Desiree Ann Ralls-Morrison: How the McDonald’s EVP’s career exemplifies Black progression in corporate America

BY Nii Ntreh July 5, 2024 8:27 AM EDT
Desiree Ralls Morrison of McDonald's.

It is perhaps an indictment of a system where we can only greet anecdotes and isolated successes with glee. But on the brighter side, the progress of Black men and women in corporate America is still a source of great inspiration for many persons of color across the country.

Desiree Ann Ralls-Morrison joined McDonald’s in 2021, assuming the role of Executive Vice President (EVP), Chief Legal Officer, and Corporate Secretary. Her appointment was not only a testament to her legal expertise but her strategic visionary leadership as well. These qualities will be pertinent in propelling McDonald’s reshaping the perception of legal counsel in the ever-changing corporate landscape.

In recognition of her exceptional contributions, Ralls-Morrison received a comprehensive annual compensation package totaling $4,775,747 from the fast food chain in 2022. This package includes a base salary of $800,000 and a performance-based short-term incentive of $1,106,316. The latter is a direct reflection of her instrumental role in leading McDonald’s toward remarkable financial achievements throughout the year.

Furthermore, Ralls-Morrison also earned a stock and option award amounting to $2,400,235, a non-equity incentive of $1,106,316, and additional minor accruals totaling $469,196, highlighting her unwavering dedication and expertise as a seasoned corporate executive.

Despite the ongoing volatility in various parts of the world, McDonald’s achieved remarkable performance and robust growth in 2022. Her role in overseeing global legal operations and corporate governance played a significant role in McDonald’s operational and financial success. As a result, the company recorded a full-year revenue of $23.2 billion and achieved record Systemwide sales of $118.2 billion.

The 54-year-old holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She embarked on her professional journey in 1997 as an Assistant Counsel at Merck & Co., Inc. Later, in 2005, she joined Johnson & Johnson as the General Counsel for the Consumer Group.

After leaving Johnson & Johnson in 2013, Ralls-Morrison joined Boehringer Ingelheim USA, Inc., where she served as the General Counsel until 2017. Subsequently, she moved to Boston Scientific Corporation, assuming the roles of General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. In 2021, she joined McDonald’s, bringing her expertise and experience to the legal and corporate affairs of the company.

She has achieved numerous notable accomplishments throughout her career. In 2019, she was recognized as one of the most powerful women in corporate America by Black Enterprise magazine. Additionally, in 2020, the Financial Times acknowledged her as one of the top innovative General Counsels worldwide. Ralls-Morrison played a pivotal role in transforming the legal department cultures, transitioning them from technical experts to business leaders with comprehensive legal expertise. This transformation enabled the department to effectively support the business in achieving its objectives while ensuring compliance. She skillfully led complex stakeholder negotiations, guiding and safeguarding companies through various business challenges. Moreover, Ralls-Morrison actively addressed racial equity and social justice issues, making a positive impact on employees, the company, and the communities it serves.

She resides in Chicago with her husband and two sons, currently attending college. In her leisure time, she enjoys exercising, reading, and eating dark chocolate. Her favorite McDonald’s menu item is the Egg McMuffin (without the Canadian bacon).