24 April 2020

Around the house: self-driving pioneer Cruise and Alibaba secure GCs

A former Obama special counsel and a co-founder of Fangda Partners are among the latest crop of senior GC hires from around the world.

By Roman Edwards


“I am honoured and inspired to be joining a team that is unrivalled in their focus on safety" Shutterstock

Jeff Bleich (pictured) has been hired as chief legal officer by Cruise, the leading San Francisco-based self-driving car company that was acquired by General Motors in March 2016. In a statement Bleich said: “Cruise is leading the way to change lives in a shift that is as important as the move from horses to cars. I am honoured and inspired to be joining a team that is unrivalled in their focus on safety, accountability, and trust. That perspective is critical to scaling this extraordinary technology to everyone, everywhere.” Bleich served as White House special counsel under former US president Barack Obama and as ambassador to Australia for the same administration. He was also president of the California State Bar from 2007-2008, group CEO and partner at Dentons for three years from March 2016, and a partner at Munger Tolles & Olson for 17 years from 1992. Bleich is currently chair of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company board of directors and it is believed that he has been hired by Cruise to help deal with the extensive regulatory issues it can expect to face in the deployment of self-driving cars, all of which have been taken off the streets of San Francisco in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ant Financial, an associate company of Alibaba Group, has announced that Jonathan Zhou will soon join as general counsel. With a valuation of $150bn, Ant Financial is the world’s most valuable FinTech company. Zhou was a founding partner of the leading Chinese law firm Fangda Partners and will report to Leiming Chen, who oversees the legal, compliance and anti-money laundering functions at Ant Financial. “Ant Financial has always attached great importance to legal and compliance functions." said Chen. "It will further strengthen our capabilities in these areas as Jonathan joins us, which will continue to facilitate the development of our global business in compliance with relevant laws and regulations and enable us to better serve consumers and small and micro businesses across the world." Zhou co-founded Fangda in 1994 and studied law at Fudan University, graduating in 1993. 

Comcast has recruited Candy Lawson as SVP, chief compliance officer and senior deputy general counsel from 21st Century Fox, where she was deputy general counsel. She will be responsible for overseeing, developing and implementing the company’s internal policies, procedures and compliance with laws, regulations across Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky. She will report to Tom Reid, Comcast's general counsel, who said: “Candy has an impressive record of providing strategic compliance and legal risk guidance to boards of directors and executive management teams at multinational companies.” Lawson received her JD from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, before progressing on to a career which included seven years at 21st Century Fox. Lawson will be based in London although much of her time will be spent at Comcast's Philadelphia headquarters.

Andrew Maunz has been sworn in as legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) serves as the principal advisor to the commission on enforcement matters and coordinates on all federal issues affecting equal employment opportunity. Maunz has worked at the EEOC as a special assistant to Chair Janet Dhillon since July 2019. He replaces Ketan Bhirud, who begins a new role as deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security. Maunz will oversee the agency’s internal and external policy. Dhillon said: "His experience in the area of employment law and background working at the EEOC will greatly benefit the agency as we continue to combat employment discrimination." Maunz leaves behind a position as a senior attorney in The Office of the General Counsel of the Social Security Administration, which he held for just over a decade.

Olivia Broderick has joined Checkout.com as general counsel, allowing previous GC and COO Joshua Kaplan to focus on operations. Broderick was previously general counsel for three years at Zopa, a peer-to-peer lending company. Prior to that she spent 10 years at Barclays and Barclaycard, as head of legal and principal legal counsel respectively. Launched in 2012, Checkout.com is a London-based payment platform which announced a sizeable $230m Series A round last year. Broderick is the latest addition to the company’s nine-strong legal team.

Amid celebrations for reaching its one millionth paid subscriber, language-learning app Duolinguo has appointed Stephen Chen as its first general counsel. Chen has more than two decades of experience at publicly traded companies. He was legal director of Yahoo! for 18 months from the beginning of 2006 before progressing on to VMWare, Marin Software, and Proofpoin where he held various senior counsel roles. He said: “I am looking forward to relocating to Pittsburgh [from Silicon Valley] for this new opportunity to build out the legal function with one of the city’s most successful startups. I love how the app helps me connect with my cultural identity and learn the language my parents speak.” Duolinguo CEO Luis von Ahn added: “We are very fortunate to have Stephen join the team as we prepare for our next phases of business growth and a 50% increase in our team headcount this year.”

Delek US has welcomed Abby Yates to the roles of EVP, general counsel, and corporate secretary. Delek US is a diversified downstream energy company headquartered in Tennessee. Yates replaces Regina Jones, who held the same positions for two years and is now chief legal officer at Baker Hughes. Yates was previously GC, chief compliance counsel and SVP, HR of EthosEnergy for six years and spent a decade as counsel to Wood Group before that. Uzi Yemin, chair of Delek US and Delek Logistics, said: “She brings a strong legal background and a wealth of experience in the industry."

Rachel Carolan, general counsel to geolocation specialists what3words, has taken on a voluntary position as general counsel for the charity Meals for the NHS. The charity, formed by friends in response to the threat posed by COVID-19, is entirely made up of volunteers and operates on the ethos: ‘You can’t save the nation on an empty stomach’. It has already delivered 59,520 meals to 65 hospitals in the UK.

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