Around the house: new GCs for AI truck startup Plus and American Century Investments

This week's collection of in-house hires sees the Financial Conduct Authority name an interim GC and Silicon Valley fund Initialized Capital Management appoint its first legal leader

From Tesla to Plus

Former Tesla deputy general counsel Lynn Miller has landed the top legal spot at AI truck-driving startup Plus. The Cupertino, California-based company has recently seen interest from Amazon, with the tech behemoth placing an order for 1,000 autonomous driving systems and acquiring an option to buy a stake of stake of as much as 20%, according to a report from Bloomberg.

In her new role, Miller will serve as an advisor to the Plus management team and board and lead the company’s legal function. She has joined the company directly from a role as deputy general counsel at Tesla, where she led worldwide litigation strategy, responses to government inquiries and investigations, and the privacy programme.

Miller spent just over seven years at Tesla, which has seen a number of general counsel come and go in recent years, including three – Todd Maron, Dane Butswinkas and Jonathan Chang – between December 2018 and December 2019. Alan Prescott stepped in as acting general counsel after Chang’s departure but left this April to become chief legal officer at lidar sensor and software unicorn Luminar Technologies. CNBC reported at the time that Tesla’s head of litigation Bill Berry, who had joined last October and was previously at Google, was set to lead the automaker’s legal department but not take on the GC role.

Before Tesla, Miller spent 14 years at Apple managing its litigation and regulatory legal affairs and prior to that spent a number of years in private practice, including as a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and a counsel at Fenwick & West in Palo Alto.

“Lynn has deep knowledge about the impact and challenges of the autonomous driving business and technology, having served as in-house counsel at two of the world’s most valuable technology companies," said David Liu, CEO and co-founder of Plus. "She is an important addition to our executive team as we start to deploy our autonomous trucking technology globally this year and accelerate our plans to help fleets drive improved safety, efficiency and sustainability in their businesses.”

Plus has been ramping up its management board with autonomous driving, trucking, and logistics experience. A spate of recent senior hires includes Chuck Joseph, previously a senior executive in Amazon Transportation Services’ Middle Mile team, as VP of strategic partnerships, and Wiley Deck, former deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Department of Transportation official, as VP of government relations and public policy.

Asset management heavyweight for American Century

Kansas City-based American Century Investments, a $234bn global investment manager, has named John Pak as its general counsel. He will begin his new role on 2 August, taking over from current GC Charles Etherington, who will retire at the end of 2021 after 27 years at the company.

As general counsel, Pak will join the company’s management committee and handle all legal and compliance matters for the firm, as well the company’s internal audit function.

American Century president and CEO Jonathan Thomas commented: "John brings significant expertise from the securities and financial industry, including growing and leading high impact teams, as well as supporting firm-wide efforts for diversity, equity and inclusion and talent development. I also would like to thank Chuck for his 27 years of service and leadership as he built an exemplary legal, compliance and audit team.”

Pak joins American Century after serving for seven years as chief legal officer of BNY Mellon Investment and Wealth Management in New York, where he oversaw all legal, regulatory and litigation matters involving the company's global investment management and wealth management businesses, which included eight independent investment firms with over $2tn in assets under management. Prior to that, he served as chief legal officer of The Dreyfus Funds and The Dreyfus Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon, and also spent a number of years in senior legal roles focused on asset management at Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley. He began his legal career as an associate in the investment management and litigation practice groups of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, based in the firm’s New York office.

FCA appoints Freshfields alum as interim GC ahead

Following the recent departure of general counsel Sean Martin, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has named David Scott as its interim general counsel.

Scott was most recently a litigation partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where he specialised in High Court litigation and regulatory investigations and proceedings, before retiring from the firm last October after 22 years. His clients included investment banks, retail banks, life and general insurance companies and asset managers. Scott also spent 18 months in an earlier part of his career on secondment to the FSA and has advised both the Bank of England and FSA on various legal matters.

