One thing that is clear about Bradley Gayton; he is a Ford man. And judging by Gayton’s rate of ascent within the company, it’s safe to say his loyalty and dedication have paid off handsomely. But the payoff could never have happened without the well-earned skills that he has demonstrated throughout his career because, well, it’s not quite so easy to promote incompetence.
Gayton, who in January became Ford’s first African American general counsel – and the only African American to hold this position among the Fortune 10 (Ford currently ranks #9) – is currently leading a global team of more than 250 employees. In this role, Gayton leads the company’s litigation, tax, corporate and intellectual property efforts. He also advises the company’s board of directors and senior management on a wide range of legal issues, and oversees its General Auditor’s Office.
“When I came to Ford, I was in my second year of law school. And the summer between my second year and my third year in law school, I actually worked here as a summer clerk. Which is a very common thing that law students do between their second and third year,” he said.
“Typically if that works out, you get an offer of fulltime employment after that summer. So that’s what happened to me. …The thing that attracted me to Ford is the fact that the legal department is the size of a large law firm inside of a corporation. And what became really clear to me as a student clerking is Ford does all of its legal work in house. And you get to see issues from inception to completion. And you get to work on the full spectrum of legal issues as they develop. And that appealed to me as opposed to being hired to work on a narrow issue for a short period of time. The practice here is you’re heavily integrated into the business and you get to see issues from start to finish.”
Gayton began his career at Ford in 1991 when he joined the general counsel. He’s held many roles within the company, most recently corporate secretary and assistant general counsel. While his main role is protecting the Ford brand, Bradley says his true passion is giving back. He has donated numerous hours helping to help support women in the community, whether it’s working with local organizations to help women get back on their feet in the community or larger national issues like battling human trafficking.
“The thing I’m most passionate about as a father of three daughters is making the world a better place for women and girls. My pro bono work is focused on helping women through a process called you U-Visa. It’s a process where if you’re the victim of a crime, if you help the authorities prosecute the person who committed a crime against you, and you’re not a citizen, this U-Visa process allows you to get on a path to potentially getting a green card. Once you’re granted a U-Visa permit, you can stay in the country legally, you can get a driver’s license, you can get a Social Security number, which means you can work, you can drive, and you no longer have to hide in the shadows. And my clients will generally have a family, and so you’re not only helping that one woman, but you’re usually then helping her family.”
Before becoming general counsel and vice president, Gayton was corporate secretary and assistant general counsel, a position to which he was named to in April 2012. In this role, Gayton had direct responsibility as secretary to the Board of Directors and for related governance and legal matters. He had legal responsibility for NYSE and SEC compliance and reporting, including annual and quarterly reporting, proxy statement and registration statements, as well as legal responsibility for supporting Ford’s Treasury operations in capital markets and debt financing transactions. He also led a team dedicated to providing legal counsel on privacy and data protection matters, including cross-border data transfers and data usage, and provided administrative oversight of Ford’s global compliance function. Gayton served as assistant general counsel and assistant corporate secretary since January 2011.
Gayton joined Ford’s Office of General Counsel in 1991. He has held positions of increasing responsibility within the Office of General Counsel including serving as director of Legal Affairs – Canada, Mexico and South America with responsibility for managing all aspects of Ford’s legal matters related to regional manufacturing, sales and service, and distribution activities. He also served as Assistant Tax Officer with responsibility for U.S. federal and state compliance, analysis, transfer pricing, and all aspects of global indirect taxes including litigation.
Born in April 1963, Gayton holds a bachelor’s degree in business and a law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
“It’s just such a privilege to practice law, that I feel we have an obligation to give back and help people gain access to justice.”