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TikTok Tallies Up Litigators, Policy Pros for Trump Fight

Sept. 9, 2020, 2:23 PM

Embattled Chinese social media sensation TikTok Inc. has hired a new litigation chief as the company mulls a potential sale of its U.S. operations and fights the Trump administration in court.

Emily Stubbs joined TikTok and its parent, Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., in August as global head of litigation, according to her LinkedIn profile and lawyers familiar with company matters. She was most recently a senior vice president of litigation and intellectual property at ViacomCBS Inc., which confirmed her departure.

Stubbs didn’t respond to requests for comment about her new role at one of the world’s most valuable startups.

She is one of at least a dozen U.S. lawyers to join TikTok this year under Erich Andersen, a former corporate vice president and chief IP counsel at Microsoft Corp. who was hired in January as global general counsel.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner Anthony Weibell, who is handling privacy litigation for TikTok, told Bloomberg Law in an email that Andersen and Stubbs are “excellent additions” to the legal departments of TikTok and ByteDance.

“Given the intense legal scrutiny currently being directed at all social media tech giants, it is vital for such companies to recruit top legal talent to help them navigate these perilous waters, especially in areas of consumer privacy and data security,” Weibell said.

Andersen didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment, nor did several TikTok media representatives.

In recent days, Andersen and other top TikTok executives held a town hall to reassure employees their jobs are safe as suitors circle the company, according to Bloomberg News. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, hired from the Walt Disney Co. in May as part of an effort by ByteDance to ease concerns by U.S. officials that its subsidiary poses a national security threat, resigned Aug. 26.

The legal and public policy team Mayer left behind is scrambling to contend with an executive order by President Donald Trump barring U.S. residents from doing business with TikTok, which is now entertaining bids from several potential buyers.

TikTok’s Team

Stubbs parted ways with ViacomCBS earlier this year following the completion of a merger reuniting its legacy legal departments, said Justin Dini, a spokesman for the New York-based media giant.

Christa D’Alimonte, a former general counsel at Viacom who now heads the combined company’s legal group, declined to discuss Stubbs, who joined Viacom in 2015 after serving as a litigation partner at New York’s Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman. Naomi Waltman, a former associate general counsel for litigation at CBS, has taken over as head of global litigation for ViacomCBS.

Aside from Stubbs and Andersen, within the past eight months TikTok and ByteDance have hired at least 60 lawyers, compliance experts, and public policy professionals around the world, according to an analysis of LinkedIn profiles and state and foreign bar directories.

More than a dozen of those individuals are based in the U.S., mostly in Culver City, Calif., Mountain View, Calif., New York, and Washington, where TikTok faces scrutiny over its data privacy practices and a growing docket of patent lawsuits.

TikTok and ByteDance, which over the past year have been busy recruiting from large technology companies like Facebook Inc., brought on Alexander Chen in July to handle patent litigation, licensing, strategy, and acquisitions, per his LinkedIn profile.

The former principal patent counsel at Disney and chief patent counsel at HTC Corp. joined TikTok after spending nearly the past two years as an associate general counsel for patents at Facebook. He didn’t respond to a request for comment about his new role at TikTok, which was confirmed by a colleague.

TikTok’s new U.S. legal leadership appears to be tweaking its outside counsel roster.

Court filings show that Yar Chaikovsky, a go-to patent litigator, and other lawyers from Paul Hastings entered appearances last week on behalf of TikTok in a digital photography patent dispute.

In another patent infringement case filed against TikTok by Triller Inc., a rival video-sharing platform and potential bidder for the company’s U.S. assets, Fish & Richardson will soon take over representation of the defendant from Texas-based Gillam & Smith, partner Melissa Smith told Bloomberg Law in an email.

Public Policy Push

In 2019, TikTok terminated its lobbying relationship with Covington & Burling, which was paid $140,000 to “provide advice on technology policy issues,” per public filings.

But while TikTok shifted its lobbying budget to other firms—K&L Gates has received $80,000 from the company this year to advocate on “issues related to internet companies”—Covington has remained in its orbit.

Covington, which has close ties to Microsoft, a bidder for TikTok and Andersen’s former employer, is now representing TikTok in its challenge of the Trump administration’s executive order.

TikTok’s Washington-based legal and lobbying team got a boost this summer by bringing on public policy counsel Carolyn Lowry, a former associate at K&L Gates and Nixon Peabody, and privacy counsel Dayo Simms, a former associate counsel for privacy at Uber Technologies Inc.

Lisa Hayes joined TikTok in June as senior counsel and director of technology policy after serving as general counsel, corporate secretary, vice president of strategy, and interim CEO for the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

She left the technology-focused nonprofit after it named a new president and CEO in Alexandra Reeve Givens, a former Cravath, Swaine & Moore associate and daughter of the late Christopher Reeve. Hayes, who CDT tax filings show earned $227,335 from the organization in 2018, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

David Lieber, who spent a decade at Google LLC before TikTok hired him as a director and privacy policy counsel, also didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“Transparency is a core value at TikTok, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help tell that story,” Lieber wrote in a July 29 tweet touting his move.

An online jobs portal for TikTok shows openings for roughly 15 other in-house legal and regulatory roles in Berlin, Dubai, Dublin, London, Los Angeles, and Singapore.

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

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