The Legal Department

Human Connection And Business Acumen: Aarash Darroodi Of Fender Instruments On What Matters In The Legal Department

LEGD 1 | Human Connection

 

A lot has changed in the general counsel role in the past few decades. In today’s day and age, in-house lawyers have to learn how to establish human connection with the people they’re dealing with. Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of training in people skills in both law school and even in legal practice. That needs to change. In this episode of The Legal Department, Aarash Darroodi, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the iconic American company, Fender Instruments, explains why the ability to connect with people is essential for lawyers, especially for those in in-house roles. He also discusses why growth is essential for all in-house roles, how outside counsel can “Build a Rain Machine” for business development, and more. Tune in and learn all about one of the biggest predictors of in-house counsel success in our age!

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Human Connection And Business Acumen: Aarash Darroodi Of Fender Instruments On What Matters In The Legal Department

My name is Aarash Darroodi. I’m the Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Board Secretary for Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. I oversee the entire legal function of this incredible organization across the world. One fun fact about me is I’ve met Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Billie Eilish, and contrary to popular belief, they’re all cool and not as tall as you think they would be.

 

LEGD 1 | Human Connection

 

I’m excited to be talking with Aarash Darroodi, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Fender Instruments, the iconic American company. He shares why connecting with humanity is essential for lawyers and how he inspires his team to grow outside their comfort zones, and he even gives outside counsel some tips for developing business. Come on in. Let’s get to it.

Welcome to the Legal Department. We’re so excited to have Aarash Darroodi who is the Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Fender Instruments, coming to us from his exciting rock set home office in Washington DC. Aarash, it’s great to meet you.

It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you, Stacy.

The purpose of the show is to give in-house lawyers some tools of the trade to get better at their roles. I wanted to give an overview of what your role is at Fender. Tell us a little bit about the company to set the stage for our audience.

I serve as Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary to Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Fender is the largest musical instrument manufacturer in the world. It is an organization that is not only part of music history. It is part of American history. The statistic is that 80% of all major rock and roll songs were written on one of Fender’s instruments. You’re talking about Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, and Waylon Jennings. You’re talking about transcending multiple genres of music and such. Fender has always been there.

We are also one of the largest manufacturers of electronic audio equipment and products. These are speaker systems, amplifiers in your monitors, headphones, headsets, and things of that nature. We’re also the largest music-related apparel manufacturer in the world. If you ever walk into 7 Jeans or True Religion or see a Wrangler limited-edition product with Fender on it, that’s us behind that as well. I oversee the entire global function across the world. We’re very much a global enterprise with manufacturing facilities not only in California but a larger facility in Ensenada, Mexico, and then about six smaller captive OEM facilities in Southeast Asia.

It’s a big chunk. I would feel a little bit of responsibility carrying that American legacy forward. It’s not just a company.

That’s the way that I see it. When I take a look at Fender, I don’t look at it as simply an organization that makes guitars. I love the question that I sometimes get, which is, “Why would Fender the guitar company need general counsel?” I find that question so fascinating because when I think about it, they see the final product. It’s a guitar.

It’s a cool and fun product but they don’t see the immense amount of complexity that goes behind creating this product, everything from the trees that we harvest in India and Indonesia, the shipment of those raw materials to our factories, the creation of the instruments, all of the import-export regulations, Federal Trade Commission advertising, USPTO trademarks and copyrights, and things of that nature. All of that is there. My responsibility, as I feel it, is to carry on that legacy and protect this incredible American brand.

I get that question all the time, “Why does a health system need a general counsel?” There is a gap between most people’s knowledge of what lawyers do. Most people think lawyers go to court, deal with a divorce, or something like that. You’ve said before that you’re in the human connection business. I liked that because I feel that way too. Our job is not just to tell people what the rules are but to connect with them and figure out where they want to go and how we can help them get there.

