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Clubhouse Recruits Pinterest Lawyer After App’s Fast Growth (1)

Oct. 26, 2021, 9:55 AMUpdated: Oct. 26, 2021, 9:13 PM

Anthony Falzone, deputy general counsel at Pinterest Inc., has joined Clubhouse as the social media company’s new top lawyer.

Falzone started the new role this month, according to his LinkedIn profile. The privately held Clubhouse, valued at $4 billion earlier this year, is owned by Alpha Exploration Co.

Clubhouse, in a statement provided to Bloomberg Law by company spokeswoman Reema Bahnasy, confirmed Falzone’s hire.

“Anthony believes there is a real opportunity to democratize distribution of content and help people find their voice—and wants to help build Clubhouse up to its potential,” Bahnasy said. “Having helped build Pinterest from its earliest days, he loves empowering creators and representing artists to help them protect their freedom over intellectual property and self-expression.”

Falzone joins a San Francisco-based startup that has drawn both controversy and praise since its co-founder and current CEO Paul Davison launched the app in early 2020, just before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The audio-focused conversational format of Clubhouse has become popular with professionals and competitors. Twitter sought to buy Clubhouse for $4 billion earlier this year, according to Bloomberg News.

Falzone didn’t respond to a request for comment about his hire. Nor did Mackenzie Tudor, a former Latham & Watkins associate and diversity and inclusion advocate, who joined Clubhouse earlier this year in an operations and policy role.

Pinterest and its general counsel, Christine Flores, also didn’t respond to requests for comment about Falzone’s replacement at the image sharing social media service. San Francisco-based Pinterest raided Twitter Inc. in January for Michele Lee, who now serves as its head of global litigation, regulatory, and enforcement.

At Pinterest, Falzone spent more than nine years as deputy general counsel, a role that saw him handle intellectual property, litigation, employment, data privacy, and international corporate work. He was also a member of the board of directors for Pinterest’s European unit and served as its data protection officer.

Falzone is joining Clubhouse at a time when the company faces its own legal issues.

In August, the company settled a trademark dispute over its name with SBS Consulting Group LLC. That matter saw Goodwin Procter and Ballard Spahr represent Clubhouse. Goodwin, which was lead counsel to the company, has also been handling other intellectual property matters for Clubhouse.

Bloomberg News has reported that regulators in France and Germany are looking into whether Clubhouse is complying with European data privacy rules, as well as whether a Chinese partner to the company has access to audio files.

Those security concerns led Clubhouse to state publicly in February that it was taking steps to protect user data.

Two months later, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has provided much of the capital that has helped fuel Clubhouse’s dramatic rise, took the lead on a Series C fundraising round by the company valuing it at $4 billion.

Davison, Clubhouse’s CEO, recently spoke with Bloomberg Television about the company’s growth over the last year.

“Boy, I think we grew way, way too fast earlier in the year,” said Davison, himself a former Pinterest executive.

Falzone, a former partner at now-defunct Bingham McCutchen and its San Francisco-based predecessor McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, joined Pinterest in 2012.

Prior to Pinterest, Falzone was a lecturer at Stanford Law School and lead counsel in copyright and First Amendment cases in trial and appellate courts across the U.S., according to Clubhouse. The company noted his work arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Holder, a 2011 case over copyrights in the public domain.

At the time, Falzone was executive director for the Center for Internet and Society’s Fair Use Project at Stanford University. Falzone is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

The Juris Collective, an invitation-only community of law department leaders at some of the largest U.S. companies, congratulated Falzone via LinkedIn last week on his new in-house legal appointment at Clubhouse.

Misha Sobolev, an adviser to the Juris Collective, told Bloomberg Law in an email that his group has more than 750 members, although Falzone isn’t yet one of them.

Falzone has publicly affirmed the merits of in-house legal leaders making it a priority to immerse themselves in the products of the technology businesses they serve.

“Once you’ve taken the time to understand how the pieces fit together it can be really powerful because it will buy you credibility with people who might not listen to you,” Falzone told trade publication Corporate Counsel in 2018.

Falzone’s hire comes on the heels of other social media and entertainment companies bringing on in-house legal talent. Spotify Technology SA, which ramped up its hiring efforts this year to challenge Clubhouse and acquired a competitor to the company in March, recently hired a new public policy chief.

Facebook Inc., a social media giant that’s expanded into audio, in part to compete with Clubhouse, named its first-ever chief compliance officer in January. TikTok Inc., a Chinese-owned social networking service whose popularity has rivaled that of Clubhouse, brought on a new Americas legal chief this summer from Microsoft Corp.

(Additional information about Falzone's role at Stanford in the 18th paragraph.)

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

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

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