Derek Anthony West (born August 12, 1965) is an American lawyer who currently serves as general counsel of Uber. Before joining Uber, West served as executive vice president of government affairs, general counsel, and corporate secretary for PepsiCo. He also served as president of the PepsiCo Foundation. In addition to supporting the growth and sustainability of PepsiCo's global business for its shareholders, West focused on promoting an ethical and inclusive culture at PepsiCo. He emphasized that a company must start with an ethical culture to be a long-term, sustainable company. During his tenure, PepsiCo continued to be recognized as one of the world's most ethical companies, increased diversity in both its Office of General Counsel and among its suppliers of outside legal services, and signed both the White House Fair Chance Business Pledge and the White House Equal Pay Pledge.
West previously served as the Associate Attorney General of the United States, the third highest-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice; and Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division, the largest litigating division in the Department of Justice. In September 2014, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced his intention to step down, West was speculated as being a potential successor as the next United States Attorney General.
During his time at the department, West played an integral role in the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) after concluding that the statute was unconstitutional.
West also secured nearly $37 billion for American consumers and investors harmed by the financial crisis and elevated the department's efforts to improve public safety in Indian country, including the landmark tribal provisions in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). On August 21, 2014, West secured a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America – the largest settlement with a single entity in American history – to resolve federal and state claims against Bank of America and its former and current subsidiaries, including Countrywide Financial Corporation and Merrill Lynch.
On November 30, 2016, Senator-elect Kamala Harris announced that West, her brother-in-law, would co-chair her transition team.
Early life and education
West was born in San Francisco, California, to Franklin and Peggy West. His father, the first person in his family to attend college, was born and raised in Georgia and worked for IBM while his mother, who was a teacher, was born and raised in Alabama. West was raised in San Jose, California, where he lived with his two younger sisters, Pamela and Patricia. He attended Bellarmine College Preparatory, a Catholic, all-male, private secondary school, where he served as freshman class president, before graduating in 1983.
West received his Bachelor of Arts in government from Harvard University in 1987, where he served as publisher of the Harvard Political Review. In 1988, West began volunteering and working on political campaigns, engaging in Democratic political causes, such as working as the chief of staff to the Boston, Massachusetts treasurer of Michael Dukakis's presidential campaign. West also served as a finance director to the Democratic Governors Association, until 1989. He received his Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School in 1992, where he served as the President of the Stanford Law Review. While attending Stanford, he worked as a summer intern for Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman in 1990. He also worked as a summer intern for Tuttle & Taylor, and Morrison & Foerster in 1991.
After graduating, West continued his work in Democratic politics, working as chief of staff to the finance chair of the California Democratic Party, while also working in private practice as an associate at the Bingham McCutchen San Jose office, from 1992 to 1993. In 1993, he joined the State Bar of California, and was admitted to the Superior Court of California and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
From 1999 to 2001, he was a Special Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the California Attorney General, under Bill Lockyer. From 2001 to 2009, he was a litigation partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco. He also served as the California co-chairman of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
U.S. Department of Justice
West began his career at the Justice Department when he joined the Clinton administration in 1993, as a Special Assistant under Philip Heymann, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice, until 1994, when he was appointed as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the Northern District of California. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, West prosecuted child sexual exploitation, fraud, narcotics distribution, interstate theft, and high tech crime.
In 2009, West returned to the Justice Department when President Obama nominated him to serve as Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice Civil Division.
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
West led the Obama Administration's review of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which ultimately resulted in President Obama's and Attorney General Holder's decision to stop defending DOMA and paved the way for the Supreme Court's ruling that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.
Protecting Taxpayers and Consumers
In addition to focusing on traditional areas of the Civil Division's work, West helped the department further its most important priority – protecting national security. He also bolstered the division's affirmative civil enforcement efforts in areas such as health care fraud, mortgage fraud, and procurement fraud to recover taxpayer money lost to fraud and abuse, resulting in unprecedented monetary recoveries. During his tenure at the helm of the Civil Division, the Division recovered more than $8.8 billion in taxpayer money under the False Claims Act—the largest three-year total in history at the time of West's departure from the Division. On the consumer protection front, West oversaw cases that resulted in more than 115 criminal convictions, as well as recoveries of more than $3.5 billion, during his three-year tenure.
Preemption Lawsuits Challenging State Immigration Laws
West was personally involved in the department's preemption lawsuits challenging immigration laws passed in Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah. The department's core arguments—that each of the states' immigration laws is constitutionally preempted, because it is the federal government and not the states that is vested with the primary authority and the primary responsibility in immigration matters—ultimately prevailed in the Supreme Court.
Associate Attorney General
Beginning on March 9, 2012, West served as the Acting Associate Attorney General until the U.S. Senate confirmed West to be Associate Attorney General in a 98-1 vote on July 25, 2013. In 2014, Mr. West was awarded the department's highest award, the Edmund J. Randolph Award. The Award, named for the first Attorney General of the United States, appointed by President George Washington, recognizes outstanding contributions to the accomplishments of the department's mission.
As Associate Attorney General, West led the department's efforts to combat financial fraud, securing record-breaking civil penalties and large global civil settlements against financial institutions in connection with their roles in precipitating the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. These include two of the largest civil resolutions against a single entity in American history: Bank of America ($16.65 billion) and JPMorgan ($13 billion). In total, West's efforts recovered nearly $37 billion for American consumers and investors harmed by the financial crisis. With each settlement, along with landmark monetary penalties, Mr. West has insisted on a robust statement of facts outlining each institution's conduct, as well as meaningful consumer relief to assist homeowners across the country who are still struggling to recover from the financial crisis.