Our roles, as in-house counsel, have very much been influenced by and dictated by society at a particular point in history. If you take a look at the history of the in-house counsel role, it dates back to the time of honor around the American Civil War. Going back to your comment regarding humanity and connecting to the humanistic side of our role, the culture and society are dictating a change in our roles. We are in a different realm. We are in a different world yet again.

Technology has changed. Society has changed. Millennials and Gen Z-ers are different types of human beings, and these are the individuals within the workforce of America. It is the Millennials and the Gen Z-ers that are the present and the future. These are different human beings. They engage with other human beings in a different manner. They don’t like to deal with lawyers who are incredibly rigid and reliant on the concept, “I’m the lawyer. I know what’s right, and you don’t.”

That doesn’t work anymore. That’s why I say that in this day and age, to be successful as an in-house lawyer, you have to connect to humanity. You have to connect to the person behind whatever you’re working on, whether it’s an acquisition, a government institution, or a company you’re doing a deal with. There’s always a person behind that. Connect to the human being.

In this day and age, to be successful as an in-house lawyer, you have to connect to humanity. Click To Tweet

Let me ask. We didn’t talk about how big your team is. Fender is lucky to have someone like you who appreciates that it is how to be effective in this day and age but I’m sure you have other folks who are representing the company. How do you help them understand that?

Our team is very lean for the size of the organization that we have. We are a total of 14 but we also work with approximately 600 lawyers with outside counsel across the world because we sell everywhere from Tokyo, Japan to Santiago, Chile. As you can imagine, it gets complex to operate in all these different countries. The reason why I have a lean team goes yet again to the concept of humanity.

I believe that lawyers or paralegals are far more capable than they think they are. I believe that one particular lawyer or paralegal may come into my organization with a specific set of experience and knowledge on intellectual property but they have the capability of taking on so much more and learning so many additional areas of the law that they never thought possible.

Lawyers and paralegals are far more capable than they think they are. Click To Tweet

For example, I brought a paralegal from a Fortune 500 public company. She is an IP paralegal who came into the organization, and she primarily dealt with patents. I said, “I don’t think that you want to do this for the rest of your life. It’s the same thing over and over again. What are some other areas that interest you?” She said, “This is Fender. You work with all these different artists. I would love to get involved in the licensing side of things.”

Over the course of six months, she not only learned licensing. She learned how to engage with all of the managers, the artist camps, and such. She’s also engaging with all of the major music publishers and record labels that we work with from Universal to Sony and Warner Chappell. When you take the same individual who came to me knowing just patent, and you stand back a year later, she is handling so many other things, happy, excited, and growing. If you don’t grow, it’s a slow decline as far as I’m concerned.

Did you seek her out with that? Did she come to you looking for more to do?

Growth is a requirement in my department. They have no choice.

Tell me how you do that. I want to hear more about how you do that.

I’ll give you an example. I love giving examples. I hired a paralegal from a major fashion brand and interviewed her. She was fantastic, super intelligent, and experienced. I said, “You will fit right in whether you sell apparel or musical instruments and audio products. It’s the same general concept.” She worked for me for about six months. Six months into her tenure, I went to her and said, “You’re smart. You have a logical mind. You’re analytical. You’re taking a look at these legal issues. Why didn’t you ever go to law school?”

She turned to me and said, “When I was thirteen, I lost my mother to breast cancer. My father was relatively nonchalant. He didn’t push me. I’m 28 or 29 years old. It’s too late. It’s too expensive. I don’t have time.” I said, “Can I ask you a couple of questions? Where was your father born?” She said, “What?” I said, “Work with me. Where was your father born?” She said, “My father was born in a small town in California.” I said, “Where was your grandfather born?” She said, “My grandfather was born in a small town in Pennsylvania.”

