Tesla’s general counsel is leaving just two months after being hired in the wake of Elon Musk’s run-in with U.S. securities regulators, Fortune reported.
Dane Butswinkas, the Washington trial lawyer who represented Musk in his legal battle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last fall, will return full-time to his legal practice in Washington, Tesla said in an emailed statement. Jonathan Chang, a vice president in Tesla’s legal department, takes over effective immediately.
Tesla’s stock erased gains in premarket trading and traded down as much as 2.3% as of 8:27 a.m. in New York. The announcement follows Musk surprising investors with news that Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja was leaving at the end of the company’s Jan. 30 earnings call, renewing concerns about the trouble the chief executive officer has had retaining key managers.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity over the past seven months to have worked with both Elon and Tesla, first as outside counsel and most recently as general counsel,” Butswinkas, 57, said in the statement. “I am returning to my home in Washington, D.C., and to my trial practice at Williams & Connolly. I look forward to continuing my work with Tesla in an outside counsel role.”
Chang, 40, is taking over hours after Twitter missives from Musk that are reminiscent of problematic proclamations that put Tesla and its CEO in hot water with regulators.
Musk posted Tuesday evening that Tesla would make around 500,000 cars in 2019. Within hours, he backtracked to say he meant the company would be producing at an annualized rate of half a million vehicles by the end of this year, Fortune added.
If sent by another company executive, the posts may read like an innocuous mistake. But Tesla was supposed to have set up controls last fall to keep Musk, 47, from posting material information about the company without pre-approval. The SEC ordered the electric-car maker to employ or designate a securities lawyer to review Musk and other senior officers’ Twitter communications.
The SEC handed down the punishment after alleging Musk committed fraud by tweeting in August that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 a share. The agency said this and other claims the CEO made on Aug. 7 were false and misleading and affected the company’s stock, Fortune noted.