Investor's Corner

Tesla’s general counsel departs after short tenure; veteran employee takes over

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has stated on Wednesday that the its general counsel, Dane Butswinkas, is leaving the company to return full-time to his private practice at Williams & Connolly, effective immediately. The trial lawyer would be replaced by Jonathan Chang, a nearly eight-year Tesla veteran who is serving as a vice president in the company’s legal department.

In a statement about his departure, Butswinkas noted that while he is departing from his post as general counsel, he is looking forward to working with Tesla as an outside counsel.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity over the past seven months to have worked with both Elon and Tesla, first as outside counsel and most recently as general counsel. I am returning to my home in Washington, D.C., and to my trial practice at Williams & Connolly. I look forward to continuing my work with Tesla in an outside counsel role,” he said.

Having been hired early December 2018, Dane Butswinkas’ tenure as Tesla’s general counsel was short-lived. He took over the role following the departure of former general counsel Todd Maron, who led Tesla’s legal department for five years. When the trial lawyer’s appointment was announced, Tesla noted that Maron would remain until January 2019 to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities to Butswinkas. Tesla, for its part, is yet to issue a statement if Maron was involved with the selection of Jonathan Chang as Butswinkas’ replacement.

Overall, the appointment of the veteran Jonathan Chang as general counsel shows some parallels to Tesla’s selection of Zach Kirkhorn as a replacement for outgoing CFO Deepak Ahuja, who is retiring for the second time after returning to the electric car maker in 2017. Kirkhorn is a longtime Tesla employee, having been with the company since the days of the original Roadster. Chang, for his part, has been with the company since 2011. Prior to his employment with Tesla, he was already an outside counsel from law firm Latham & Watkins.

Following Elon Musk’s run-in with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, Tesla has seen a number of executive shakeups. Last November, Robyn Denholm from Telstra was hired as Tesla’s new Chair, replacing the outgoing Elon Musk, who was required by the SEC to step down from his Chairman post. New board members Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Global Chief Human Resources Officer Kathleen Wilson-Thompson also joined the company as new independent directors late December.

As of writing, Tesla shares are trading down 0.09% at $305.35 per share.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

Tesla’s general counsel departs after short tenure; veteran employee takes over
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