I said, “You’re of German-Dutch origin.” She said, “How did you know that?” I said again, “Continue to work with me. I’m from the East Coast. Where was your great-grandfather born?” She said, “My great-grandfather was born in a small town in Germany.” “When did he come to the United States?” “In the late 1800s.” I said, “Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that your great-grandfather didn’t know the English language. He got on a wooden boat, a boat that is made of wood, and trekked one of the most treacherous oceans on the face of the Earth, which is the Atlantic Ocean.”

“He came to a new world where he didn’t know the language and the customs, didn’t have a job, and had nothing. He learned the language, earned a living, and had a child who had a child who had a child, which is you. You can’t go part-time to law school.” She took the LSAT. She got a scholarship. She finishes in 2024. She became the first attorney in her family’s history. To answer your question, I see greatness in people to the point that they don’t even see it themselves.

You’re driving them. I got a lot of questions from other GCs about how to structure the office with their team. Some people want growth. Some people like to grind it out and do the same thing. Do you have deputy or associate general counsels under you? If they lead other teams, do you help them to see the growth potential in others?

It’s the trickle-down effect. Typically, the philosophy and the DNA of a legal organization flow from the general counsel. A general counsel can be the type of individual that primarily manages up with the rest of the board of directors or a general counsel that not only manages up but also is vested in the success of the entire team. I have this concept that there is no notion of hierarchy within my legal department.

We do have titles. We have an associate general counsel, a senior counsel, a corporate counsel, a paralegal, and a senior paralegal. All the titles are there because titles are commensurate with compensation. However, I make it very clear at the beginning whenever I hire somebody that within my department, it’s a flat army. Everybody is on the same level. Why is that? Everybody brings various experiences to the table. Just because somebody is a legal admin who didn’t go to law school, passed the bar exam, and went through grueling years of legal practice doesn’t mean that they can’t bring an idea or a notion to resolving an issue based on their life’s experiences.

It’s what they have seen before at another firm or another company for sure.

It’s always one of my greatest constructive criticisms of the legal industry, whether it’s the legal industry, the recruiters, or the whole ecosystem. Don’t underestimate the powerful teachings of life. Life is far more powerful than what you learn in law school or the law firms that you work at because if you go back to what I said earlier, the human side of things, if you’re handling any dispute, there’s a human behind it. If you’re handling any acquisition, there’s a human behind it. Life’s experiences teach you how to deal with humans.

I want to grab that because I agree with you. Especially in litigation or dispute resolution, when I’ve worked with outside firms, and I know their business model is set up this way, but many times, they don’t appear interested in resolving the matter. I find that a big part of my job is to take whatever blob of legal mumbo jumbo they put on the paper and make it something that people can understand and think about, “What does the other side want? What is the judge going to say? What’s our story? How are they going to understand our story?” I am curious if you’ve had that same challenge of getting especially litigation counsel out of their box of thinking, “I tell you what the law is, and I’m going to pummel you with legal jargon and case law.”

It’s not just in litigation that I’ve noticed that. It’s across the board in almost every area of the law that I’ve dealt with outside counsel, and we deal with all sorts of areas of the law. You ask, “Why is it like that? Why is it that you work with these brilliant lawyers who are highly intelligent individuals but their understanding of resolution stops at a certain point?” It’s because we’re not taught the human side of things, whether it’s in law school or legal practice once we go to the firms. There’s a fundamental lack of teaching social intelligence, emotional intelligence, or even human intelligence in law schools.

We're not taught the human side of things, whether it's in law school or in legal practice. There's a fundamental lack of teaching of social intelligence, emotional intelligence, or even human intelligence. Click To Tweet

If I were to redo a legal curriculum at any major law school, I would make sure and ensure that social intelligence is taught. How do you navigate society and human beings? You mentioned as far as outside counsel simply telling you what the law is, and that’s where it stops. Outside counsel has to fundamentally understand that when you’re dealing in the world of business, you’re not just dealing with the lawyers in the legal department.

You’re dealing with the engineers in the R&D department, the financial people in the finance department, the marketing people who are mostly Gen Z-ers and Millennials, and the digital people who are mostly Gen Z-ers. You need to be able to deliver the help and the information in a way that can be digested by the modern worker. It’s not taught.

