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Home Services Firms Add Legal Help as Biden Ponders Labor Change

June 18, 2021, 9:30 AM

Home services companies Alfred Club Inc., TaskRabbit Inc., and Shef Inc. have appointed in-house legal chiefs as the Biden administration considers labor rules that could change how the gig economy operates.

Alfred, which provides concierge services to apartment buildings and landlords, has hired Matthew Kane to be its general counsel. He joins Alfred from Z Capital Group LLC, where he was managing director, general counsel, and chief compliance officer.

TaskRabbit, a mobile labor provider acquired in 2017 by Swedish home goods giant Ikea Group Corp., this month brought on new general counsel Benjamin Edelhart, who most recently served as a senior director for legal and enterprise products at Uber Technologies Inc.

Shef, an on-demand cooking company that has touted itself as an “Airbnb for food,” hired Danielle Merida as general counsel. She comes to Shef from TaskRabbit.

The in-house additions come as the Biden administration mulls new labor policies. The Labor Department axed a Trump-era rule last month that would have made it easier for businesses to legally consider workers as independent contractors. The cancellation positions the Biden administration to decide whether federal wage law applies to gig companies.

Alfred

Alfred, also known as Hello Alfred, confirmed Kane’s hire in an email to Bloomberg Law. He joins following the company’s announced acquisition last month of HOM, an amenity and community engagement provider that Alfred reportedly expects will help it expand into commercial buildings.

The HOM deal, whose value was not disclosed, comes after Alfred closed a $42 million fundraising round last October led by the family office of former WeWork Cos. Inc. co-founder Adam Neumann and several previous investors.

Alfred is unlike its gig economy contemporaries in that it classifies its workers as employees, not independent contractors. Bloomberg Law reported this year on Alfred’s decision to embrace a full employment model for those who delivery groceries, do the laundry, and handle maintenance requests for its customers.

“All of the current 1099 platform businesses can be change agents by coming to the table to figure out how to balance the need for great jobs with a business model that performs well on Wall Street,” said Marcela Sapone, co-founder and CEO of Alfred, in an interview earlier this year with Bloomberg Law. “There’s a really sustainable business model within Uber and hiding within companies like TaskRabbit.”

Alfred is a separate entity from Stay Alfred Inc., a Spokane Valley, Wash.-based hospitality startup that hired a new legal chief in early 2020 only to subsequently go bust several months later due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alfred, aside from confirming its hire of Kane for its newly created general counsel role, didn’t respond to a request for comment about its external legal advisers. The company has turned to Fenwick & West for trademark work, per public filings.

Z Capital declined to comment on Kane’s departure. Kane spent nearly seven years at the privately held investment manager, which promoted him to legal and compliance chief two years ago. Z Capital hired Goodwin Procter associate Erik Kreutzer last month as a director and assistant general counsel in New York.

Earlier this month, Z Capital said it would merge two of its portfolio companies, Affinity Gaming LLC and the Sports Information Group LLC, to create a new enterprise valued at $1.3 billion, including debt. Sidley Austin and Massumi + Consoli are advising Affinity and SIG on the deal, respectively.

TaskRabbit

The San Francisco-based TaskRabbit, founded in 2008, operates an online marketplace for errands and other one-off jobs handled by freelance laborers.

Edelhart, a 21-year veteran of the legal group at Visa Inc. prior to joining Uber in mid-2018, didn’t respond to a request for comment about his move to TaskRabbit.

In a LinkedIn post this week disclosing his new job, Edelhart said he’s excited about joining TaskRabbit’s “leadership and legal teams as we help this incredible company solve everyday problems for consumers, taskers, and merchants.”

TaskRabbit spokeswoman Ariel Rothbard confirmed Edelhart’s hire to succeed Merida, whose April departure for Shef led the company to appoint in-house lawyer Marjan Mashhadi its acting general counsel. Mashhadi has now returned to her previous role as director of legal, Rothbard said.

Mashhadi, a former associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who once served as director of labor relations for the city of New Haven, Conn., where she earned an MBA from Yale University, was hired by Merida at TaskRabbit in 2019.

Merida, who spent five years at TaskRabbit, began her career as an associate at now-defunct Bingham McCutchen, the bulk of which was absorbed by Morgan Lewis.

Shef

Shef was launched in 2019 by Alvand “Alvin” Salehi, an attorney and former White House senior technology adviser, and former Facebook Inc. employee Joey Grassia.

Salehi confirmed in an email that Merida has come aboard as its first-ever general counsel and head of people. Merida, via LinkedIn, has recently touted job openings at Shef for a senior counsel and head of global policy and government affairs.

Since founding the company, Salehi and Grassia have expanded the business into seven markets—the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, Seattle, and Austin, Texas. Earlier this month, Shef closed a $20 million fundraising round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Other investors in Shef include technology incubator Y Combinator, M13 Ventures Management LLC, celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez, professional basketball player Andre Iguodala, and other well-known personalities like Padma Lakshmi, Tiffany Haddish, Katy Perry, and the latter’s fiancé Orlando Bloom.

In a LinkedIn post earlier this month, Salehi, a first-generation American, said he was “deeply grateful” to those supporting Shef and recalled him and Grassia working on the idea for the company from a one-bedroom apartment in Washington.

Salehi, who has also been a research affiliate for Harvard Law School’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said in his email that Shef uses a “variety of outside law firms depending on the company’s needs.”

Public records show that Holland & Hart is handling trademark work for San Francisco-based Shef, which has come under scrutiny for its use of contractor cooks.

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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