Tesla General Counsel Quits After Just Two Months

Just moments after we reported that Elon Musk was engaged in what appeared to be yet another round of premeditated disinformation if not fraud on Twitter, one which we are confident the SEC will completely ignore, when he published a clearly incorrect production forecast late on Tuesday night...

... before "correcting" himself just hours later ...

... the fallout has already hit and moments ago the WSJ reported that Tesla's General Counsel, Dane Butswinkas, had decided to quit. Here's the punchline: Butswinkas was hired just over two months ago, on December 6.

On December 6, upon being hired, Butswinkas said: "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.”

Fighting for? Yes. Going to jail for? Probably not. 

According to the WSJ, which first reported the latest revolving door at Tesla, Butswinkas is leaving Tesla to return to his law firm Williams & Connolly, where he had spent almost 30 years before being named as the automaker’s general counsel in December.

Butswinkas said in a statement he looks forward to returning to Washington to continue his work with Tesla in an outside counsel role, as in the past. People familiar with the matter said he found that Tesla wasn’t the right cultural fit.

After Butswinkas' departure, Jonathan Chang will become Tesla’s new top lawyer, rising from his role as vice president of legal. The 40-year-old has been at Tesla almost eight years, playing an instrumental role in the auto maker’s efforts to raise money, guide the purchase of SolarCity Corp. and battle franchise auto dealers that have tried to block direct sales of Tesla’s vehicles to customers.

Needless to say, Butswinkas’s exit marks another high-profile executive departure for the company during the past two years which has seen virtually every V-suite position in the recent past vacated including:

  • CFO #1
  • CFO #2
  • CAO #1
  • CAO #2
  • Treasurer
  • 5 VPs of finance

In fact, more than 50 senior executives have left the Palo Alto company in the past two years, including heads of sales, engineering, human resources and communications. Last month, Tesla announced it was replacing its retiring CFO, Deepak Ahuja, with 34-year-old Zach Kirkhorn.

And now the General Counsel is leaving after just two months with the company, a departure that is reminiscent of another quick exit, when in September, Tesla’s accounting chief, Dave Morton, left the company after only a few weeks, citing the intense pressure and scrutiny of the company.

As for the company's new GC, Jonathan Chang comes to Tesla from Lithium Technologies where he was general counsel, according to his LinkedIn biography. Prior, he worked as a lawyer at Latham & Watkins, where he began advising Tesla in 2006 as outside counsel. He earned a law degree and M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. He grew up in Fremont, Calif., where Tesla’s factory is located.

Now the question is just how many weeks (days) Chang stays before he too quits, because if Butswinkas' experience is any indication, Musk is about to tweet some other fraudulent statement, making the "culture fit" for Chang also impossible.

Meanwhile, we sit back and wonder how much longer will the SEC ignore the blatant violations of its twitter gag order that billionaire Musk engages in daily, before it actually does something.