Southwest Airlines Makes CLO and GC Change in Leadership Reshuffle

Southwest Airlines has announced a restructuring of its legal and governance leadership, initiating a new phase for its in-house team.

Southwest Airlines Makes CLO and GC Change in Leadership Reshuffle

Amidst a series of high-profile legal executive shifts within the aviation industry, Southwest Airlines has announced Jason Van Eaton as the new CLO in conjunction with Mark Shaw's (the current CLO) transition to an executive advisor role within the companyJeff Novota has been promoted to the position of General Counsel, effective from the upcoming month.

Van Eaton, previously Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, ascends to the role of Executive Vice President and Chief Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Officer. Van Eaton's expanded responsibilities will encompass legislative and regulatory policy, management of airline-airport relations, oversight of construction and maintenance of facilities, corporate security, and real estate planning. His journey with Southwest began in May 2015, following a distinguished career in the US Senate and his tenure as the head of a consultancy firm.

Shaw, meanwhile, concludes his role as CLO after an impressive 24 years with Southwest. His tenure at Southwest spans nearly a quarter of a century, during which he has advised on significant developments such as the AirTran Airways acquisition and navigated complex policy and regulatory challenges, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. His career trajectory includes positions at GE Capital Aviation Services and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, as well as an in-house legal role at Mary Kay.

Novota, who currently serves as Vice President for Legal – Corporate and Transactions, is set to inherit a broad array of responsibilities. His purview will encompass corporate governance, securities, compliance, commercial transactions, employment, and litigation. Additionally, Novota will be tasked with providing both legal advice and strategic guidance to the airline's senior management committee and board of directors. His tenure at Southwest Airlines spans nearly 13 years, during which he has served in various capacities. He has been in his current role for the past eighteen months, following a stint as Associate General Counsel for Corporate and Transactions. His initial entry into the company was as a Corporate Attorney, after a three-year period at Vedder Price in their Chicago office. Notably, Novota also holds a commercial multi-engine pilot certificate.

Southwest Airlines, headquartered in Texas, is recognized as one of the leading budget carriers in the United States. With a fleet exceeding 800 aircraft, Southwest maintains operations across 121 airports nationwide. The airline has recently seen some controversy during last years' holiday travel season. 

Bob Jordan, President and CEO of Southwest Airlines, remarked on the executive changes: "As Jason and Jeff step into their new roles, the proven expertise and extensive experience they each possess, along with Mark’s continued guidance, will result in a seamless and successful transition."

Jordan further expressed gratitude for Shaw's contributions: "We appreciate Mark’s many years of dedicated service at Southwest, and we’re delighted he’ll continue to serve as an executive advisor. Mark’s trusted counsel and leadership helped us navigate many triumphs and challenges throughout his career."

The aviation industry has seen several notable in-house legal movements recently. Grant McGee departed from his role as Deputy General Counsel at American Airlines in February to return to Kimberly-Clark as its General Counsel. Additionally, in June of the previous year, David Anderman, formerly of Lucasfilm and SpaceX, joined the US electric aviation startup Surf Air Mobility as its General Counsel.

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