Some people run away from chaos, but not Stevan Verkin—he runs towards it. “Hard times give birth to opportunities,” he says. “Every time I’ve worked through a difficult circumstance and managed it to a successful conclusion, I’ve grown both as a person and as a lawyer.”
Today, Verkin is vice president of legal, global counsel, and real estate at TechnipFMC, an international publicly traded company delivering projects, products, technologies and services to the energy industry, domiciled in the United Kingdom with operational headquarters in Houston, Texas. He started as legal counsel at Technip in 2007 and has stayed more than fifteen years for the chance to evolve alongside the company. Success has depended on Verkin’s ability to navigate both normal and uncertain times in a cyclical and volatile industry.
Verkin and Technip were a good match from the start. The young lawyer, who grew up outside of Houston, knew he wanted an in-house role and feared it might be hard to land an entry-level job without firm experience. Technip’s regional office in North America needed two junior attorneys and was willing to provide training. Verkin interviewed, accepted one of the positions, and committed to completing an eighteen-month stint in a contracts group to acquire operational experience.
With the assignment complete, Verkin was ready to become a more traditional legal advisor to his counterparts on the business side of the company. “It takes really being embedded within the moving parts of many projects to understand how the company serves its clients and makes money,” he says.
In 2010, Verkin was offered a larger role in Technip’s corporate legal team and moved to Paris, where he served initially as senior legal counsel responsible for Technip’s subsea assets and technologies and thereafter for global legal business and operations. That’s when some of the chaos and difficulty emerged.
The US Department of Justice charged Technip with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing Nigerian government officials in exchange for lucrative contracts. Technip signed a deferred prosecution agreement and entered into a two-year monitorship. Verkin, who wanted to learn a new area of the law and help his company navigate a hard situation, moved into the company’s corporate compliance department to help build a global ethics and compliance program and manage the deferred prosecution agreement monitorship. “I accepted the challenge without hesitating because I wanted to do something new and build new skills and relationships,” he says.
During this important era, as vice president of corporate compliance, Verkin worked to build a new global ethics and compliance program as well as corporate and regional compliance teams. With the support of Technip’s board of directors and executive leadership team, he worked diligently with the chief compliance officer to build an effective and efficient ethics and compliance governance structure with appropriate policies procedures and trained regional teams to implement the new program.
According to Verkin, “the key to setting up an effective ethics and compliance program is to truly understand the business and operations of the company.” To do this, together with Technip’s chief compliance officer, he traveled to almost every company location to assess the local operations and to ensure the company’s program was designed to effectively mitigate risks.
In 2015, Verkin returned to Houston. Two years later, Technip merged with FMC Technologies to form a massive new company, TechnipFMC, valued at $13 billion. With the deal complete, Verkin became the new company’s legal director of antibribery and corruption. Shortly thereafter, new allegations surfaced involving historical bribes to Brazilian officials, and the lawyer found himself in the middle of another corruption investigation. Verkin worked with his chief compliance officer and general counsel to negotiate another deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and related leniency agreements with Brazil’s government. Those settlements were finalized in 2018.
After eight years on the job in compliance, Verkin had helped create a global compliance program, built a global team, and led his company through two major corruption investigations with authorities in multiple countries and continents with successful resolutions. The string of victories and his in-depth knowledge of the business paved the way for him to move into an expanded role as director of legal operations for the Americas in 2018 and in 2020, to further his integration with the business, he took on an additional role managing the global real estate and facilities functions.
In 2021, Verkin was the lead lawyer in a critical spinoff transaction that formed two separate publicly traded companies, TechnipFMC and Technip Energies. TechnipFMC delivers projects, products, technologies, and services to both the traditional and new energies industries in the subsea and surface technologies business segments; Technip Energies is a project, services, and technologies company primarily focused on the onshore liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, clean energy, and carbon dioxide management segments of the energy industry.
TechnipFMC is now a lean and strong company positioned for growth. As its leaders chart a path forward, Verkin is monitoring the ongoing global pandemic closely. “COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all energy companies and puts us all in a difficult business environment,” he says. The oil and gas industry is facing a lack of capital, and TechnipFMC has not been immune to the layoffs that have plagued its competitors. Plus, variants pose a major risk for large companies with dozens of multimillion-dollar vessels scattered around the world in locations where mask mandates, lockdown rules, employment procedure, and testing policies vary.
Verkin is responding as he always has in difficult times—by meeting the challenge head-on. He’s worked to ensure employee health and safety while also participating in local and global incident management teams that ensure critical services continue without interruption. In doing so, he’s been able to provide junior lawyers opportunities to interact on new teams and develop the skills they’ll need to advance in their careers.
“Stevan is whip-smart,” says Todd Mensing, partner at Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. “He has vast experience in the subsea and surface technology and business space. This combination makes him an invaluable asset on any matter. We are lucky to work with him.”
During his fifteen years at TechnipFMC, Verkin has faced many trials and challenges but none of the temporary setbacks have eroded his passion for his company or his commitment to the legal profession. “Whatever comes your way brings a valuable experience,” he says. “Lawyers are always going to experience conflict. We might as well learn from it.”