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Self-Driving Truck Maker TuSimple Hires Ex-FMCSA Chief Mullen

Oct. 1, 2020, 5:28 PM

TuSimple Inc. has hired former Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration official James Mullen as its new chief legal and risk officer.

The San Diego-based self-driving truck startup, which is backed by China’s Sina Corp., announced Mullen’s hire Sept. 30. Mullen, who was the FMCSA’s acting administrator and top lawyer, will oversee legal affairs and risk management strategy for TuSimple.

The Transportation Department confirmed in August that Mullen would leave the FMCSA at the end of that month. He is replaced by newly installed deputy administrator James “Wiley” Deck, a non-lawyer former senior policy adviser to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Mullen, who spent a decade as general counsel for Omaha-based trucking company Werner Enterprises Inc., joined the FMCSA as chief counsel in 2018. He was promoted to deputy administrator and interim leader a year ago this month after former FMCSA chief Raymond Martinez stepped down.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jim to the TuSimple team,” said a statement from company president Cheng Lu. The company said Mullen’s 15 years of trucking industry expertise will help it explore public and private partnerships for autonomous operations.

Going Long-Haul

TuSimple is working on bringing to market autonomous driving technology for long-haul trucks by 2024. During Mullen’s time at the FMCSA, the Transportation Department introduced protocols designed to increase cooperation among government and business leaders for the testing of automated vehicles.

The company under a pilot program with the U.S. Postal Service has used its self-driving technology to carry mail between Phoenix and Dallas. TuSimple’s fleet was covered by CBS’ “60 Minutes” earlier this year in a story looking at the future of the trucking industry, which according to Bloomberg News has a number of startups vying for investor dollars.

Mullen didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about his new role at TuSimple. The company currently employs former Duane Morris and Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear litigator Paul Liu as its global head of intellectual property and attorney Xin Zhao as a commercial contract manager, according to their LinkedIn profiles and State Bar of California records. Both are based in San Diego.

More Motor Moves

Other notable automotive industry in-house additions in recent months include:

  • Omnitracs LLC, a Dallas-based truck fleet management and logistics company, announced June 16 its addition of Paul Kirkpatrick as chief legal officer. Kirkpatrick spent the past six-and-a-half years as general counsel and corporate secretary for Irving, Texas-based Commercial Metals Co. He replaces David Arnold, who left Omnitracs in February after a half-dozen years as legal chief.
  • Daimler AG, the German auto giant that owns Mercedes-Benz AG, announced June 2 that Wolfgang Bartels would replace Olaf Schick as its new compliance chief July 1. Bartels has served as head of Mercedes’ legal department since March 2019. Daimler disclosed in March that Schick, a former associate at Dewey & LeBoeuf and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, would become head of finance and controlling for the Greater China region.
  • Camping World Holdings Inc., the world’s largest outdoor and recreational vehicle company, promoted longtime assistant general counsel Lindsey Christen to general counsel and corporate secretary June 1. Camping World paid $1.6 million in total compensation last year—$715,000 in cash—to its former chief legal officer, Brent Moody, who became president of the company in late 2018.
  • Womble Bond Dickinson announced June 1 its hire of a new general counsel in Eric McCarthy, who spent nearly seven years serving as general counsel and senior vice president of government relations, public policy, and legal affairs at zero-emission bus manufacturer Proterra Inc. McCarthy was previously an antitrust litigation partner at Howrey and Latham & Watkins. He takes over from Womble general counsel G. Michael Barnhill, who has returned to his business litigation practice in Charlotte.
  • Tesla’s ranks of former in-house counsel have grown again as former deputy general counsel Jonathan Butler was announced May 19 as the new general counsel for Lucid Motors Inc., whose CEO is a former Tesla engineer. The Newark, Calif.-based electric car company, once known as Atieva USA Inc., unveiled plans for its new Air sedan in September. Lucid is backed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co. and LG Chem Ltd.
  • Adient plc, the world’s largest automobile seat manufacturer, hired Baker & Hostetler partner Stephen Fabry earlier this year as executive director for global intellectual property. Fabry spent almost the past 19 years working out of Baker & Hostetler’s IP, information technology, and transactions group in Washington. Plymouth, Mich.-based Adient, which in April beat securities fraud claims related to a spin-off of its former metals division, is a former subsidiary of Johnson Controls International PLC.

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

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