It’s a challenge. The value-add of the in-house counsel is the understanding of the business. I always say, “I’m lawyer lite.” I know enough but what I do know is how to explain and talk to laypeople about legal issues. I don’t know why but I’m always surprised when outside lawyers are not able to make that connection. I don’t know if you’ve talked about recruiting paralegals but have you brought in lawyers from law firms and had to teach them the ways of the in-house world?

It is very difficult. It is quite challenging because when you’re a lawyer within a law firm, your entire understanding of the law firm’s business is based on the concept of the billable out. When you work within an organization, whether you’re providing healthcare services or products, it doesn’t matter. In essence, you understand that you’re part of a business that has a certain product that is to be sold or delivered to the general public. You’re part of a very complex ecosystem.

For example, our guitars. This one guitar behind me involves at least fourteen different business units and departments, everything from research and development to marketing and sales, supply chain, logistics, procurement, and trade. The list goes on and on. Every tiny decision that’s made or legal advice that’s given is going to have a significant ramification across the entire business ecosystem. It’s something that is not understood by outside counsel.

When outside counsel comes within, I usually go through a reeducation process. It’s an unwinding of a lot of the teachings that they were taught in law firms that I feel are inapplicable in this business. They’re hired because of their legal prowess and their experience but I need to help them get up to speed on the social intelligence side and the business-minded side. You’re no longer just a lawyer. You are a part of the business. You have to understand that.

As an in-house counsel, you’re no longer just a lawyer. You’re part of the business. Click To Tweet

What I used to do when I had a larger team when I was onboarding folks was, we would work together on emails, for example. Coming from a law firm in that billable hour, you’re almost paid by the comma. I had been teaching people, “You can’t write ten-paragraph emails to a businessperson. Tell them the answer and say, ‘Call me if you want to talk further.'” It has been a challenge for me as well. You’re very unique in that you have taken your observations around the legal industry and turned them into a curriculum mainly for outside counsel. It’s the Rainstar Academy. I want to learn more about that because that has a lot of potential to hopefully shift our industry.

It was pushed by not only organizations and law firms for diversity but it came about by serendipity. What I noticed was that there was a push by law firms to particularly become more diverse, which is fantastic. I fully support that but what I noticed was around the time of 2018 and 2019, particularly after 2020, I would get on a line with a major law firm to talk about some legal topic. There would be a primarily White male partner, and then there would be a diverse lawyer there as well.

The diverse lawyer wouldn’t say anything. They wouldn’t speak while all the other talking was done by the other lawyer. This wasn’t just at this particular law firm. This was across multiple law firms. I’m a very inquisitive guy. I want to know what is going on. I reached out to one of the lawyers. She is an African American. At that time, she was in her sixth year. I reached out to her and said, “I would love to get twenty minutes of your time to chat.”

She’s probably freaking out, “The general counsel of Fender wants to talk to me. What did I do?”

I decided to reach out to the six-year associate. She at first was a little concerned, “Why is the general counsel of Fender reaching out? Let me grab the partner and see if they’re available.” I said, “I want to speak with you. I want to talk with you.” We jumped on a Zoom, and I asked her, “You’re a six-year associate. You are brilliant. You came from a fantastic law school. Why did you get on the line and not say anything? Why didn’t you ask any questions? You simply nodded and took notes.”

She danced around the response until finally, we got to the point that we as an organization said, “We would love to be able to see more diversity because I’m sure that in all these different practice areas, there are a lot of females who are also capable of providing those services to us or various diverse representations.” “You ask for it, and that’s why I’m there. I’m here to listen and soak it in.” I said, “I’m sorry. That is unacceptable. That’s not what the purpose of diversity is, and that is probably not the reason why most companies are promoters of diversity.”