Additionally, Mr. West led the department's investigation and filing of a civil lawsuit against the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's Rating Services for allegedly engaging in a scheme to defraud investors in structured financial products, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars by investors, many of whom are federally-insured financial institutions. The investigation and lawsuit involved collaboration with several state attorneys general offices, a number of which also filed civil fraud lawsuits against S&P alleging similar misconduct in the rating of structured financial products.
Civil and Constitutional Rights
As Associate Attorney General, West continued his commitment to upholding the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly in the areas of constitutional policing, indigent defense, and voting rights.
West led the department's engagement with state, local, and tribal law enforcement on variety of issues, particularly strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. Through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, Mr. West promoted collaborative reform efforts that allowed the Department to work with local law enforcement who were committed to instituting constitutional policing policies and procedures.
West also oversaw constitutional policing enforcement actions by the Civil Rights Division and personally led the department's negotiations with Puerto Rico to reach a historic agreement that requires the Commonwealth's police department to implement and sustain a wide range of constitutional policies and procedures, including those that address use of force, equal protection and non-discrimination, and community engagement.
West also led the department's commitment to supporting the provision of indigent legal defense. In June 2014, West represented the United States at the U.N.’s International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in the Criminal Justice Systems in South Africa.
In 2013, West oversaw the department’s unprecedented filing of a statement of interest in Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon (WD Wash.), a class action lawsuit alleging that accused defendants were systemically denied effective assistance of counsel. Without taking a position on the merits of the case, the filing requested that if the court found constitutional violations, it consider workload controls for public defenders and appointment of an independent monitor to ensure compliance. The plaintiffs in the case prevailed on the merits and the court required defendants to hire a part-time public defender supervisor to monitor and report the defendants’ delivery of indigent defense representation.
West was also one of the department's primary spokespersons on voting rights, overseeing the Civil Rights Division's work to protect access to the ballot box. In 2014, in an address to the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Mr. West said, "Our message is unequivocal: we will use every legal tool that remains available to us, against any jurisdiction that seeks to hinder eligible citizens’ full and free right to vote. When we see something that causes us concern, we won't hesitate to make it plain."
In June 2014, West detailed Department plans to consult with tribes on a recommendation to Congress that would require election officials whose territory includes part of an Indian reservation or Alaska Native village to ensure at least one polling place is located in an area selected by the tribal government. "[I]t is a tragic irony that in this country—history's greatest democratic experiment—it is First Americans who, for a variety of reasons, have, for decades, too often been deprived the right vote," West said in discussing the proposal. "Standing by as Native voices, for whatever reason, are shut out of the democratic process is not an option."
West championed tribal sovereignty and improved the federal government's relationship with Native American communities through meaningful and frequent engagement, particularly in the areas of public safety, intimate partner violence, children's exposure to violence in Indian country, and voting rights.
With his leadership and efforts to raise awareness of about the alarmingly high rate of violence against women in Indian country, the Department secured passage of tribal provisions in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, allowing tribes—for the first time in decades—to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence in Indian country. West oversaw the extensive but expedited consultation with tribes to implement the Pilot Project, which allowed tribes to exercise the special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians ahead of the law's March 2015 effective date. West authorized three tribes – the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation – to become the first tribes in the country to exercise the new jurisdiction.
Mr. West also oversaw the creation and work of the Attorney General's Task Force on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence, which included an Advisory Committee – chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan—of non-federal experts and an interagency Federal Working Group of high-level federal officials.
On October 7, 2014, PepsiCo, Inc. announced that West had joined the company as executive vice president of government affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary, effective November 24, 2014. West succeeded Larry Thompson, who retired after almost a decade of service. West was responsible for PepsiCo's worldwide legal function and government affairs organization, as well as the company's global compliance function and the PepsiCo Foundation. He reported to PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi.
While at PepsiCo, West elevated the Legal Department's commitment to diversity in the legal profession. In 2016, West launched the Larry Thompson Fellowship Program, a summer program for 1Ls dedicated to diversifying the profession. West also committed PepsiCo to implementing ABA Resolution 113, requiring its outside counsel to submit the ABA's Model Survey on diversity, and using the diversity metrics in the surveys as a factor when selecting outside counsel. In 2017, PepsiCo used the diversity metrics collected in the ABA survey to generate a diversity index score and recognize firms with scores above the median and demonstrated an exceptional commitment to diversity through qualitative efforts. PepsiCo's outside counsel selection policy also requires its lawyers to obtain approval from the PepsiCo General Counsel before engaging a firm with a below-median diversity index score.
West also prioritized promoting an ethical culture at PepsiCo, which has named as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere every year since the list's inception in 2007. Asked why an ethical culture is important at PepsiCo, West responded, "[C]orporations increasingly are being looked to by society to help resolve large problems. Big problems. Part of that is not just because companies have resources, because companies operate in societies, operate in communities, not as a matter of right, but because they earn a social license in which to operate on. Earning that social license to operate is something that doesn’t happen automatically. Companies have to actually gain the trust of communities. They have to make sure they are bringing value to the social ecosystem in which they’re operating, and that can only happen if they are operating with a core of sustainable, ethical business practices."
In October 2017, West announced that he was leaving PepsiCo to take a position as General Counsel at Uber. This announcement shortly followed the completion of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at Uber by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
In 1998, West ran for a seat on the San Jose City Council. In the primary, West's main challenger was Cindy Chavez, the staff director of Working Partnerships USA. He came in second to Chavez in the June 2 primary, with 41.2% of the vote. West was ultimately defeated, receiving 48% of the vote in the general election.
West also ran for the California State Assembly, for the 23rd district, in 2000. After incumbent Mike Honda ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, leaving a vacancy, West was one of six Democrats to run for the open seat. He was defeated in the primary by San Jose City Councilman Manny Diaz, receiving 38% of the total votes cast.