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Wake Up Call: Tesla Seeks ‘Hardcore’ Litigators, Musk Says

May 23, 2022, 12:45 PM

In today’s column, hit by criticism for supporting China’s Hong Kong crackdown, Davis Polk’s Asia chair dropped out of a national security forum sponsored by Hong Kong’s Department of Justice; convicted lawyer Michael Avenatti, facing sentencing for a federal fraud conviction, reportedly apologized to his former client Stormy Daniels; Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner said it’s redesigning its partner-led model for allocating work in hopes of avoiding “unconscious bias.”

  • Leading off, hit by sexual harassment allegations last week, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk tweeted over the weekend that the company is building a “hardcore” litigation department that will directly initiate and execute lawsuits and report directly to him. Musk said the company is “looking for hardcore streetfighters, not white-shoe lawyers like Perkins or Cooley who thrive on corruption.” (Twitter)
  • Musk made the tweets as the stock-market value of his companies, and his own net worth, plunged by billions of dollars. (Business Insider) Musk also raised more questions about his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter Inc. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Davis Polk & Wardwell’s Asia chair, partner Martin Rogers, pulled out of a Hong Kong-government-sponsored forum on China’s national security law after he and his firm got slammed by criticism that he was participating in government propaganda. Rogers had previously praised the law, which has been used to crack down on press, lawyers, democracy advocates, and others, reports said. (Hong Kong Free Express) (Financial Times) (LinkedIn)
  • Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner said it’s redesigning its traditional partner-led model for allocating litigation work in some of its U.S. offices in an effort to avoid unconscious bias. The firm said the change aims to improve associate career development and follows a successful similar project in BCLP’s transaction practice in the UK and Europe. (American Lawyer)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • As courts around the country bring back in-person hearings, which the pandemic had caused to be suspended, some lawyers are saying they dread having to travel again just to make brief court appearances. (National Law Journal)
  • Michael Avenatti, facing sentencing after his conviction for defrauding his former client Stormy Daniels, reportedly apologized to the porn star in a letter submitted to a Manhattan federal court as part of his plea for leniency. (Associated Press)
  • The ousted ethics officer and investment compliance chief of the New York State Insurance Fund is suing the state, alleging she was fired in retaliation for filing an ethics complaint suggesting a colleague was improperly steering business to a Manhattan law firm. The ex-official wants her job back and $700,000 in back pay, this report says. (Times Union)
  • Baker Botts and Fox Rothschild represented Denver-based energy company BKV Corporation in its acquisition of natural gas upstream and associated midstream infrastructure in the Barnett Shale region of northern Texas from XTO Energy, Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corporation. The transaction, valued at around $750 million, is expected to close in the second quarter, according to a statement; Cooley said it advised auto-lending fintech company Caribou on its $115 million Series C funding. The round brings the company’s valuation to $1.1 billion. (GlobeNewswire)

Laterals, Moves, In-house

  • Cahill Gordon & Reindel grabbed Perkins Coie intellectual property lawyer Aarthi Anand as counsel in New York. She was earlier at JPMorgan Chase & Co. as vice president and assistant legal counsel. (Cahill.com) The head of UK real estate at PwC Legal, Amit Unadkat, reportedly jumped to big UK firm CMS. (Law.com International)
  • New York firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler hired experienced law firm administrator Kito Huggins as chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. He spent several years at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and arrives recently from communications and public affairs consultancy FGS Global, where he was managing director. (PBWT.com)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rMitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Darren Bowman at dbowman@bloomberglaw.com