I said, “I’m going to mentor you. I’m going to teach you all of the ins and outs of how to be successful as an outside counsel with in-house counsel.” I started mentoring her. Over several months, I taught her all of the tips and tricks and all of the business-minded ways that outside counsel can be super successful with in-house counsel.

One of the examples you shared is, “We’re not looking for long dissertations and emails. We’re looking for bullet-point summaries and recommendations. We’re looking for outside counsel who takes the time to understand our business and knows our products and services. How can you diagnose a medical issue if you don’t take the time to learn about your patients? Law is the same thing.”

She went back and brought a friend of ours from another law firm who brought another friend who brought another friend, and suddenly this thing became a course. That’s what I do. I teach outside law firms, all sizes of firms from some of the biggest to medium-sized and regional firms, how to be successful with in-house counsel. The reason I do that is primarily because it’s mutually beneficial. As in-house lawyers, we need outside counsel as much as outside counsel needs us. It’s a symbiotic relationship but I would like to see changes in the way that they serve.

When you’ve done any of those law firm training, what are some of the questions they ask you? I know my perception of them but I’m very curious about their perception of in-house counsel.

It is fascinating. I wish I could take pictures. This is an Am Law 20 firm that I visited. I gave a presentation to about 200 or so of their mid-level associates on the verge of potentially becoming partners. I gave them an example. I spoke at the ACC, the Association of Corporate Counsel. The topic was the modernization of the general counsel role. It was a great session with lots of good questions.

Afterward, an attorney came up to me. He was an intellectual property attorney from a firm in Chicago. He said, “I enjoyed the conversation with you. Our firm so-and-so has this many years of experience. We would love to be able to gain your business. Do you mind if I get your contact information?” I love the initiative. Some individuals get weirded out by people reaching out. I welcome it. I enjoy that. It’s a great step. I gave him my email address and said, “Reach out to me.”

A couple of weeks went by, and he reached out. He sent an email saying, “It was a pleasure to meet you. I loved your presentation. To reiterate, this is our firm, our name, and our history. We would love to be able to work with you.” That is the wrong way of developing business. Allow me to explain what I would have done. This is what I explained to the 200 associates.

I said, “Whether it’s the general counsel, the deputy, or whoever it may be, when they give you their email address, you’ve already leapfrogged multiple steps. That’s a good sign. Before that attorney sent that email and clicked Send, what they should have done was to go back and completely CIA Central Intelligence Agency profile our company and learn about all of the products and services that we offer.” If they’re a public company, take a look at their public filings. If they’re not a public company, take a look at all of the press releases and interviews with CEOs, CFOs, and heads of marketing and products. Get an understanding of who they are, where they have been, where they are now, and where they are going.

The email from that IP lawyer to me should have been more like this, “It’s a pleasure to have met you at the ACC. I wanted to let you know that I did do a survey of the products on your website, and I also noticed in a press release that you are aggressively expanding in Asia, particularly China. When I ran a reconciliation of your trademarks in the China Trademark Office, I noticed that you’re missing seven of these trademarks. As an FYI, China is a first-to-file jurisdiction. If you don’t file it first, it’s difficult to be able to attain it. Our usual fees are this much. We’re willing to provide you a first-time custody.”

“Where do I sign up?”

When I was explaining this to the 200 individuals in the room, they looked at me as if I was speaking a completely different language because the first question that came up in their minds was, “Can we even reach out to general counsels and in-house counsels?” The answer is yes, “How do we look up all this information?”

Go to Google.

Google is the most powerful background-check and reconnaissance tool out there, “Does this even work? Is this ethical?” It works, and it’s ethical for you to take the time to learn about the potential client’s business prior to you contacting them but what happens is law firms have a PowerPoint template.

I have a whole stack in my circular file with everyone’s picture, where they went to school, and the courts they’re admitted to.

