Apr 13, 2022

🗞️ Musk's Twitter Takeover, A SCOTUS First, & Google's Tricky Tactics

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This Week: Elon Musk's Twitter Takeover, Ketanji Brown Jackson's historic confirmation, and Google's shady email practice. Plus, anti-union meetings, and banning Will Smith from the Oscars.

🚀 A Twitter Titan's Transaction

One of Twitter's most famous and popular users has become its largest shareholder. Elon Musk, the billionaire chief of Tesla and SpaceX, revealed in a 13G filing with the SEC last week that he now owns 9.2% of the social media platform's stock for about $3.7 billion. Musk then noted that he would take a seat on the company's board, but has since reversed the decision. 

  • Musk's 9.2% stake beats out Vanguard, which owns 8.8% of the company, and far outstrips Jack Dorsey, the company's co-founder and longtime CEO, who owns 2.3% of the company. 

  • Musk has amassed 81.3 million followers on the site, putting him in the realm of celebrities like Kim Kardashian (72 million followers) and Lady Gaga (84.5 million).

  • In November, Dorsey stepped down from his chief executive role amid contention from shareholders and public pressure to reform the company and its platform, reports the New York Times. He has also stated that he will step down from the Board this year too. Parag Agrawal, Twitter's former CTO, has since stepped into the company's head role.

A Volatile History

Elon Musk's personal history with Twitter has been quite volatile. Not only have his tweets triggered SEC investigations (and a deal to curb his tweeting, reports Reuters), but he has also gotten heat for tweets made against individuals. In 2018, Musk tweeted that a British caver trying to help a Thai youth soccer team stuck in a cave was a "pedo guy", says the BBC. The man sued Musk over the phrase but ultimately lost.

The Verdict

It's hard to ever know Musk's motivations, especially since he's already reversed his position on taking a seat on the board. That being said, we'll be keeping an eye out on Musk's Twitter page to see what new shenanigans he gets into—and what new lawsuits may follow.

🎧 What We’re Listening To

Last week, we had a cozy fireside chat with Christine Uri, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer at ENGIE Impact. We discussed what sustainability is, why it matters, and the first steps legal can take to build a long-lasting partnership.

Why Legal Should Lead on Sustainability

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And if listening’s not your thing, check out our YouTube channel to watch the whole thing.

🏛️ From Judge To Justice Jackson

The United States will have its first Black female Supreme Court Justice, and first former public defender when Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson takes the bench for the court's next term in October. Brown Jackson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 42 days after being nominated by President Joe Biden—a timeline that is below the modern-day average reports Axios. The new Justice is replacing Justice Stephen Breyer, who is set to retire in June or July after a 28-year term on the high court. 

  • Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by a vote of 53-47 in the Senate, a mostly partisan display that was swayed by 3 Republican Senators: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney.

Public Defense

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the only Supreme Court Justice to have served as a public defender, which means she brings a unique perspective to the bench. “We uniquely understand what it means to work within those systems every day with a law degree,” April Frazier Camara, the president and CEO of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and a co-founder of the Black Public Defender Association, told Vox. She goes on, “But then we return home where we see the very real experience of what mass incarceration means for our communities. Public defenders, Black public defenders, Black woman public defenders, are uniquely qualified to be fair and just.”

The Verdict

Justice Jackson's ascension to the high court is a major moment for the United States and a long overdue one too. Her background in public defense will be a valuable perspective, and her historic accomplishment will serve as a role model for generations to come.

⏳ The Countdown is On

Are you fed up with legal being seen as a business blocker? Eager to change the internal perception of your team? Join us next week for Marketing Your Legal Team as a Team of Yes with Lydia Cheuk, Arianna Marks, Sarah Ouis, and Ramya Ravishankar. They’ll dive into why it's important to brand your legal team and how to do it successfully.

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👀 Google Raises Some Legal Eyebrows

Silicon Valley behemoth Alphabet (aka Google) has adopted a practice of shielding employees' emails "confidential" by copying attorneys onto the email, slapping a privilege label on it, and asking a "perfunctory" request for legal advice, notes the National Law Review. The DOJ asked a federal court to sanction the company and this long-running communications practice as part of a larger antitrust investigation. It appears that at least 140,000 emails have been identified to have used such tactics to keep them from appearing in discovery. 

  • “This is not a discovery dispute,” said Kenneth Dintzer of the DOJ. “This is an attempt made by one party to undermine the discovery process.” While agreeing with the DOJ that the practice is definitely "eyebrow-raising", ​​U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta responded that “I just don’t know what I can do about it.” He added, “You’re essentially asking me to penalize a company for its policies.”

  • According to the National Law Journal, Williams & Connolly partner John Schmidtlein, Google's lead attorney for the case, argued that the email practice (dubbed "Communicate With Care") was done as a way to train Google employees to be aware and discerning in what they write in emails.

Antitrust Heat

In October 2020, under then-AG Bill Barr, the DOJ filed an antitrust case alleging that Google “has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet.” In September 2021, it was revealed that an additional case was being prepared against Google—under AG Merrick Garland. The investigation this time around centers on Google's apparent monopoly over online advertising, and collusion with Meta (aka Facebook) to achieve it.

The Verdict

What seems to be happening here is Alphabet wants to bog down the DOJ with a mountain of work. And the DOJ, for its part, has a decision to make: does it fold to Alphabet and set a terrible precedent, or allow itself to get bogged down, but pursue Google to the end?

📤 What Else We're Forwarding

Union Busters: The National Labor Relations Board is calling on a ban of "anti-union" meetings, notes the New York Times. Starbucks has been using the tactic recently, which the NLRB argues is illegal, in the face of growing unionization efforts among its employees. 

Oscar Bout: Actor Will Smith will be banned from the Oscars for the next ten years following his now-infamous slap, reports NPR. Smith himself has resigned from the Academy as a show of remorse.

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See ya next week!

✌🏽 Raad