Pedro Medrano – Warner Bros. Discovery

Legal leader delivers ethical entertainment magic worldwide

Recently, at a timeworn stone castle in the hills of Western Europe, a Warner Bros. Discovery production faced a dilemma. Crews had to transport heavy lighting equipment and generators up to the castle needed to film scenes there. But there was only one place to get the helicopters necessary for the job, and that was the country’s military.

WBD wasn’t allowed to pay the military directly. So, the local production company working on WBD’s behalf began negotiating a deal that will raise red flags for anyone who knows how charitable giving can create corruption risk: the local municipality would pay the military for the helicopter services and, in exchange, the production company would donate money to a local fire department.

Pedro Medrano | Assistant General Counsel | Warner Bros. Discovery

Pedro Medrano | Assistant General Counsel | Warner Bros. Discovery

“I heard ‘donation,’ and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Stop everything,’” says Pedro A. Medrano, assistant general counsel at WBD and an expert in the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The U.S. government has charged companies with bribery based on charitable donations, he says.

But Medrano also knows it’s his job to make the onscreen magic happen, not stop productions in their tracks. So he came up with a solution: The military would enter into an agreement with the local municipality covering the cost of using the helicopters. And then the local municipality—which WBD could pay—would invoice WBD.

“We paid the local municipality the fair market value of the services of the helicopters, and in that way, we did it transparently, we did it openly and we did it in compliance with the law,” Medrano explains. The helicopters took off with lights and generators in tow. The crew rushed the gear into the castle. And the director captured the actors plying their craft.

Localizing ethics

Medrano is currently wrapping up work on the Code of Ethics localization project, which he led. Put simply, he adapted WBD’s domestic Code of Ethics to the legal systems in 40 different countries.

Working with outside counsel, Medrano crafted eight versions of the code. Some versions were region-specific (Latin America); others were country-specific (France, Poland, Switzerland, Egypt). He made edits to comply with Europe’s strict data protection laws. And for certain countries, he removed parts of the code that could have exposed the company to criminal liability for arguably promoting non-heterosexual orientations.

Once those versions of the code were finalized, he enlisted a vendor to translate them into 25 languages. Finally, Medrano collaborated with legal staffers outside his department, as well as with the communications team, on the rollout of the localized code.

Pedro Medrano | Assistant General Counsel | Warner Bros. Discovery

The Bugs Bunny sweater is a collaboration between Looney Tunes, owned by Warner Bros., and Hugo Boss. Warner Bros. turns 100 this year, coincidentally on the Year of the Rabbit.

“We’re storytellers, and part of the story is coming together as one company,” Medrano says.

That Medrano is now so indispensable to WBD is thanks, in part, to a Warner Bros. movie. In junior high, Medrano saw “Stand and Deliver,” a film about a Bolivian-American teacher, Jaime Escalante, who helps his inner-city public school students pass the AP calculus exam. Watching that made Medrano, an immigrant from Bolivia, want to invest in school and achieve more in his life.

“The movie really inspired me, as a lot of movies do,” Medrano says. “It showed Latinos in a positive light, as regular Americans.”

Doubling down on DEI

Now a role model to other youngsters, Medrano says he prioritizes mentoring, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. This started in law school at American University, where he joined the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, which sends law students into underserved communities to teach high schoolers constitutional law.

Later, as an attorney at WilmerHale, a white-shoe law firm based in Washington, D.C., Medrano served on the recruiting committee and advocated for candidates from diverse backgrounds. He urged colleagues to draw talent from schools beyond the Ivy League. And he visited such schools himself, retrieving gifted students for interviews.

Pedro Medrano | Assistant General Counsel | Warner Bros. Discovery

“They would have succeeded regardless,” Medrano says. “But you cannot overstate the importance of having a job at a big law firm. It changed my life.”

Medrano says his current company has already established WBD Access, an umbrella program comprising more than 30 initiatives to develop, mentor and create industry exposure and placement opportunities for underrepresented aspiring creatives.

“Here, diversity is represented at the C-suite, it’s represented at the middle management level,” Medrano says. “And I’m part of that.”

Round-trip journey

Medrano grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, and remembers fondly his public-school education. Medrano’s dad, a pediatric cardiologist, brought his family to America when Medrano was young. He taught Medrano the value of education. Meanwhile, Medrano’s mother, a housekeeper and nanny, taught him to work hard and stay humble.

“I didn’t have a Jaime Escalante in my life, but I did have my father,” Medrano says, referring to the film character.

A 1999 graduate of SUNY-Albany, Medrano attended American University’s law school and graduated magna cum laude in 2003. After launching his legal career at WilmerHale, he became senior counsel at Bank of New York Mellon in 2012. He joined WarnerMedia as assistant general counsel in 2015, becoming part of Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022.

Pedro Medrano | Assistant General Counsel | Warner Bros. Discovery

Pedro and his family on the water in Lake George, NY

Medrano credits Brigida Benitez, a “really impressive” lawyer who helped him get in the door at WilmerHale, with starting his legal career on the right foot.

“It was life-changing, and it would not have been possible had this woman not come to speak at my law school, if she had not given me five minutes of her time,” Medrano recalls.

Another turning point for Medrano was getting involved in anti-corruption law. He happened to start that work just as the DOJ and SEC were stepping up enforcement of the FCPA, around 2005. He’s now WBD’s subject matter expert on anti-corruption and oversees compliance for Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.

Today, Medrano is back in New York, raising his family a stone’s throw from where he grew up. His children, Hugo and Olivia, love to watch Warner Bros. cartoons just like he did. When they see the trademark WB shield on the screen, they say, “That’s daddy’s company!”

“Which still amazes me,” Medrano says. “It’s a dream come true.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2023 Edition here.

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Spring III 2024



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