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Wake Up Call: Airbnb Names Top Legal Officer Johnson as COO

Feb. 2, 2018, 2:40 PM

• In a shakeup at the top, Airbnb named its top legal officer, Belinda Johnson, to be its new chief operating officer, making her one of the Silicon Valley’s most powerful women. A current PayPal board member and former deputy general counsel at Yahoo Inc. and GC at, Johnson was earlier a litigation associate a Littler Mendelson. ( Bloomberg ) ( Linkedin )

• President Donald Trump accused top leaders at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department of politicizing investigations ahead of the release of a Republican memo that argues the agencies abused surveillance powers in probing Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential race. ( Bloomberg ) ( Washington Post ) Why all the buzz about a memo? A Q&A. ( Bloomberg )

• Three lawyers for Paul Manafort’s co-defendant, Rick Gates, told a court they want to quit in the criminal money-laundering conspiracy case, raising the possibility of a defense strategy shift and cooperation with Mueller’s investigation. ( Bloomberg )

• Top Democrats demanded answers from the Labor Department after Bloomberg Law reported that department leadership scrubbed an unfavorable internal analysis from a controversial new tip pooling proposal in order to hide estimates that employers could potentially pocket billions of dollars of tips intended for their workers. ( Bloomberg Law )

• After about a century and half of business, Shearman & Sterling found its storied history wasn’t so relevant to clients in today’s crowded legal market. So, after a three-year rebranding effort, it unveiled a new logo and website. ( BLB )

Law Firm Business

• Winston & Strawn snapped up eight energy and infrastructure lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright in Houston, New York, and Washington, D.C., and more than a dozen more lawyers from the same practice at Norton Rose may soon follow those. ( American Lawyer )

• IP attorney Brian Paul Gearing left Kirkland & Ellis in New York to join Crowell & Moring as a partner in the same city. And more recent personnel changes and news from prominent intellectual property law firms and organizations. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• Cozen O’Connor said tax attorney James W. Forsyth joined its tax practice as a senior counsel in Pennsylvania, the 30th attorney it has bagged from Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC in Pennsylvania in nine months. ( )

• Morgan Lewis said it hired two partners from Baker & Hostetler. Sameer Mohan comes as an M&A and corporate partner in Houston, expanding its services to energy and healthcare clients involved in complex domestic and cross-border transactions. Litigation partner Geraldine Edens joins Morgan Lewis’ Washington, D.C., office, where she focuses mainly on environmental and administrative law issues as well as healthcare clients in complex administrative agency litigation. ( )

• Cooley said it expanded its U.K. office with veteran M&A partner Michal Berkner, who is licensed in the United States and England and Wales and leads in cross-border deals. She leaves Skadden after more than 20 years there. ( )

Legal Market

• Uber Technologies Inc. has spent much of the past year cleaning up the legal and other messes left behind by co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. As Waymo’s $1.9 billion trade-secrets lawsuit against Uber goes to trial on Feb. 5, Uber’s new leaders will need Kalanick as a star witness. ( Bloomberg Businessweek )

• When the Major League Baseball season opens on March 29, all 30 teams will have extended netting in place to protect fans from foul balls and broken bats. That’s largely due to the efforts of a real estate company general counsel who sued the New York Yankees after getting hit by a line drive at Yankee stadium. ( Bloomberg View )

• Major Wall Street biggest banks asked a federal judge to throw out an antitrust lawsuit alleging they conspired to keep the U.S. stock-loan market “in the Stone Age.” ( Bloomberg )

• Once famous for great management, General Electric is facing a plunging share price, a federal investigation, and possible breakup. ( Bloomberg Businessweek )

Blockchains, Crypto-currency

• A major Bitcoin Conference rented a Miami strip club for its networking event, and regretted it. ( Bloomberg )

• The second major theft of virtual currency in Japan is spurring lawmakers and the industry to question the ability of the country’s regulators to oversee the fast-and-loose tendencies of the crypto-trading world. ( Bloomberg )

• China’s clampdown on its crypto industry is sending so-called crypto miners scurrying to Canada. ( Bloomberg )

• Blockchain gaming adds a new wrinkle to legal debate over whether in-game prizes can be considered items of value for gambling law purposes. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• Blockchain can help government reduce costs and operate more securely, but it isn’t ready for widespread government use, according to an Illinois government report. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

Legal Actions

• With the Super Bowl coming up, a look at lawsuits around National Football League, its players and fans. ( )

• For decades debate over sports-related brain injuries has centered on concussions, but new research linking less severe head impacts to neurological diseases promises to reorient that discussion—and league liability, lawyers said. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• Deutsche Bank AG agreed to pay $70 million to settle a U.S. regulator’s claims its traders sought to manipulate an arcane, but important, benchmark for interest-rate derivatives and other financial instruments. ( Bloomberg )

• A former Morgan Stanley wealth manager sued the bank for racial bias, alleging he was terminated following a “campaign of harassment,” even after the settlement a decade ago of a class-action discrimination lawsuit. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• In a novel ruling, the Delaware Chancery Court ruled that a C&J Energy Services shareholder can’t recover a $5 million attorneys’ fee award from the estate of the company’s former CEO and chairman. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• A Georgia attorney who asked a mother to recant an eyewitness account of her son’s molestation gave up his law license after pleading guilty to felony witness tampering and attempting to suborn perjury. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

Regulators and Enforcement

• The Justice Department’s top antitrust official, Makan Delrahim, used a Beijing speech to urge his Chinese counterparts to think carefully about using their powers to curb intellectual property licensing. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• The Justice Department closed an access-to-justice office that was created under the Obama administration. ( New York Times )

Compiled by Rick Mitchell and edited by Casey Sullivan.