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Tesla’s general counsel who handled recent SEC case quits

Though Tesla (TESLA) has made significant progress in enhancing its production capacity and financial strength in recent months, the electric car maker continues to witness executive exodus. A number of senior executives have left the company since last year, leaving it in a state of a perennial talent crisis.

In the latest of such incidents, Tesla’s general counsel left Wednesday after merely two months into the job. The management in a communiqué said top lawyer Dane Butswinkas is stepping down to resume his legal practice, which he had discontinued before joining Tesla. He was involved in the legal procedures related to the lawsuit filed by the SEC against CEO Elon Musk for his controversial social media message about ‘taking Tesla private,’ which cost the company several millions of dollars as fine.

Dane Butswinkas is stepping down to resume his legal practice, which he had discontinued before joining Tesla

In January, long-term Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja stepped down, joining the dozens of executives who parted ways with the tech firm in the last three years. Like Ahuja, Butswinkas will also serve as a consultant from outside, after leaving the company. Jonathan Chang, VP of legal affairs, will take up the additional role of general counsel effective immediately, succeeding Butswinkas. He will be reporting to Musk.

Related: A mixed bag awaits Tesla this year

While no specific reason can be attributed to the back-to-back departures of key executives, it could be a reflection of the underlying weakness in Tesla’s operations. Even after stepping up capacity, the company is still struggling to meet the production goals for its Model 3 cars. Also, margins have come under pressure after prices were slashed to tackle the growing competition from new players in the electric car market.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk posted a Twitter message about this year’s production target, only to correct it soon to bring more clarity on the numbers. While the original post said Tesla was on track to make 50,000 units, Musk tweaked it later clarifying that the ‘annualized production rate at the end of 2019 would probably be around 500,000.’

Despite starting 2019 on a positive note, Tesla shares lost momentum after the initial rally and dropped about 2% since the beginning of the year. The stock, which witnessed heavy volatility in recent months, slipped modestly Wednesday.


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