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.
“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 Godfrey, Andrew Langan, John Hickey Jr. the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reported. Thomas 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.
Attorney General Eric Holder and other Justice Department leaders have been granted ethics waivers to allow them to review matters related to the botched Sen. Ted Stevens case, the White House disclosed Friday.
A team of Justice lawyers is under investigation for their handling of the public corruption case against the former senator from Alaska. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the charges against Stevens in April after a Justice Department review found that DOJ lawyers hadn’t made potentially exculpatory evidence available to the defense.
A special counsel appointed by Sullivan is conducting a criminal contempt probe of the DOJ lawyers, while the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting a parallel internal ethics review of the case. Two of the DOJ lawyers under scrutiny have hired counsel from the law firms where Holder, Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden were partners.
Administration ethics rules require Justice appointees to recuse themselves from official matters in which their former law firms represent parties. Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington & Burling LLP and Ogden at WilmerHale.
“[T]he particular circumstances surrounding these investigations are unusual, and present important issues even at this early stage of the process,” the letters from Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus said. “It is highly unusual to have an investigation by the court concurrent with an OPR investigation, and it raises jurisdictional issues and questions concerning the authority of the special counsel and the proper relationships between OPR’s investigation and that of the special counsel.”
Patty Stemler, chief of the Criminal Division’s appellate section, is fighting a civil contempt finding by Judge Sullivan in the Stevens case. She is represented by WilmerHale’s Howard M. Shapiro and Mary Katherine Gardner. It is unclear who is represented by Covington. Covington’s Mark Lynch represents Public Integrity Section chief William Welch II (along with Zuckerman Spaeder LLP’s William Taylor.)
The waivers were issued in May. The White House disclosed them on Friday as part of a transparency effort. Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, explained in a blog post here:
Several months ago, the public interest community suggested that we also make available in a central place limited waivers granted by other federal agencies besides the White House. Today, we are releasing all ten such agency-granted waivers (none of which involve lobbying). The President’s Executive Order calls for an annual report to be completed in early 2010 that will include all waivers granted pursuant to the Order. We are, however, pleased to make all of the pledge waivers granted to date by this Administration available now–more than four months early.
This article has been updated.
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Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s nominating commission has been quietly reviewing applicants for U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia since April, and I’ve reported the names of five who have been interviewed. Yesterday, a person with knowledge of the process told me of a sixth: Fried Frank partner Michael Bromwich, who served as the Justice Department’s inspector general during the Clinton administration. (Bromwich declined to comment.)
Bromwich, who heads the firm’s Internal Investigations, Compliance and Monitoring practice group, brings some heavy credentials to a mix that includes Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy Austin Jr.; Nixon Peabody partner Anjali Chaturvedi, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Ron Machen; Channing Phillips, the District’s acting U.S. attorney; and Shanlon Wu, of Wheat Wu.
Chaturvedi, Machen, and Wu were all AUSAs in the District. Bromwich was an AUSA in the Southern District of New York in the 1980s and later served as associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel for Iran-Contra. At Fried Frank, Bromwich splits his time between the firm’s New York and D.C. offices, and since 2002, he’s been the independent monitor for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department on use of force issues. Click here for his firm bio.
In late May, the 17-member commission tasked with reviewing candidates for U.S. attorney began interviewing the candidates, one of the final stages before the body makes its recommendations Norton. Still unclear is whether Norton will forward all of the commission’s recommendations to the president or pluck her favorite from the list. Her office has repeatedly declined to say, and my former colleagues at The National Law Journal wrote earlier this year that Norton and the White House could be in a bit of a row over the issue.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Pauline Schneider, who chairs the commission, could not be immediately reached.
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Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr attorney Jonathan Cedarbaum joined the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as deputy assistant attorney general last week, according to his former law firm.
Cedarbaum, a former litigation partner at WilmerHale, will see a number of familiar faces at his new job. Here’s who else is at DOJ from WilmerHale:
-David Ogden, Deputy Attorney General
-Stuart Delery, Ogden’s Chief of Staff
-Eric Columbus, Senior Counsel in Deputy Attorney General’s Office
-Daphna Renan, Counsel in Deputy Attorney General’s Office
-Chad Golder, Counsel in Deputy Attorney General’s Office
-Davis Oliver, Commercial Litigation Division Trial Attorney
-Jeannie Rhee, OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General