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Frederick Dawe
Frederick Dawe

In-House Counsel 2020: Frederick Dawe

Not every in-house counsel’s first task is to keep employees from going to jail. But Fred Dawe has handled that and more.

The Mitchell Hamline Law School graduate has been in-house counsel for most of his career. The son of a former CAO loved solving complex operational and governance challenges, helping to balance business ownership and operations.

He joined PSINet in 1997, and in 2004, not long after PSINet was wound down, he became General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Comtrol Corporation.

One of his first tasks was to help the company deal with a recent IRS raid, and the sole director and CEO’s flight from charges of tax evasion. “There was this huge governance question of leadership and what we do next,” Dawe says. “And under government scrutiny, we needed to keep the personal matter from affecting the business.”

Dawe is a corporate generalist, supporting day-to-day operations like contracts and intellectual property, advising on legal matters, and calling in subject matter experts where needed.

Dawe also sits on the boards of several organizations, including the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Minnesota District Export Council.

Last year, Dawe completed Comtrol’s asset sale to German company Pepperl + Fuchs. His fluency in German and decadeslong relationship with family shareholders helped him to negotiate with Pepperl + Fuchs’ large acquisition team and guide the shareholders through the risks and requirements of the sale. “Choosing the right counsel and working effectively as a team really pays off,” Dawe says. “Especially when you’re outnumbered 45 to three.”

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