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Snap General Counsel’s Pay Package Dips 15% as Hiring Continues

Feb. 9, 2021, 12:15 AM

Snap Inc. General Counsel Michael O’Sullivan’s pay package dip nearly 15% last year because of his stock grants, per an annual proxy statement filed by the company.

The Snapchat owner awarded more than $7.7 million in total compensation to O’Sullivan, down from nearly $9.1 million in 2019. The disparity is attributable to different vesting periods for the stock grants he received in 2019 and 2020, according to Snap’s proxy, as well as the company’s changing stock price.

Snap stock hit a 52-week low of $7.89 a share March 18, 2020, before closing at a high for the past year at $64.44 on Feb. 5, according to Bloomberg data. Snap’s share price slipped briefly last week after the company disclosed potential future threats to its business.

Snap’s top lawyer also had more than $6.8 million in stock grants in 2020, a reduction from the almost $8.6 million he had the year before. O’Sullivan’s $500,000 base salary remained the same last year. He also received a $400,000 bonus, bringing his total cash compensation to $900,000.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Snap declined to discuss O’Sullivan’s 2020 pay beyond what the company disclosed in its proxy.

O’Sullivan owns almost $87 million in Snap stock, according to Bloomberg data. Within the last year, he sold nearly $9 million of the stock, a sum not reflected in his 2020 remuneration since it was awarded in previous fiscal years.

O’Sullivan took over as the company’s legal chief in 2017 after working as a corporate and securities partner for Munger, Tolles & Olson, which has close ties to Snap.

The law firm is currently representing the company in a trade secrets dispute with You Map Inc. Munger Tolles partner John Spiegel, a Los Angeles-based litigator, is also the father of Snap co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel.

Spiegel’s stepmother is Debra Wong Yang, a former top federal prosecutor for the Central District of California who is now serving as a member of the executive committee at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Yang, who is based in Los Angeles, also chairs Gibson Dunn’s crisis management practice.

Snap disclosed in its proxy filed last week that it paid nearly $945,000 in legal fees last year to Munger Tolles and almost $120,000 to Gibson Dunn. Snap noted that Yang has done legal work for the company but that Munger Tolles’ John Spiegel “has not personally provided any material legal services to us.”

Legal Support

The most recent proxy filed by Snap states that it faces an unpredictable 2021, in part due to risks that could affect the company’s advertising growth stemming from data collection requirements for iPhones implemented by Apple Inc.

While Snap isn’t yet able to estimate the impact from Apple’s new privacy rules, the company has committed itself to working with the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology company, unlike social media rival Facebook Inc., whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg threatened Apple with an antitrust lawsuit in January.

Separately, Snap confirmed it has openings for 11 in-house legal roles and that it added at least a dozen lawyers last year and in early 2021.

In January, Snap brought on former Facebook assistant general counsel for law enforcement and security Jaron Shipp to serve as an associate general counsel for privacy, law enforcement, and platform integrity.

Snap, like other social media companies, often works with law enforcement and other government officials seeking user data.

Snap also added David Brightman, who joined the company as an associate general counsel for intellectual property litigation and transactions. Brightman spent a decade at Yahoo! Inc., where he was chief counsel for patent litigation and conflict management. Snap has several patent cases on its litigation docket.

Other new legal recurits by Snap last year include privacy and product counsel Lyric Kaplan, senior employment counsel Amber Grayhorse, trade counsel Heather Sroka, and California head of public policy Henry “Hank” Dempsey. Snap also hired Sheena Loren Ferrari in May to serve as its head of global legal operations.

Ferrari, who is not a lawyer, had previously held a similar role at Fitbit Inc. prior to its $2.1 billion sale to Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which closed last month.

Snap joined other social media companies in removing President Donald Trump from its platform following the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill. The company was a step ahead of its competitors last summer in limiting Trump’s presence on its channels.

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 in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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