Airbnb Hires New General Counsel in Time for Worldwide Legal Headaches

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 20, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The room rental company Airbnb, Inc. has just hired a new general counsel right in time to respond to an increasing number of legal headaches coming the company's way.

As Airbnb falls under the umbrella of the new "gig" economy, many of the legal issues will be new for in-house counsel.

New Blood

Rob Chestnut was named Airbnb's new general counsel to replace the company's Belinda Johnson who moved up the corporate ladder to Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer late last year. Chestnut had in the past held the position of senior Vice President at Ebay.

On Demand "Gig" Businesses

Uber, Airbnb, Lyft. Just a few, with more to come. But these companies are moving head-first into an area of business law that has not yet been charted. Currently, all eyes are pointed to potentially earth-moving (legally, that is) "mis-classification" lawsuits, the most famous of which is O'Connor v. Uber Technologies. There, Uber drivers contend that they are not contract workers as Uber says, but are more correctly categorized as employees based on the relationship they share with the company. And it's not the only lawsuit that the ride sharing company has to deal with, either.

General Counsel in Legis Incognita

Uber and Airbnb are now international companies and as such, are now facing international legal battles. "Whenever you've got a business model that breaks new ground and challenges the status quo, it's going to run up against laws that were passed long before the business model was ever conceived," Chestnut told Yahoo! News.

Recently, Airbnb has had to buck heads with governments over the appropriate amount of taxes Airbnb hosts must pay. Hosts have gotten surprise shockers. And then there's the upset over Airbnb's tax haven chicanery. Boy, can't an average Joe start a multi-billion dollar company these days without getting harassed with all these legal problems? Sheesh.

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