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Stepping down: Rio Tinto legal head to exit amid payments investigation

Rio Tinto legal executive Debra Valentine has stepped down from her role, after having previously notified the company of her intention to retire in May 2017.

The mining firm has been caught up in a scandal which saw senior executive Alan Davies suspended with immediate effect yesterday (9 November) after an investigation found a $10.5m payment was paid to a consultant related to an African iron ore project in Guinea. The mining firm had launched an internal investigation into 2011 correspondence which related to ‘contractual payments made to a consultant’ providing advisory services on the west African project.

The company said in a statement that it ‘intends to co-operate fully with any subsequent inquiries from all of the relevant authorities’.

Valentine (pictured) became group executive of legal and regulatory affairs in 2009, after having joined Rio Tinto as head of legal in 2008. She was previously deputy general counsel and vice-president of United Technologies Corporation (UTC). Before that she was a partner with O’Melveny & Myers in Washington DC.

A member of Rio Tinto’s executive committee, her remit covers its legal, external affairs, security, risk, company secretarial and compliance functions.

Last month, Legal Business revealed that BP’s group general counsel (GC) Rupert Bondy is to step down from his role by the end of the year to join Reckitt Benckiser as senior vice-president, general counsel and company secretary. In November, Bank of Ireland general counsel John Bennett has also departed for Santander UK, after three years in the role.

Read Debra’s profile in the 2016 GC Powerlist here.