Uber recruits PepsiCo general counsel as new chief legal officer

Uber has found its new chief legal officer in Tony West, executive vice-president of government affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary at PepsiCo.

West will join Uber next month, according to a memo obtained by Legal Week sister title Corporate Counsel that the company’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent to staff on Friday (27 October).

“Tony is exactly what Uber needs now,” Khosrowshahi wrote. “He has public company experience leading a global team of lawyers across more than 200 countries. As a former federal prosecutor and senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official in the Obama administration, he’s well equipped to handle the investigations into our past practices. And at Pepsi, he has emphasised diversity on his team and across the company.”

A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment beyond the email, but said there is no plan to add a general counsel under West.

West, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, stepped into the role of general counsel at PepsiCo in November 2014.

Prior to going in-house, West served as associate attorney general of the US under President Barack Obama from 2012 to 2014, after working as assistant attorney general at the US DOJ for three years. He was also previously a partner at Morrison & Foerster for seven and a half years.

At PepsiCo, West will be replaced by Dave Yawman, who is stepping into the role immediately as executive vice-president of government affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary.

“Over the last three years, Tony has greatly advanced our commitment to being one of the world’s most ethical companies, strengthened our public policy and government affairs function, and demonstrated an unshakeable commitment to diversity,” said PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi. “He is also a good person, deeply committed to making the world a better place, and we wish him all the best on this next endeavour.”

West’s years of experience will no doubt come in handy, as Uber currently faces a number of legal and regulatory woes. The company is dealing with a number of criminal probes from the DOJ, including an investigation into its use of a regulator-skirting tool called ‘Greyball’.

Uber is also currently battling it out in court with Alphabet subsidiary Waymo over driverless car technology, while three female engineers – two former employees and one current – recently sued the ride-hailing giant, alleging unequal pay at the company.

Last month, Transport for London rejected Uber’s application for a new licence to operate in the UK capital, citing “a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to issues which have “potential public safety and security implications”. The company has turned to Hogan Lovells public law head Charles Brasted and Tom de la Mare QC of Blackstone Chambers to appeal the decision.

Currently holding the top legal spot at Uber is chief legal officer Salle Yoo, who announced in September that she was planning to leave the company. In an email to her legal team, Yoo revealed she planned to stay on until a replacement was found to lead the legal department.

In his memo announcing West’s hire, Khosrowshahi thanked Yoo for “all of her hard work in helping build Uber into the incredible company that touches so many drivers and riders all over the world” and for all she is doing to ensure West’s “transition is as smooth as possible”.

The Uber spokesperson said no date has been given for Yoo’s departure, but “she’s going to help Tony get settled before moving on”.

The appointment also comes after Uber UK legal director Matthew Wilson was last month appointed as associate GC for EMEA, alongside a number of other changes to the company’s in-house legal team.