Daniel Thornton, currently director of enforcement legal, has been appointed as deputy general counsel and will support Scott. And Raj Parker, an associate member at Matrix Chambers and a part-time judge and arbitrator, is also set to join as a senior legal adviser. He most recently conducted the independent review into the Connaught Income Fund Series 1 and has conducted numerous investigations into governance and conduct issues over the course of his career. Prior to joining Matrix Parker was also a partner at Freshfields, specialising in international commercial and financial services dispute resolution.

FCA chief executive Nikhil Rathi said: “David brings more than 25 years of legal regulatory experience, a proven track record and an excellent reputation in the UK and internationally. Following his independent review, Raj is ideally placed to offer critical and impartial advice to the organisation as we evolve our culture and transform our organisation. His experience and knowledge of the FCA will help us to continue learning and embedding the lessons of the Independent Reviews at this critical stage for the organisation.

“I would also like to thank Sean Martin for his service and his invaluable contribution to the FCA, and previously the FSA, where he has supported and developed a high-quality legal function and has provided wise counsel on a range of strategic issues.”

The FCA will shortly launch a global recruitment process for a permanent general counsel.

Chesapeake Energy GC makes Continental shift

Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company Continental Resources has announced former Chesapeake Energy general counsel James Webb as its next legal leader.

Webb was one of several top executives to voluntarily step down earlier this month from Chesapeake, which like other companies in the US shale industry has fallen on harder times and emerged from bankruptcy proceedings in February. Webb had joined the company in 2012 as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary; prior to that he was in private practice for nearly two decades at Gorsuch Kirgis and leading Oklahoma firm McAfee & Taft.  

Webb is set to succeed current senior vice president, general counsel, chief risk officer and secretary Eric Eissenstat on 1 September. Eissenstat, a former partner at local litigation boutique Fellers Snider Blankenship Bailey & Tippens, has elected to return to private practice and will retain Continental as a client.

"Eric has been providing unmatched legal counsel to Continental since the late 1980s when he was in private practice," noted Harold Hamm, founder and chairman of the board of Continental. "He was brought in as general counsel for Continental in 2010 and has been a valuable member of our executive team and an integral part of our success over the past 10 years. We look forward to continuing our working relationship."

Eissenstat added: "It has been a true honour to serve Continental for the last three decades. Jim Webb is an excellent choice as general counsel moving forward; the company will be in great hands.”

VC firm Initialized names first general counsel

San Francisco-based Initialized Capital Management, a VC firm behind a number of Silicon Valley unicorns including Coinbase and Cruise, has found its very first general counsel in former WeWork attorney Livingston Miller.

Miller joined the company in May directly from a three-year stint at WeWork, most recently serving as general counsel of its US and Canadian operations. Prior to that he was briefly vice president and senior legal counsel at Popular Bank in New York and earlier had a career in private practice at Davis Polk & Wardwell and Wilmer Hale, also in New York.

Initialized was co-founded in 2012 by current managing partner Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder and former chairman of Reddit. The company invested in the recent IPOs of proptech startup Opendoor Technologies and Coinbase Global, with the value of the latter surging to more than $100bn after its stock market debut. The company also raised $230m last August for its fund dedicated to investing in early-stage startups, despite the departure of Ohanian.

Inogen looks to Invoca for new legal leader

Jason Somer is set to join listed Californian portable oxygen device maker Inogen as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary, effective July 12.

Inogen CEO Nabil Shabshab said: “I believe Jason’s 25 years of experience in general counsel and attorney roles will be a great enabler in building a stronger Inogen and further strengthening our legal and compliance functions as we continue to evolve and roll out our growth strategy.”

Somer currently serves as head legal counsel at SaaS analytics company Invoca, which he joined in late 2019. Prior to that he spent nearly four years as general counsel and corporate secretary for listed gaming company Innova Gaming Group and over a varied in-house career has held senior legal roles at solar power companies Sunora Energy Solutions and Suntech Power, internet security outfit IronPort Systems and healthcare IT business Neoforma. He began his legal career as an associate in the New York office of Morrison & Foerster, where his practice focused on venture capital and private equity transactions.

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