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Musk’s ‘Hardcore’ Tesla Litigation Team Adds Manhattan Lawyer

Aug. 30, 2022, 4:45 PM

Tesla Inc. has hired New York trial lawyer Adam Mehes, three months after its top executive Elon Musk vowed to build an in-house litigation team for the electric vehicle manufacturer.

Mehes joined Tesla this month as an associate general counsel for litigation in Austin, Texas, according to his LinkedIn profile and registration with the New York State Unified Court System. He most recently was a litigation counsel at Wall Street law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. A source familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed his departure for Tesla.

Tesla and Mehes didn’t respond to comment requests.

The hire comes as Musk and Twitter Inc. prepare for a showdown over the Tesla titan’s aborted $44 billion takeover of the San Francisco-based company. Musk’s outside legal team—which is not affiliated with Tesla—is hoping to use a Twitter whistle-blower’s accusations to scuttle his bid.

Musk took to Twitter’s social media platform in May to solicit resumes for a Tesla “hardcore litigation department” reporting directly to him. Musk said via tweet he was “out for blood” and wanted “streetfighters” to “initiate & execute lawsuits.”

Twitter Fight

Mehes has spent the past decade working in Davis Polk’s litigation group in New York and was promoted to counsel in late 2019. He focused on complex civil litigation and international arbitration, and during his time in private practice primarily represented Bank of America Corp., according to Bloomberg Law data.

Bank of America is one of several major banks subpoenaed by Twitter for records in its lawsuit against Musk. Both sides are preparing for a mid-October trial in a Delaware court as Twitter seeks to force Musk to complete the buyout.

Davis Polk advised the banking syndicate that helped secure $25.5 billion in financing to support Musk’s bid for Twitter. The Tesla co-founder also pledged $21 billion in equity. Musk, the world’s wealthiest man with an estimated $259 billion fortune, this month sold off $6.9 billion in Tesla stock to shore up his cash reserves.

Chinese technology giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. turned to Davis Polk in 2017 for outside counsel on its $1.8 billion investment in Tesla.

Musk and Davis Polk are also facing off in court. The firm is representing JPMorgan Chase & Co. in a $162 million lawsuit filed by the financial services giant against Tesla late last year over a series of stock warrant transactions related to Musk’s attempt to take the automaker private in 2018. Tesla countersued JPMorgan in January.

A team of lawyers from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, including partner Alex Spiro, who is advising Musk in his dispute with Twitter, are also counseling Tesla in that case in a New York federal court. JPMorgan and the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are serving as financial advisers to Twitter on its potential sale to Musk.

Legal Moves

Tesla has sought to restock an in-house legal bench following a string of departures.

Those exits include the company’s most recent acting head of legal, David Searle, who resigned from his position and was succeeded by Dinna Eskin, a deputy general counsel for Tesla’s real estate, infrastructure, and capital expenditure teams.

Eskin signed a cease-and-desist letter sent by Tesla earlier this month to the Dawn Project, a safety advocacy group founded by Dan O’Dowd, a prominent Musk critic and software executive who recently sought a seat in California’s Senate.

PODCAST: Why Can’t Tesla Keep Its Top Lawyer?

An online jobs board at Tesla currently lists openings for nearly two-dozen legal and government affairs positions in Fremont, Calif., and Austin, where the automaker moved its headquarters last year. The listings include a senior litigation counsel, managing litigation counsel, and senior counsel for employment litigation.

The company also saw a pair of lawyers from its corporate group depart within the last month in Austin Marsh and Wyatt Littles.

Littles and Marsh didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Marsh was a senior corporate counsel who joined Tesla in 2019 after almost five years as an associate at Morrison & Foerster. Littles, who served as corporate counsel at Tesla, joined the company in late 2020 after spending nearly two years at WeWork Inc. He previously was an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

Littles has landed a new job as senior associate counsel for Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins, according to his LinkedIn profile and the team’s website. He thanked his former Tesla colleagues in a statement posted to LinkedIn earlier this month that said “pursuing a career in professional sports” has been a personal goal.

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