Always the first page of that template in our case is a guitar. In the wrong cases, it’s the wrong company’s guitar sometimes on there but we overlook that, and then that’s submitted. That shouldn’t be the case. Another question that came up is, “How do you handle requests for proposals when a company asks for a request for a proposal?” 99.9% of outside law firms put the template together, shoot it off, and say, “We’re happy to meet with you, and so forth.”

This is what I would do if I was an outside lawyer. I would not submit the template. I would pick up the phone, call whoever has requested that proposal, and say, “Unfortunately, we’re not at the stage where we can submit this proposal.” The in-house person would be like, “What do you mean? Why not?” “We need to get a sense of the DNA of your organization. We would love to be able to at least get the opportunity to meet with you in person and take a look at the manufacturing facilities. It’s important for us to understand who you are as a company first before we submit you a proposal.” You automatically completely separate yourself from at least 300 other potential law firms that are vying for the same business. These are not difficult.

It’s a very different thought process. The reason we’re connected at all is because ABA Journal did a story about your Rainstar course. You had an example in there that stuck out to me about a transaction that a lawyer had learned that you were working on.

In that example, we were working on the largest acquisition in our history. Even without me or anybody on my team having to reach out to outside counsel for all of the next steps and so forth, outside counsel took an incredibly proactive approach. When he found out that we were going to do this acquisition, the next email to me was non-billable, “Even before you ask for the rush, here’s a complete checklist.” It was a twelve-page checklist. That means that he’s giving me that warm and fuzzy feeling as we venture into this largest acquisition.

He has your back.

Ultimately, that’s where the symbiotic relationship comes from. We have to feel like we have a warm and fuzzy blanket.

That goes back to your point about the human connection because those templates and those spiral-bound glossy pitch decks are not directed to a person but to somebody who does their research and wants to know about you and what your company is going through. That’s the message I get. You care, and you’re trying to deliver value for our company.

The vice versa is true as well. For example, after we did the acquisition and a couple of years went by, I was so impressed by this senior associate that I wrote a letter to the managing partner of the firm and said, “I don’t know what your plans are for promoting this individual into partnership but let me tell you the reasons why I would recommend this person.” This is a mutual symbiotic relationship.

I’ve done that as well. I’ve called the head of an Am Law 50 firm and said, “So-and-so needs to be in your promotion track. They’re amazing.” Thank you. I hope this show is going to be a public service to both in-house lawyers and outside counsel. Here are a couple of last questions. One of the other reasons I’m doing this show is because I am jazzed by professional development, and I want to hear from other peers what they do. Not just your team but for yourself, are there any organizations or reading? What do you do to stay at the top of your game?

Fender is a very global organization. We all have to go through cultural training. What do I mean by that? When you operate in Asia, you cannot approach a contract negotiation with a Japanese company the same way that you approach a Chinese company. Why is that? It’s because culture dictates a lot of the ways that individuals engage not only in business but also in legal negotiations.

Culture dictates a lot of the ways that individuals engage in and in legal negotiations. Click To Tweet

My entire team has to date gone through cultural training for not only Japan, China, Australia, and most of the Western European block. That continues. The next step is going to be Central and South America. The reason we do that is this. The world has changed. The world is very much an interconnected ecosystem now but not everybody has the mindset of us Americans. They’re raised and grown up in a completely different culture.

Can we expect everybody to operate the way that we operate? That’s not healthy but can it become a secret powerful weapon for us to be able to learn about the different cultures and for us to become a bit of a chameleon and adapt ourselves when we’re dealing with the different cultures? That becomes a competitive advantage. That is one of the things that has proved to be very successful for us.

That is not a traditional legal skill either. It’s going back to your theme. What I’ve learned about you is that the human side is what you lead with. That cultural training is on point with that.

I’ve been able to resolve the most complex government issues you can potentially think of in jurisdiction that shall remain unnamed but it’s resolved. Why? It’s because of cultural understanding. When I say cultural understanding, it’s not just a matter of how the Japanese present their business card. It’s about the history of that country. What are the sensitivities?

