Facebook Hires State Department Adviser as General Counsel

Jennifer Newstead, Facebook's new general counsel. Courtesy photo.

Jennifer Newstead, Facebook's new general counsel. Courtesy photo.

Facebook has hired a general counsel to replace longtime legal leader Colin Stretch, more than a year into the social media platform’s slew of legal battles over misinformation and data privacy lapses.

Jennifer Newstead will lead the Menlo Park, California-based company's legal team, Facebook announced in a press release Monday. She currently oversees domestic and international legal foreign policy issues and more than 200 lawyers and staff as the legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State, a role she's held since 2017. She was the first woman to hold the position.

"I’m excited to be joining Facebook at an important time and working with such a fantastic team," Newstead said in a press release Monday. "Facebook’s products play an important role in societies around the world. I am looking forward to working with the team and outside experts and regulators on a range of legal issues as we seek to uphold our responsibilities and shared values."

Prior to her legal adviser role, she served as partner in Davis, Polk & Wardwell's global practice for more than a decade, where she reported earning a $1.5 million partnership share between January 2016 and May of 2017, according to documents the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. She advised Comcast Corp., IBM Corp. and AstraZeneca.

Newstead’s also a George W. Bush administration veteran. As the principal deputy attorney general in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, she helped draft the Patriot Act, a counterterrorism law that strengthened government surveillance powers after the attacks on 9/11. John Yoo, a George W. Bush administration lawyer and now University of California, Berkeley, School of Law professor, described her as the “day-to-day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress,” Buzzfeed reported last June.

At Facebook, Newstead replaces nine-year GC Stretch, who hoped to leave the company at the end of 2018, he said in July. Stretch announced he would stay on in November as crisis after crisis hit the company, including allegations that Facebook did not adequately protect consumer data and did not take necessary steps to prevent misinformation from spreading across the platform prior to 2016's U.S. election.

He will stay on through the summer for a transition period. It's not yet clear where he'll head next, though he's previously hinted it's back to a Washington, D.C.-based role where his family is based.

"Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission," said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, in a press release. "We are also truly grateful to Colin for his dedicated leadership and wise counsel over the past nine years. He has played a crucial role in some of our most important projects and has created a strong foundation for Jennifer to build upon."

Facebook declined request for additional comment.

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