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Block’s Top Lawyer Sivan Whiteley Steps Aside for Ex-Deputy (2)

Jan. 13, 2023, 4:46 PMUpdated: Jan. 13, 2023, 8:20 PM

Block Inc., a digital payments platform involved in a court battle over its new name, will see its top lawyer Sivan Whiteley step down next month.

Whiteley has spent the past decade working at Block and predecessor Square. She will resign as chief legal officer and corporate secretary as of Feb. 16, according to a securities filing.

Block has promoted its general counsel Christine “Chrysty” Esperanza to succeed Whiteley as interim legal chief when she leaves in five weeks. Esperanza had previously been a deputy general counsel at Square, where she reported to Whiteley.

The company, led by cofounder billionaire Jack Dorsey, said in the late Thursday filing that Whiteley “provided significant contributions” during her tenure.

The changing of the legal guard comes as Block continues to fight a trademark lawsuit filed against the company by tax preparation giant H&R Block Inc. Block rebranded itself from Square in late 2021 to expand beyond its main payments products business into new areas like blockchain, cash transfers, and music.

Whiteley will continue to provide “transition support and advisory services” to Block through April 7, the company said. She plans to take the rest of the year off before deciding on her next endeavor.

Last year Whiteley joined the board of LegalZoom Inc., a legal technology company. Non-employee directors are eligible for a $35,000 annual retainer, in addition to other cash benefits and stock, according to the company’s most recent proxy filing.

Block disclosed in a separate proxy filing last year that it gave Whiteley a pay package valued at more than $7.5 million in 2021. She served as general counsel of Square since 2018 and was appointed Block’s legal chief in December 2021.

H&R Block claimed in its trademark action that Block is a direct competitor due to its acquisition of Credit Karma Tax in 2020. Block, represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Armstrong Teasdale, appealed a temporary injunction won by H&R Block last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Debevoise & Plimpton and Kansas City, Mo.-based litigation boutique Berkowitz Oliver are advising H&R Block in the dispute. The Eighth Circuit heard arguments in September from H&R Block seeking to ban Block from using its corporate name for its Cash App mobile payments service.

Block, which in court papers has said it’s not a business itself but a parent company, has several subsidiaries. They include Cash App, Square, a cryptocurrency division called TBD, and Tidal, a music-streaming service in which it took a majority stake in early 2021. Block also last year adopted a distributed workforce model.

(Adds detail on Block. A prior update included background on Whiteley.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com