BLB GC Column: Tech Company Lawyers In the Spotlight

Every week, BLB chronicles top news in the world of general counsel. Here are the highlights:

 

• On Nov. 1, general counsel from Twitter, Google and Facebook are slated to testify before Congress in relation to the ongoing Russia investigation. They are expected to be grilled on what they knew about Russian-linked entities purchasing ads and using their platforms to disseminate disinformation, and what the tech giants plan to do moving forward.

Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner have introduced a bill that will expand laws that require political groups to disclose their affiliation in television and radio ads, to online mediums among other measures.

 

Timothy Muir, the general counsel of Ameriloan, OneClickCash, Preferred Cash Loans and other loan companies, was convicted by a federal jury of racketeering and other charges, as part of a federal crackdown on lenders who prey on borrowers by charging exorbitant interest rates.

Muir, along with the man who led those companies, payday loan mogul and professional race car driver Scott Tucker, face as many as 20 years in prison each, convicted after a five-week jury trial on all fourteen counts against them. These include one count of conspiring to commit racketeering through the collection of unlawful debt, three counts of participating in a racketeering enterprise through the collection of unlawful debt, one count of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering among others.

“Right now, all I can think about is my wife and my girls and trying to determine how to talk with them about the verdict and what it means to their futures,” Muir told The Kansas City Star after his conviction.

Tucker and Muir had 1,500 employees in Overland Park, Kansas and the companies charged borrowers interest rates of 600 percent or 700 percent, and sometimes higher than 1,000 percent, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The two also attempted to evade state investigations by entering business agreements with Native American tribes, according to the DOJ.

Tucker entered the payday lending business in the late 1990s and has registered several different loan companies in his name.  The DOJ claimed that Tucker’s companies misrepresented the terms of the loans, telling customers a $500 loan would cost $650 to repay, when the total sum owed was closer to $2,000.

 

On the Move

Ex-Hyatt Lawyer Joining Marriott

• Rena Hozore Reiss, former general counsel of Hyatt, will be moving to Marriott International after the company’s top lawyer announced his retirement.  Reiss will become executive vice president and general counsel of the hotel company. She was previously with Marriott from 2000 to 2010, before making the jump to their competitor according to her LinkedIn profile. At Hyatt, she was in charge of worldwide development, compliance and litigation among other things.

Ed Ryan will step down in early December and will transition to an advisory position to Marriott president and CEO, Arne Sorenson, through 2018. Ryan was an attorney with Crowell & Moring from 1978 to 1984 and later with the firm Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) where he became partner.

 

Fannie Mae Lawyer joins Thompson Hine

• An associate general counsel with the mortgage giant Fannie Mae, Sara L. Todd, is making the jump to private practice with Thompson Hine’s real estate practice in Washington, D.C. She will be involved with expanding the firm’s commercial mortgage and warehouse lending practices.

Todd has years of experience working with lender contracts, loan documents for mortgages, market-rate equity investments and multifamily asset management. At the firm, she will continue working in multifamily housing and mortgage lending.

 

DISH Network Appoints General Counsel

• DISH Network has appointed senior vice president Tim Messner to become the next general counsel. Messner will succeed R. Stanton Dodge, who will be making the jump to fantasy sports company DraftKings as chief legal officer. Messner will assume the role on October 23.

Messner is currently the senior vice president and deputy general counsel of DISH, and leads a team of more than 20 attorneys, who are responsible for negotiating the company’s commercial transactions. He has been with DISH since 2004, starting as a junior attorney, and has climbed his way up the ranks of the legal department. Messner has negotiated agreements on behalf of the company related to satellite, content and technology among other initiatives.

 

Celadon Group Promotes In-House 

• Celadon Group, Inc. has promoted Chase Welsh to executive vice president of risk management and general counsel and corporate secretary of the Celadon board of directors. Celadon is a long haul trucking solutions company that operates throughout the United States and also serves as a freight brokerage. Welsh has been with the company since 2013.

 

Marina Biotech Inc. Hires Chief Legal Officer

• Marina Biotech, Inc. a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on developing therapeutics for hypertension, arthritis, pain and oncology, has hired Peter D. Weinstein as the company’s newly created role of chief legal officer. His work will focus on general legal issues, transactions and intellectual property.

Weinstein comes to the company from legal and business services firm, Entralta P.C. where he was chief executive officer.  Weinstein was also formerly senior counsel at Baxter Healthcare Corporation. Weinstein has also served as an attorney at the San Diego offices of Fish & Richardson and Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison  and as an examiner with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

 

Contact the reporter responsible for this column: Max Siegelbaum at maxsiegelbaum@gmail.com.

Contact the editors responsible for this column: Casey Sullivan at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com, Gabe Friedman at gabefriedman@outlook.com and Tom Taylor at ttaylor@bna.com.