Just two months after Tesla hired its new General Counsel, Dane Butswinkas, the lawyer announced his plans to leave Elon Musk’s company and return to his law firm, Williams & Connolly.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Dane Butswinkas, Tesla’s general counsel, who was hired to the company just two months ago, will return to his law firm Williams and Connolly where he previously worked for almost 30 years. Butswinkas stated that he looks forward to returning to Washington and to advising Tesla as outside counsel as he had previously done in the past. His departure came immediately after Elon Musk made a range of promises about future products and vehicle production levels both on a podcast and on Twitter. The SEC settlement following Musk’s infamous “funding secured” tweet included requirements for company controls on his tweets related to Tesla’s future guidance and output levels.
Butswinkas was hired as Tesla’s general counsel in December, replacing Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s close confidant and lawyer Todd Maron. Butswinkas reputation as a trial lawyer caused some stir in the auto community at the time, especially given that Tesla is still under investigation by both the DOJ and the SEC.
Butswinkas has been a strong advocate for Tesla for some time, previously stating: “Tesla presents a unique and inspiring opportunity. Tesla’s mission is bigger than Tesla – one that is critical to the future of our planet. It’s hard to identify a mission more timely, more essential, or more worth fighting for.”
Tesla’s Vice President of Legal, Jonathan Chang, has been promoted to the position of chief legal counsel. Chang has worked at Tesla for nearly eight years and has played a key role in helping the electric car manufacturer to raise money and was heavily involved in the acquisition of SolarCity Corp. Butswinkas’ exit from Tesla is the latest in a long line of high-profile executive departures over the past few years as the company has dealt with multiple scandals and production setbacks.
Breitbart reported in January that following the announcement of Tesla’s less-than-stellar fourth-quarter earnings report, the company’s CFO, Deepak Ahuja, resigned. Although this news was not shared by Tesla in its shareholders’ letter, combined with the news of Tesla’s poor earnings report, the market took Ahuja’s departure as bad news. Zach Kirkhorn is replacing Ahuja as CFO. Kirkhorn was promoted to the position of Vice President of Finance in December. Kirkhorn has no experience acting in the role of CFO and reportedly no direct accounting experience, but has been at Tesla for some time working within the finance department.
In November, Tesla’s head of global security, Jeff Jones, left the electric-car manufacturer after only 11 months at the company. Jones was reportedly dismissed from the company in mid-November but the circumstances around his departure were not publicized with Jones only telling employees that his “position was no longer needed.”
Jones did not last a year with Tesla, which is not an entirely unusual situation. Former Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton lasted less than one month working at Tesla — he started working for Musk on August 6, 2018, and resigned on September 4.
Tesla has faced the departure of a number of top company executives over the course of 2018, the company’s former engineering leader Doug Field left after an extended “leave of absence” and went on to rejoin Apple’s autonomous driving project. Jon McNeill, the president of global sales and service, left Tesla in February after working at the company for two years, he later went on to join the ride-sharing company Lyft where he served as company CEO. Justin McAnear, the company’s vice president of worldwide finance and operations, also left the company stating that he had been given the chance to work as CFO of another firm and did not want to miss the opportunity.