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Jennifer Johnson Millones – Newman’s Own Foundation and its subsidiaries  

The verdict on Millones: Efficiency beyond any reasonable doubt  

If she were a baseball player, Jennifer Johnson Millones would have no peers at the plate. She’s five for five in ending class-action lawsuits against her employer, the food company founded in 1982 by the late and legendary silver screen icon Paul Newman that gives 100% of its profits to help kids facing adversity. 

Jennifer Johnson Millones | Chief Legal Officer | Newman's Own Foundation and its subsidiaries  

Jennifer Johnson Millones | Chief Legal Officer | Newman’s Own Foundation and its subsidiaries

She also hasn’t had to dip into the company’s limited budget to fund the defense. Ever the personable and networking type, Millones nurtures mutually beneficial relations with blue-chip law firms that have provided pro bono defense to the Newman’s Own Foundation and its subsidiaries. 

Couple that with Millones’ other efficient methods, and the enterprise’s overall legal spending has been reduced by around $4 million since she became its only in-house lawyer in January 2017. She calls the savings her proudest accomplishment.  

“Our mission is to nourish and transform the lives of children facing adversity, and every dollar saved goes toward carrying out our mission,” she tells Vanguard in May from company headquarters in Westport, Connecticut, where Newman lived with longtime wife Joanne Woodward and their children. “By stopping these cases, we directly and positively impact the children who were so important to Paul.” 

And she won’t let her defense rest. Just back from a Chicago convention of food industry lawyers, where she was a panelist, Millones emphasized to her counterparts how class-action lawyers target the industry over trivialities like whether a company can market a product as natural if it includes citric acid, an ingredient that the National Organic Program defines as natural. 

Jennifer Johnson Millones | Chief Legal Officer | Newman's Own Foundation and its subsidiaries  

Then, there are claims about the listed serving sizes of coffee and whether a container of coffee might differ between being manufactured and made for the consumer. While FaceTiming with Vanguard, she rolls her eyes while describing how one unnamed law firm has filed 20 percent of class actions in New York, with one of its 1,000-odd cases against Newman’s Own. 

“Is there a place for class action when food companies deceive?” Millones rhetorically asks. “Yes, and I’m all for it. But we don’t deceive and give 100 percent of our profits to help kids.” 

The color of legit money 

It’s an unconventional business model and a rarity in the business world, she explains, as the food company, Newman’s Own, donates its after-tax profits to the nonprofit Newman’s Own Foundation. 

Jennifer Johnson Millones | Chief Legal Officer | Newman's Own Foundation and its subsidiaries  

The charitable endeavors had been around since Newman’s Own was founded in 1982 but to function more efficiently, the company lobbied for what became known as the Newman’s Own Exemption to the Philanthropic Enterprise Act of 2017 that allows a private foundation to own 100 percent of a business if all the profits are distributed to back to the foundation without being subject to a 200 percent tax. 

Other stipulations call for an independent foundation board and protection against conflicts of interest. Post-tax operating income must go to the foundation, with a reasonable reserve for business expenses. 

While Millones can’t take credit for the law’s passing, her responsibilities do include keeping Newman’s Own Foundation and its subsidiaries in regulatory compliance. She’s also enhanced efficiency through upgraded contract lifecycle management and keeps tabs on a litany of other concerns: trademarks, copyrights, contracts, litigation, employment law, real estate and managing outside counsel and whatnot. Augmented by just an executive assistant who also functions as a paralegal, Millones says they capably guide the foundation and its four subsidiaries through the legal straits. 

“I don’t want the business people saying, ‘I’ve got to go to the department of no,’” she says. “I try to be very collaborative and never try to stop anything. Instead, I’ll say that if we all hold hands, we’ll find a way to solve an issue.” 

And her advice isn’t strictly legal.  

“I’m also a wife, mother and shopper,” Millones says. “I like playing multiple roles and using all my abilities. I’ll ask, ‘Would your kids buy this? Have you tasted this product?’” 

No failure to communicate 

What also helps the cause is her empathizing with children facing adversity. She, too, was one, Millones raised in a single-parent household on Long Island and benefited from food assistance and financial aid that enabled her to graduate from Cornell University and Boston College Law School.  

Jennifer Johnson Millones | Chief Legal Officer | Newman's Own Foundation and its subsidiaries  

During a decade split, she plunged into various matters as an associate at two New York City firms, Latham & Watkins and White & Case. Her clientele at the latter firm included the NFL and its many teams. Millones relished the role but still didn’t feel like an authentic teammate. 

“As an outside attorney, you’re not invested as much in a company’s business,” she says. “I wanted to be part of a company where I’d be involved in every decision and not just called in for a particular issue.”  

She finally went in-house in 2006 as senior intellectual property counsel at the Connecticut office of the British spirits company Diageo. Still, something was missing. 

“I felt like I needed to do something better than selling alcohol,” she says. “I left and applied to be executive director at some nonprofits and thought about leaving law altogether.” 

Instead, she created a consultancy in 2009, Blue Door LLC, that had her as an acting in-house lawyer for Energizer and Edgewell Personal Care in Shelton, Connecticut. Millones recalls that she made good money while working fewer hours than in previous roles, but that nonprofit bug kept biting. Then, one sunny day aboard the Alcatraz-bound ferry on San Francisco Bay, she fielded a call from one of Diageo’s outside lawyers, Michael Clayton, who also was on the board at Newman’s Own. 

“They’re looking for their first chief legal officer,” Clayton told Millones. “Are you interested?” 

She had reason not to be, what with Blue Door doing well. However, Newman’s Own combines business with altruism, so she had to interview. Though Newman’s Own didn’t initially hire her, it did sign on as one of her consultancy’s clients. Six months later, Newman’s Own asked her to commit to being a full-timer. 

Her answer: “As Paul said, ‘The need is great, and so are the opportunities to make a difference.’” 

And her perks: “All the cookies and popcorn my family can eat.” 

They may be eating less of it now, what with Jennifer and Peter Millones’ oldest daughter at Northwestern. But there’s still a teen son and daughter at home in Darien, Connecticut, as well as eight-year-old and nine-month-old cockapoos.  

Life’s good in Darien, Millones says, with amenities including the Westport Playhouse a few miles away. It’s there where Millones saw Newman, whose movies she reveres. And her favorite?  

“’The Verdict,’” Millones answers. “Because he played a lawyer who did good.”   

Published on: July 2, 2024

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