Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Login
BROWSE
Bloomberg Law
Welcome
Login
Advanced Search Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Twitter Loss of More Than Half of Lawyers Brings Expertise Worry

Nov. 22, 2022, 10:52 PM

Twitter Inc. has lost more than half of its in-house lawyers, including several senior attorneys, raising concerns about the depth of legal knowledge that remains within the company, five people familiar with the matter said.

The exits, which have come during Elon Musk’s tumultuous overhaul of the company, leave just two deputy general counsel in leadership roles—head of litigation James Baker and international legal chief Regina Lima, according to those people.

Most of Twitter’s legal group—a team cheekily known as “Tweagle” to those that worked within it over the years—have been fired, laid off, or exited with a severance package after choosing not to commit to Musk’s new “hardcore” work environment at the San Francisco-based company, the people said.

The exact number of lawyers remaining at Twitter remains unclear following Musk’s $44 billion takeover. The legal unit had 150 to 200 employees before the departures.

The loss of so many seasoned attorneys has led to concerns about whether enough legal expertise remains in-house, sources said. They question, for instance, whether remaining lawyers even know which outside law firms are handling certain matters.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner Alex Spiro, a personal lawyer to Musk who is the top lawyer at the company for now, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The legal departures are among a wave of thousands at Twitter, with Musk laying off more workers from the sales side, Bloomberg News reported. An internal employee count read 2,750, Bloomberg reported Nov. 21, citing a person familiar with the matter. Twitter had more than 7,000 workers before Musk took over.

Twitter Exits

Among the departed are Tina Hwang, a deputy general counsel for product legal and intellectual property. Along with Baker, Hwang was poised to become co-legal chief under a plan put in place by former general counsel Sean Edgett, who Musk fired last month along with chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde.

Other legal employees leaving the company—either via termination or resignation—this month include chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty and chief privacy officer Damien Kieran, who also held the role of deputy general counsel.

Kevin Cope, a deputy general counsel for corporate, employment, and mergers and acquisitions, resigned from Twitter last week, said four people familiar with the matter. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Other departures include Kristin Manley, a former head of legal for marketing, music, content and creator partnerships. She was set to take over European Union law work for the company before being laid off this month.

European Union regulators have warned Twitter that the company faces scrutiny over its compliance with local laws.

Twitter’s top lawyer in India, Kapil Chaudhary, who was hired last year as the company sought to address legal issues on the subcontinent, has also left.

Quinn Emanuel’s Spiro sought to reassure Twitter staffers fearful of going to jail should the company be unable to comply with a consent decree it has with the US Federal Trade Commission, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.

The FTC, which has expressed “deep concern” about personnel cuts at Twitter, can levy hefty penalties and fines against the company for non-compliance. Twitter paid a $150 million fine for one such breach this year. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati represented the company in that matter.

Legal Challenges

Even prior to Musk’s purchase of Twitter, the company was already coping with a series of departures, including several seasoned legal veterans.

The most senior in-house attorneys left at the company are Baker, a former general counsel of the FBI hired by Twitter in 2020, and Lima, the international legal head who recently relocated to the US, the people familiar said.

Baker and Lima didn’t respond to requests for comment.

As for outside firms that have been doing work for Twitter, Perkins Coie has represented the company on data privacy and litigation-related matters. The firm handled more than 25% of Twitter’s litigation in US federal courts within the last five years, Bloomberg Law data shows.

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr had a role on more than 18% of such cases. Cooley, Haynes and Boone, and Wilson Sonsini all had less than 10% of the company’s US federal caseload.

Musk’s well-documented issues with Cooley and Perkins Coie, who he has publicly attacked on Twitter, could eventually lead the company to part ways with both firms.

Musk himself has a track record of cycling through in-house legal chiefs and gravitating toward counsel that share his personality.

Twitter has retained at least one new firm since Musk took over.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius filed an appearance last week in a lawsuit filed against the company by employees led by Emmanuel “Manu” Cornet. A former Twitter software engineer, Cornet alleges he was fired for helping his co-workers prepare for layoffs.

Twitter and its lawyers from Morgan Lewis asked a federal judge Tuesday to send the putative class action case against Twitter to individual arbitration.

—With reporting by Justin Wise.

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; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com