Family Endowment for Energy Law to support faculty, students and programs related to the field.
Ebner’s job has taken him across the world, including to the Middle East, Russia, Argentina, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, South Africa and various parts of Europe. Many aspects of his work will continue, including helping develop and prepare future generations of lawyers who can anticipate trends and be prepared for future challenges; continuing to diversify the global legal team; and maintaining the pro bono work and public service for which the company is well known.
He also travels the U.S. speaking to lawyers and business leaders about corporate ethics. He said it’s important that the lawyers “maintain the highest level of ethics” and not play into the public’s negative stereotypes of the profession.