Musk Sidesteps Twitter Legal Succession Plan in Takeover Chaos

Elon Musk has internal options for the new head of Twitter Inc.‘s legal department as he assembles a group of senior leaders.

Two deputy general counsel, James Baker and Tina Hwang, were poised to co-lead the department under a plan the former general counsel put in place before Musk fired him, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The plan by Sean Edgett, who had worked for Twitter since 2012, wasn’t implemented in the chaos following Musk’s takeover of the social media company two weeks ago and the mass layoffs he put in place, the three people said.

Alex Spiro, a litigation partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan who represented Musk in a legal battle that preceded the $44 billion takeover of the company, is for now filling the leadership vacuum. It’s unclear how long he’ll stay in the role. Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Baker, Twitter’s head of litigation, joined the company in 2020 after serving as the FBI’s general counsel. Hwang, who oversees product legal and intellectual property, was hired in 2021 after spending more than a decade at Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Meta Platforms Inc.’s WhatsApp.

Twitter is reshuffling its senior ranks after a massive round of job cuts that eliminated about half of the company’s 7,000-plus workers. What has emerged in the law department is a flat leadership structure with various legal group leaders competing for Spiro’s attention, the people said.

“I don’t watch Game of Thrones,” Marianne Fogarty, Twitter’s chief compliance officer, tweeted Nov. 7. “I certainly don’t want to play it at work.”

Musk Sidesteps Twitter Legal Succession Plan in Takeover Chaos

Fogarty resigned Wednesday from Twitter along with the company’s chief privacy officer and fellow lawyer Damien Kieran, according to three sources knowledgeable of the matter. Lea Kissner, Twitter’s chief security officer, also left, she said in a tweet.

Kieran, who also held the title of deputy general counsel, helped guide a $150 million settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission earlier this year. Concerns about compliance with the accord prompted the departures, according to three people.

Fogarty’s compliance group saw about three-quarters of its staffers cut in the layoffs, the people said. Twitter also terminated a human rights team led by counsel Shannon Raj Singh, she disclosed via Twitter and LinkedIn.

The San Francisco-based company let go at least six other lawyers with expertise in labor and employment, export controls, patent, product, and cybersecurity, according to social media postings, a list of laid off Twitter workers, and the three people familiar with the company’s operations.

The dismissals and abrupt firing of Edgett and Vijaya Gadde, the company’s former chief legal officer, mark the latest chapter in Musk’s tumultuous history with lawyers.

Musk-led automaker Tesla Inc. recently named its fourth new legal leader since late 2019. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a rocket maker he controls, has reshuffled its legal ranks after firing employees critical of Musk.

Gadde, who spent nearly a dozen years at Twitter, had drawn Musk’s ire over her role handling content moderation policies.

Anthony “Tony” Wang, a technology investor who was one of Twitter’s first legal hires, said he’s hopeful Musk can be a positive force for change at the company.

“Content moderation is a known hard problem,” Wang said. “So is launching rockets and starting a car company in the US. So we should welcome new attempts to solve hard problems.”

— With reporting by Justin Wise and Kurt Wagner.