Airbnb Appoints New Ethics Officer Amid Changes to Internal Legal Group

Airbnb Inc., which is approaching its first anniversary as a public company, has appointed newly promoted Deputy General Counsel Peter Urias as Chief Ethics Officer.

Urias takes over a post previously held by former Airbnb general counsel Robert Chesnut, who split from the San Francisco-based company last year as it grappled with the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

Urias recently held the position of Associate General Counsel after joining Airbnb four years ago as a Senior Employment Advisor. He entered the online hospitality market after a brief stint internally at Tesla Inc.

Airbnb has laid off 25% of its employees, who sometimes refer to each other as “”Airfam“—Before an initial public offering last year that raised $ 3.5 billion. Securities deposits show that Airbnb’s debut on the stock market generated nearly $ 5 million in legal fees and expenses for Latham & Watkins, which served as outside counsel for the listing.

Airbnb spokesperson Liz DeBold Fusco confirmed Urias’ promotion. Airbnb had turned to Urias to take on its leading role in interim ethics earlier this year, she said. Urias took the post permanently in June and was promoted this month to Deputy Advocate General.

He was not immediately available to discuss his rise to the post of Chief Ethics Officer.

Urias began his legal career over ten years ago as a partner in New York, working in commercial and employment litigation respectively at Bryan Cave and Seyfarth Shaw. He went internally in 2014, joining SolarCity Corp., a solar energy company based in San Mateo, California. co-founded by cousins by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Two years later, Musk’s Tesla rushed to acquire SolarCity. Urias spent five months at Tesla, dealing with employment compliance issues related to the company’s integration with SolarCity, before moving to Airbnb in early 2017.

At Airbnb, Urias led the company’s employment group in 2018. The following year, he was part of a team of in-house lawyers who advised Airbnb on its acquisition of its hotel competitor HotelTonight.

In 2020, Urias spent five months on the commercial side of Airbnb supporting its Pro Host, Lux and Long Term Stays businesses before returning to the legal department.

The company said Urias played a leading role last year in implementing Airbnb’s diversity plan, which aims to increase the percentage of its workforce that includes under-represented minority groups. He worked closely with Chesnut in developing the company’s ethics program, according to Airbnb.

Time change

As Chief Ethics Officer, Urias inherits a role that was held on an interim basis by former Associate General Counsel for Policy and Compliance Kevin Heneghan, who left the company earlier this year, according to his profile. LinkedIn. He is one of several Airbnb attorneys who moved on after the company went public.

Tanja de Coster, associate general counsel for global litigation, who was hired by Airbnb in 2013 after half a dozen years internally at eBay Inc., wrote in a LinkedIn update this month that she was resigning.

“I decided to embark on a new adventure,” said de Coster, making a connection with a blog post she also wrote describing the eight lessons she learned during her eight years at Airbnb. “I will spend my time being an activist, an investor, a student and a board member. “

Facebook Inc. welcomed Julie Wenah, Senior Community Advisor and Interim Regional Advisor for Africa at Airbnb, as Deputy Advocate General for Civil Rights in April. Robert Studley, Senior Community Trust Lawyer at Airbnb, where he spent nearly six years, left in May to become Senior Product Advisor at Instacart Inc.

Airbnb also watched Associate General Counsel Derek Smith, a five-year veteran of corporate law, where he bring your dog to meetings, departure in July for become general counsel for the Dutch communications startup MessageBird BV.

Legal recruits

The departures were offset by the recruitment by Airbnb of new lawyers to strengthen the legal, compliance, safety and security teams of the new public company.

Airbnb hired Morgan partner Lewis & Bockius John Polito in San Francisco, where he was co-lead of the law firm’s copyright practice, as an associate general counsel for global risks and regulations in June. Airbnb added corporate lawyer Alison Bloch, who had been a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, in May.

Baker McKenzie, Senior Partner, Juliana Marques joined Airbnb in April as Senior Director for Taxation, always a delicate question for the company, while Julienne Chang, Senior Privacy Advisor, joined Airbnb in March from Singapore Airlines Ltd.

In February, Airbnb hired Courtney Shike, a former partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York City as an advisor for stakeholder initiatives after the firm seconded her to the company last year.

Bloomberg News detailed in a June feature article how Airbnb deploys crisis management and security professionals to protect both its business and public image, as well as the company’s customers. Airbnb’s legal group is headed by Chief Legal Officer Richard Baer, ​​a former senior lawyer at Liberty Media Corp. who joined Airbnb in 2019.

Baer’s hiring saw Chesnut relinquish his title of attorney general, a role the former federal prosecutor supported in 2016, having previously been the third lawyer in the door at eBay. Chesnut then became Airbnb’s very first Ethics Officer.

Belinda Johnson, the very first executive hired by Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, resigned her role as the company’s COO last year, a position she held in 2018 after serving as chief executive officer. commercial affairs and legal manager of the company. Airbnb initially hired Johnson be its General Counsel in 2011.

Johnson remains on Airbnb’s board of directors. She currently owns nearly $ 33 million in Airbnb shares, according to Bloomberg data. Deposits of securities related to the company’s IPO last year reveal Johnson received more than $ 13.8 million in total compensation in 2019, including $ 926,250 in cash.

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