Kimberly Pryor was camping, far from the reaches of technology, when food company JBS USA experienced a cyberattack in 2021. She was close enough to civilization, however, to get an emergency call from the company’s chief information officer. “I had to interrupt him,” says Pryor, who’s the general counsel for the company. “‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying. Are you saying we were cyberattacked?’”
With business operations set to resume in two days, Pryor and her coworkers quickly searched for solutions to ensure JBS’ continued supply of food to its customers.
“We had to navigate it very quickly in order to ensure that our plants could keep running to avoid any impact to the company’s supply of food products to our customers and consumers throughout the United States and the world,” Pryor says. “It was extremely stressful.”
Her vacation was effectively canceled; she spent the rest of the weekend problem-solving over the phone and left early to attend an emergency meeting in the office on Memorial Day.
Pryor’s job hasn’t always been this stressful. When she first joined JBS USA in 2013 as associate counsel, she worked on a small team that encouraged her to learn the ins and outs of each division and department. “I started out in a smaller in-house legal team,” Pryor says. “I was lucky enough to work on some very big projects with senior executives.”
By embracing a service-oriented approach, Pryor elevated her craft and earned the trust of JBS USA leadership.
“Our legal department is a service department,” Kimberly Pryor says. “My team’s job is to serve the business. It’s not to create bureaucracy, but at the same time, we are here to make sure that we do things right, comply with all laws and regulations, provide quality products to our customers, and [provide] the opportunity of a better future for our employees.”
Delivering the best experience for teams at JBS requires Pryor to decide when to focus more on legal matters and compliance obligations.
“Obviously, with a smaller legal team, one of the challenges is not just being reactive or focusing solely on solving the immediate issues that come up, but to be proactive as well,” she says.
Dealing with pressing problems, of course, is a vital part of the job. “But you also have to be proactive in auditing to make sure that we’re constantly doing the right thing and acting in a compliant manner in a highly regulated industry,” she explains. “When you have operations in twenty-eight states and the laws are constantly changing, or you have new employees that have to be trained on what our policies are, we have to make sure that we’re consistently auditing, evaluating, and monitoring our business practices and giving our employees the tools they need to not only be compliant but also to succeed.”
Daniel Fetterman, a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres who represents JBS USA in antitrust and complex litigation matters, says, “Kim is a genuinely talented general counsel with an impressive ability to resolve the complex array of legal issues faced by JBS USA, one of America’s largest protein producers. She has done a tremendous job successfully navigating the company through challenging legal matters. It is a pleasure to work with a lawyer of her caliber.”
Before being named general counsel, Pryor received promotions to corporate counsel in 2016 and senior corporate counsel in 2018. By 2020, she was tackling more projects outside of her department. For example, she helped JBS USA launch its Hometown Strong program, a corporate social responsibility initiative that enacts community development projects throughout the United States.
“We collaborate with local governments and are investing $100 million to improve the communities in which our employees work, from education and recreation to healthcare and social services projects,” Pryor says. “JBS is investing in these communities in lasting and meaningful ways so that we’re able to positively impact our team members, their families, and their neighbors.”
Not only is JBS contributing to social programs but, according to Pryor, the company is also investing in the long-term sustainability of the environment. “We are the first in our industry to commit to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040,” Pryor says. “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. As one of the world’s leading food companies, JBS wants to be part of the solution by becoming net-zero by 2040. We are pursuing our mission of meeting the health and nutritional needs of the growing global population in a sustainable manner that preserves the planet’s resources for future generations.”
JBS takes its corporate responsibilities seriously, Kimberly Pryor notes. “When we can and where we can, we capitalize on our footprint and on our resources in order to do good and to do those environmental and social initiatives that others may not be able to do.”