By Heather Somerville
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] said on Friday it hired a new chief legal officer to guide the company through its many legal quandaries, filling one of the crucial vacancies in its leadership.
Tony West will join Uber next month from PepsiCo Inc, where as general counsel he led a team of lawyers across more than 200 countries. He was also a former federal prosecutor and senior official in the U.S. Department of Justice under former President Barack Obama.
At Uber, West will contend with a number of criminal probes and one of the biggest legal battles playing out in Silicon Valley, a lawsuit against Uber from Alphabet Inc's self-driving car unit, Waymo.
"Tony is exactly what Uber needs now," Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in an email to staff that was seen by Reuters.
West is the first significant hire for Khosrowshahi, whom the Uber board hired in August after former CEO Travis Kalanick was pressured by investors to resign following a series of company controversies.
Salle Yoo formerly held Uber's top legal job, but she is departing the company in the coming weeks. Last month, Yoo said she would leave Uber when a new general counsel was hired.
Many of Uber's senior jobs remain vacant, including chief financial officer, but the general counsel role was among Uber's most critical to fill. The company faces a long list of legal tangles, including the lawsuit from Waymo that alleges trade-secrets theft; a class-action lawsuit from drivers; and a number of federal investigations that span possible bribery of foreign officials in Asian countries and the use of software to evade regulators.
Earlier this week, three Latina software engineers sued Uber in San Francisco, alleging discrimination based on their gender and race.
During his three-year tenure at Pepsi, West was also one of that company's leading advocates for diversity, Khosrowshahi said.
While in government, West helped the Justice Department secure a nearly $17 billion settlement with Bank of America over toxic mortgage securities and played an integral role in the 2011 decision by the Obama administration to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
West also has family ties to government. He is married to Maya Harris, a former senior adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and his sister-in-law is California Senator Kamala Harris.
Pepsi said in a statement it had replaced West with Dave Yawman, the company's senior vice president and deputy general counsel.
(Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)