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Former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer Joins FCPA Inc.

Yesterday, Covington & Burling announced here [1] that Lanny Breuer (former Assistant Attorney General, DOJ Criminal Division) is returning to his old law firm to become Vice Chair of the firm.

As noted in my recently published article “Lanny Breuer and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement [2],” Breuer’s former DOJ position obviously involved more than just the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  However, as noted in the article, the substantive law of most interest to Breuer while at DOJ appeared to be the FCPA and by Breuer’s own admission he spoke about the FCPA and related issues “perhaps more than on any other subject and all over the world.”  While at the DOJ, Breuer set DOJ FCPA policy, helped create the current enforcement landscape and boldly proclaimed “a new era of FCPA enforcement; and we are here to stay” (see here [3] for the prior post).

Indeed, Covington’s release states that Breuer “established himself as a national leader on a range of federal law enforcement priorities” including the FCPA.  The Covington release also largely carries forward the DOJ’s release [4] concerning Breuer’s tenure at the DOJ and states as follows.

“At the Justice Department, Mr. Breuer increased enforcement of the FCPA, overseeing more than 40 corporate resolutions and eight of the top 10 largest penalties in U.S. history. The Criminal Division secured convictions of more than three dozen individuals on overseas corruption-related offenses, a department record. And he collaborated with the Securities and Exchange Commission to publish critical guidance on the government’s anti-corruption enforcement efforts.”

Like the DOJ’s release, and as noted in the above article and in this [5] previous post, the Covington release also omits other relevant information concerning Breuer’s tenure at the DOJ as it relates to FCPA enforcement.

This [6] New York Times article reports that Breuer’s first year Covington salary is “expected” to be “about $4 million.”  The article notes that Breuer’s Vice Chair position at Covington was “created … especially for Mr. Breuer, a Washington insider …”.

As noted in this [7] article by the on-line news agency Main Justice, Breuer hopes his white-collar practice will grow following his stint at the DOJ and he expects to have clients in areas such as foreign bribery.  This [8] Wall Street Journal article states that Breuer “plans to leverage his government experience with money laundering and FCPA cases into more international work for the firm” and quotes Breuer as follows.  “I think I have a pretty good sense of what the department and what the government looks for.”

Indeed, Breuer’s Covington bio [9] states that he “specializes in helping clients navigate [among other things] anti-corruption matters” and that while at the DOJ he “oversaw numerous prosecutions that set new benchmarks across a host of enforcement areas, including anti-corruption …”.

Like Breuer did in this [10] previous New York Times article, he stated as follows regarding concerns of the revolving door.  “What people dismissively talk about as the revolving door allows people to be better public servants and private litigants.  I believe I was a better assistant attorney general because of my deep experience in the private sector.”

In this [11] Corporate Crime Reporter article concerning Breuer’s new position, Dennis Kelleher (a former partner at Skadden Arps and currently president of the public interest group Better Markets [12]) stated as follows.

“[N]othing is more corrosive to the American people’s trust in government than the revolving door where too many officials turn their so-called public service into multi-million dollar riches unimaginable to most Americans. […]  Lanny Breuer’s spinning through it is only the latest example: partner at big DC law firm representing corporate clients before the Department, then becomes a senior official at the Department making decisions whether or not to prosecute those same or similar corporate clients, then leaves to go back to private practice representing those same or similar corporate clients with legal issues before, bingo, the Department of Justice.  Isn’t much of his new multi-million dollar pay package due to the high level connections, high-profile and intimate knowledge of the Department of Justice he gained while doing his ‘public service’ at the Department?”

Breuer’s departure from the DOJ to a private law firm is just the latest example of a high-profile FCPA enforcement attorney joining a law firm to provide FCPA defense services.  (See this [13] post from two weeks ago for the other recent example; other instances are so numerous, they are hard to keep track of).

That Breuer (and other former DOJ FCPA enforcement attorneys who also moved to private practice) played a supervisory role as a DOJ enforcement attorney in helping create the current FCPA enforcement landscape and in setting the “priorities” and the “benchmarks” is precisely the reason why I have long argued that it is in the public interest (recognizing the niched nature of both the DOJ and SEC FCPA units) that all FCPA enforcement attorneys should be prohibited, when leaving the government, from providing FCPA defense or compliance services for a five-year time period.  For additional reading see this [14] piece I co-authored as well as this [15] prior post among several others.