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Musk Twitter Deal Points to End of Cooley, Perkins Coie Ties (1)

Oct. 28, 2022, 8:51 PMUpdated: Oct. 28, 2022, 9:43 PM

Twitter Inc. is likely to cut ties with outside law firms Cooley and Perkins Coie now that Elon Musk owns the company.

Cooley landed in Musk’s crosshairs for refusing his directive to fire an associate at the firm. He’s targeted Perkins Coie over the firm’s work for the Democratic National Committee and Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Musk in a May 20 tweet singled out the firms as “white shoe lawyers” who “thrive on corruption.” Twitter didn’t respond to a comment request and Cooley and Perkins Coie declined to comment.

Musk isn’t likely to continue the relationship with the two firms given his penchant for ditching lawyers, even though Cooley and Perkins Coie lawyers have “tough skin” and “may be willing to let bygones be bygones,” said Eric Talley, a corporate law professor at Columbia University.

Musk took control of Twitter on Thursday, ending a more than six-month saga, and promptly started cutting executives. He pushed out Vijaya Gadde, the head of legal, policy and trust, and Sean Edgett, the general counsel, along with Parag Agrawal, the chief executive officer, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“It’s not terribly surprising that he decided to make quick and wholesale changes,” Talley said. “He spent the last six months bashing the incumbents, which makes it a difficult proposition to then try to turn around and work with them.”

Falling Out

Cooley has worked for Twitter since at least 2016, when it was hired to defend the company in a lawsuit over its initial public offering. The firm’s lawyers advised the company last year on a nearly $810 million settlement in an investor class action.

The Cooley lawyer Musk wanted the firm to fire had been part of a Securities and Exchange Commission probe of Tesla Inc., where Musk is also CEO, before joining the law firm. The investigation ended with Tesla agreeing to pay a $40 million settlement.

When Cooley refused to fire the lawyer, Tesla and Musk-helmed SpaceX reportedly stopped sending work to the firm.

Perkins Coie litigators have been representing Twitter in federal court since shortly after the company was founded in 2006. In July, Perkins Coie advised Twitter on a failed California patent lawsuit.

Former Perkins Coie partner Michael Sussmann was accused of lying to the FBI for not disclosing that he worked for the Clinton campaign when he gave federal agents evidence of a supposed link between then Republican nominee Donald Trump and a Russian bank.

Sussmann was found not guilty following a trial in May, but Musk has called the Russian link information a “hoax” perpetrated by the Clinton campaign and its lawyer.

Rotating Lawyers

Musk frequently cycles through outside firms and in-house lawyers at Tesla, which has had at least four legal chiefs since December 2019.

His Tweet slamming Cooley and Perkins Coie came in a thread in which he announced that Tesla would bring more courtroom work in-house with a “hardcore litigation department” reporting directly to him. Tesla in August hired New York trial lawyer Adam Mehes for the group.

Heavyweight litigation firm Quinn Emanuel has emerged as Musk’s favorite for outside legal counsel.

The firm represents Musk in a lawsuit against the SEC to get him out of his agreement to have a Tesla lawyer screen all his company-related tweets. Quinn Emanuel is also defending Musk in a class action over a 2018 tweet in which he claimed he secured funding to take Tesla private.

Quinn lawyers also represented Musk in the recent court battle with Twitter, which started when Musk said he was backing out of the deal to buy the company and ended with him completing the purchase. Elite Wall Street law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz represented Twitter.

—With assistance from Brian Baxter, Justin Wise, Ed Ludlow and Maxwell Adler

(Updated with additional information on Cooley probe.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com