One VP left Tesla to join Luminar, a lidar startup
Tesla’s longtime vice president of legal affairs and acting general counsel Al Prescott has left the electric vehicle and solar panel maker to join Luminar, a start-up lidar company.
This is remarkable in many ways. First, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has argued for years that lidar technology is too expensive and unnecessary for developing an autopilot. However, the transfer of Mr. Prescott to Luminar, where he will serve as legal director, does not fit into this concept in any way.
Al Prescott told CNBC: “ Luminar is a pioneer of the safety-critical technology that will underpin our autonomous future. As someone with a career in automotive safety and innovation, I look forward to helping take Luminar to the next level and fulfilling its mission of ensuring transport safety for all. ”
Bill Berry, currently in charge of litigation at Tesla, only joined the company in October 2020 and previously at Google, is expected to head Tesla’s legal department but will not take on the role of general counsel.
Another change in the leadership of Tesla’s legal department could create unnecessary difficulties for the company: now it is facing new lawsuits, federal investigations, and lawsuits that have been delayed for a long time due to quarantine measures against COVID-19.
Tesla previously lost three general counsel during the year. In December 2018, Todd Maron, chief attorney for Mr. Musk’s auto company for the previous four years, left the company. Dane Butswinkas took over, but his tenure only lasted about two months. Finally, Jonathan Chang took over as General Counsel but left in December 2019. Thereafter, the position remained vacant: Mr. Prescott served as Vice President of Legal Affairs and Acting General Counsel.
Tesla was slated to go to court last year over a shareholder lawsuit. Tesla CEO Elon Musk forced his company to acquire SolarCity’s illiquid solar panel business for more than $ 2 billion to benefit himself and his family. The original trial start date was set for March 2020 and is now expected this summer.
And on March 8, 2021, a shareholder named Chase Gharrity filed a lawsuit, accusing Musk of exposing Tesla to potential billions in losses due to his promiscuous Twitter posts. All of this, according to the plaintiff, is happening despite Tesla having previously entered into a settlement agreement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which requires Mr. Musk to publish only tweets previously approved by a lawyer, if they can contain information, which is significant for shareholders. In a new complaint, Chase Garrity accused Tesla’s board of directors of not nominating Tesla’s general counsel to ensure Elon Musk’s compliance with securities laws and the terms of the settlement with the SEC.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Prescott has provided legal assistance to Tesla’s executives and board of directors. He has led all legal operations in North America, Europe, and Asia, helping the company overcome challenges in the automotive and energy markets.
Prescott’s name and face are familiar to those with an active interest in the company’s activities: he opened Tesla’s Annual Shareholders Meeting in 2020. He also signed Tesla’s responses to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is empowered to investigate public complaints about road safety and authorize vehicle recalls if they deem a vehicle or any component of it unsafe.
Before joining Tesla, Mr. Prescott had extensive experience in the automotive industry, including a senior lawyer for autonomous vehicles at Uber. He also worked as a lawyer for the Ford Motor Company for over ten years after spending a year there as an accident safety engineer.
Luminar also announced that it had hired a new VP of Investor Relations, Trey Campbell, who has spent 20 years at Intel. Mr. Campbell held the same position at a semiconductor company before moving on to a lidar manufacturer. Intel Mobileye is a partner of Luminar. Luminar is a public company that Peter Thiel has invested in more equally.