Facebook's former top lawyer jumps to international law firm Latham & Watkins

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Signage is seen on the exterior of the building where law firm Latham & Watkins LLP is located in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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(Reuters) - Latham & Watkins said in a statement Monday it has recruited Colin Stretch, who served as the top lawyer at Facebook Inc for about six years before leaving the tech giant in 2019.

Stretch will be of counsel at the international law firm's Washington, D.C., office, where he will work with both startups and public company clients, according to Latham.

As general counsel role at Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms Inc, he testified before Congress in high-profile hearings in 2017 as the U.S. investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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Facebook said as many as 126 million Americans over two years may have seen politically divisive posts that originated in Russia under fake names. A 2019 report from then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that the Russian government interfered in the election in a "sweeping and systemic fashion," which Russia has denied.

Stretch told a panel of federal lawmakers in October 2017 testimony that Facebook in retrospect "should have had a broader lens" to spot political ads bought with Russian money. Stretch declined to comment on the testimony on Monday.

Ian Schuman, the global chair of Latham's capital markets and public companies practices, said that "the judgment, the ability to see around corners, the war stories Colin has gotten at Facebook makes us more valuable to clients."

Stretch attributed his decision to leave Facebook in 2019 to a commute from his family's home in D.C. to his job in Silicon Valley that "just became too much."

After leaving Facebook, Stretch began lecturing at New York-based Columbia University's law and business schools. Latham said Stretch will continue teaching at both.

Stretch joined Facebook in 2010 after a 10-year stint at D.C. law firm Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick. He was present for the company's 2012 initial public offering, as well as its acquisitions of photo-sharing social network Instagram in that same year and messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

Stretch left the company prior to the U.S. suing Facebook in December 2020, alleging that it acted illegally to maintain a social network monopoly. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has asked a judge to order Facebook to unwind its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook has argued that the FTC has failed to "plausibly establish" that it acted illegally to protect a monopoly.

Meta has tapped Latham in several lawsuits, including an ongoing trade secrets case pending in Boston federal court. Meta is accused of misappropriating computer algorithms developed by start-up Neural Magic Inc. The company has denied the allegations.

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.