Gorelick to Head BP Congressional Team
By Ryan J. Reilly | June 2, 2010 7:29 pm

This post has been corrected.

Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick has been retained by British oil giant BP PLC to prepare the company to respond to congressional inquiries related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Greenwire reported Wednesday.

Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

“We have been retained to help the company respond to the numerous congressional inquiries that are underway,” Gorelick, now of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, said in an e-mail to Greenwire. “We have not been retained to advocate for any position.”

Apart from the congressional inquiries, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that the Justice Department had opened a criminal probe into who was responsible for the oil spill, but declined to name the target. Investigators are considering both civil actions and criminal charges, Holder said.

Gorelick served as Deputy Attorney General under then-Attorney General Janet Reno during the Clinton administration. Gorelick also sat on the bipartisan Sept. 11 Commission.

BP has worked with Gorelick before; she was a lobbyist in 2007 when she helped BP respond to an inquiry from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to Greenwire.

Kenneth Green, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told Greenwire that Gorelick’s knowledge of the Justice Department will help BP steer “the ins and outs of the process. You want an inside player for that.”

The company that owned and leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, Transocean Ltd., has recruited Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, while Halliburton Co. — which worked on the rig — has hired Patton Boggs LLP, Greenwire reported.

Another DOJ veteran, former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, is coordinating BP’s response to Justice Department inquiry and civil response alongside Kirkland & Ellis partners Richard GodfreyAndrew LanganJohn Hickey Jr. the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reportedThomas Milch of Arnold & Porter LLP is coordinating BP’s interactions with environmental regulators.

Gorelick is well known at the Justice Department where she preceded Eric Holder who took over from her as deputy attorney general in 1997. Since then Gorelick has become known as one of Washington’s best connected lawyers and lobbyists, with close ties to Democratic administrations.

During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Gorelick was part of an informal group of lawyers, including Gregory Craig, the former White House Counsel and Walter Dellinger, a former acting Solicitor General in the Clinton years, who met occasionally to discuss possible legal strategies if Obama was elected.

Gorelick was thought in legal circles to be angling for the Attorney General’s job if Obama won, but legal insiders regarded the possibility of such an appointment remote. That was because of her association with Federal National Mortgage Association, the government-backed financial institution, commonly known as Fannie Mae, that was established to pump money into the home lending market and plummeted to near ruin when the subprime mortgage market collapsed.

Although she had no prior banking or financial experience, Gorelick was named Fannie Mae’s vice chairman from 1998 to 2003. In 2002 she told an inteviewer that Fannie Mae was safely managed, but regulators said a year later that the institution was undermined by serious accounting irregularities and had unrecorded losses of $9 billion.

The financial manipulations had created a false picture of prosperity and stability that led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for Gorelick and other top executives.  A government oversight report in 2006 found that between 1998 and 2002 she had been paid more than $25 million.

An earlier version of this story said that Gorelick would lead the legal team responding to the Justice Department investigation. Gorelick will deal with the congressional inquiries into the BP spill, while other lawyers, now noted above, will deal with civil challenges and the Justice Department probe.

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