Colin Stretch Named Facebook’s New General Counsel as Top Lawyer Departs
Facebook announced on Thursday that Colin Stretch, a three-and-a-half-year veteran of the company, will soon take over the position of vice president and general counsel for the social giant, assuming responsibility for leading Facebook’s legal team.
Stretch will take over the position after the departure of Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s acting VP and general counsel of the past five years, who announced his intention to leave the company one month ago.
“Colin has been an instrumental leader on the Facebook legal team and has earned the trust and confidence of management, the board of directors and our entire company,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, said in a statement. “We are very excited to have him as our new general counsel.”
Stretch had previously worked as VP and deputy general counsel under Ullyot, was a partner at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, and is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.
During his time at Facebook, Stretch has worked on a wide array of litigation, including leading the team working on the $715 million acquisition of photo-sharing startup Instagram, fighting the ongoing intellectual property battles against opponents like the Winklevoss twins and Paul Ceglia, and dealing with official inquiries from the Federal Trade Commission over privacy concerns. He also dealt with litigation leading up to Facebook’s initial public offering on the Nasdaq exchange one year ago.
Perhaps most importantly, Stretch — alongside Ullyot — has been deeply involved in Facebook’s current and ongoing discussions with the U.S. National Security Agency on the subject of governmental requests for Facebook data — more specifically, on exactly how much and in what detail Facebook is allowed to disclose said requests to the general public.
The company reached a breakthrough last week when, for the first time ever, companies were allowed to disclose all U.S. national security-related requests made of the company (though displayed only in aggregate with other non-NSA requests).
This issue in particular has become top-of-mind over the past two weeks, after whistleblower Edward Snowden and the Guardian alleged that Facebook — as well as a number of other large tech companies — gave the federal government direct access to company servers and user data, a claim which has since been strongly denied by all of the alleged tech company participants.
So at this especially delicate point in time, Stretch’s appointment is in part likely a move to ease any possible turbulence for an incredibly busy legal team in need of a smooth leadership transition.
“Helping advance Facebook’s mission of connecting the world is at the center of our team’s work, and I look forward to the opportunity this new role represents,” Stretch said in a statement. “This is an extremely talented group of lawyers, and an awesome responsibility. I can’t wait to get started.”
Ullyot’s last date at Facebook is July 5, after which Stretch will move into his new position.
And, in timely fashion, here’s one of those new Instagram videos depicting the handoff.
By Mike Isaac