This came up in a negotiation where somebody was not aware of the sensitivity around Hong Kong and China. Why are the Chinese so sensitive about Hong Kong? It goes back to their history. It goes back to the Opium Wars. It goes back to this very difficult period. If you don’t understand that, and that topic of discussion comes up, you’re going to completely blow the deal and administer a faux pas.

It’s being unaware and ignorant.

Why not do it? Why not develop a competitive advantage? It’s interesting and fun at the same time.

My last question will be a good one for you given your backdrop there. I have used music throughout my life as a way to keep me motivated and lift my spirits, especially in this job. I’ve found a few songs that get me pumped up before I have to do a big meeting or deal with a big project. Do you have a pump-up song?

Another One Bites the Dust is a pretty good one.

That has a good beat.

Journey is a good one. Metallica’s Enter Sandman.

All day long, bring it on.

It’s Tennessee’s football team’s official song.

I thought they were Rocky Top but that’s their real pump-up song. That’s good.

Music gives the world color, and it is a very powerful thing. I loved music prior to coming to Fender. I just didn’t realize how universal it is until I came to Fender.

It’s another good way to connect people. It’s not politics. It’s not religion. It’s not the economy. It’s fun.

It’s a universal language.

Thank you so much. This has been great. I loved getting to know you. I took a lot of notes of takeaways for me and the audience. Thanks so much, Aarash.

Thank you for the invitation. I appreciate it, Stacy.

Take care.

 

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About Aarash Darroodi

LEGD 1 | Human ConnectionAarash Darroodi brings a wealth of knowledge and global experience to Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC), one of the world’s leading musical instrument manufacturers, marketers and distributors, transforming music history since 1946. In his current role as Executive Vice President, General Counsel at FMIC, Darroodi is responsible for all global legal needs across FMIC whose portfolio of owned and licensed brands includes Fender®, Squier®, Gretsch®, Jackson®, EVH®, Charvel®, Bigsby® and PreSonus®–including mergers and acquisitions, compliance, litigation, intellectual property, corporate governance, advocacy and risk management. Darroodi continues to serve as an officer on the Board of Directors for FMIC. Darroodi also serves as President of the Fender Play Foundation™, the brand’s 501(c)(3) public charitable organization on a mission to equip, educate and inspire the next generation of players through music education.

At the mere age of seven, Darroodi had already visited or lived in over 35 countries, shaping his global and cultural knowledge. He has applied this wealth of life experiences to work seamlessly within FMIC across multiple countries and cultures, including the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Asia and Australia. Bringing these diverse perspectives into his role as EVP and General Counsel, his work has led to the largest acquisition in FMIC’s history of PreSonus Audio Electronics, support of the $1 billion California Proposition 28 Music and Arts Education Ballot Measure, and spearheading legislative initiatives to bring about changes to CITES and other compliance requirements for the company’s global manufacturing, logistics and sales operations.

Further, he negotiated and inked deals with all major music publishers in support of Fender’s online digital learning application, Fender Play, including Universal Music, Warner/Chappell, Sony Music Publishing, and BMG and also led the organization’s global COVID19 compliance program by navigating one of the most challenging regulatory environments impacting all aspects of Fender’s business globally including manufacturing operations, supply chain and employment operations. A big proponent of technological change and innovation, Darroodi is currently focused on expanding the reach of Fender Play and other digital initiatives across the borders of US and Europe, including entry into untouched territories, such as Japan, China, and S. Korea.

Growing up in a musical family, Darroodi has known the Fender brand since he was a kid and says that joining the company “has been a dream come true.” Prior to joining FMIC, he graduated from Georgetown law school and also earned a B.S. in Accounting, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, a Juris Doctor, and an LLM In Taxation.

In his spare time, Darroodi volunteers his free time to helping several refugee foundations through probono legal help, mentorship and translation services. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, but splits his time between his offices in Los Angeles, Nashville, and Scottsdale.

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