Facebook legal vets jump on Shopify amid meta-leadership changes

Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. lost another senior counsel to retail technology platform Shopify Inc. with the departure of longtime assistant general counsel Michael Johnson.

The 11-year Facebook veteran announced June 1 via rival social media platform LinkedIn that he is now vice president of corporate legal at Shopify. Johnson, who also served as deputy corporate secretary at Meta, was one of three in-house attorneys listed on The Facebook Repository for a initial public offering this raised $16 billion in 2012.

He’s had a “long and fun journey” on Facebook, Johnson said in an email, and will be “eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people on impactful topics for over a decade”.

He reunites at Shopify with Jessica Hertz, a former Facebook lawyer who joined the company as general counsel last year. The move comes three months after attorney Jean Niehaus left Meta to join Shopify as vice president of product and sales, according to her LinkedIn profile and filings with the California State Bar.

Meta is reeling from the announced departure of COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is expected to leave at the end of the year. The company has hired legions of lawyers and policy professionals as it transitions from a social media platform to other forms of technology, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, a process that involved a myriad of legal and regulatory challenges.

Meta declined to comment when asked about Johnson’s departure and other changes to his legal department in recent months.

Shopify has hired several in-house lawyers since the Canadian e-commerce company revamped its legal and government affairs directorate last summer. The company saw its business explode during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hertz did not respond to a request for comment on whether she had enticed other Facebook lawyers to join her at Shopify.

Protect the Metaverse

Meta’s legal group, which over the years has helped Facebook and its various subsidiaries deal with a range of legal and regulatory issues, has been busy recruiting new talent in recent months.

Data collected by Bloomberg Law and cross-referenced with LinkedIn profiles and state bar registries shows Meta and its affiliates have hired at least 70 attorneys in the past year. The sum is probably higher, but also offset by other personnel changes.

one online job board for Meta includes listings of over 100 in-house attorney positions. Shortly after Meta adopted its new name last year, a similar analysis of legal job listings showed more than 115 open positions, according to a report by trade publication Corporate Counsel.

The securities deposit by Meta disclosing Sandberg’s resignation is signed by Assistant General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Katherine Kelly. She joined the company after more than 16 years with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., where she assistance the pharmaceutical giant is navigating its $74 billion acquisition of Celgene Corp.

Kelly oversees Meta’s broader group of companies, Johnson said. She did not respond to a request for comment on her new role.

New legal department

Jennifer Newstead, hired by Facebook as general counsel in 2019, assumed the title of general counsel in October, according to archived internet recordings from the management page of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company.

Meta did not list Newstead as one of its five highest-paid executives in 2021, according to a proxy statement filed for that year. Securities filings show it has sold more than $5 million worth of Meta stock since the start of 2021. Newstead still holds shares in the company valued at more than $3.7 million, Bloomberg data shows. .

Newstead replaced former Facebook general counsel, Colin Stretchwho stepped down three years ago after being appointed in 2013. Stretch took over from the company’s former chief legal officer, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner Theodore Ullyot.

Ullyot was chosen in 2008 to succeed another former Facebook general counsel, Rudy Gadre. Facebook’s first-ever General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, Christopher Kellyis now a co-owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Ullyot and David Kling — a former assistant general counsel and corporate secretary who was replaced by Kelly — were also listed on Facebook’s IPO prospectus. Ullyot left the social media giant a year after its IPO.

Kling, a former partner at startup-focused Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian joined Facebook in early 2009, making him one of the company’s longest-serving attorneys. He left in November and is now on sabbatical, according to his LinkedIn profile. He could not be reached for comment.

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