The Revolving Door, Covington Style

The revolving door through which government officials return to private practice and back and round-and-round is a much-debated issue.

It seems most vexing concerning lobbyists, where public policy formulation can be poisoned, and least problematic for certain agencies such as the SEC, as research and a fine New York Times essay by David Zaring (Penn/Wharton) attest, as enforcement intensity and oversight rigor does not seem adversely affected.

Still, there is considerable debate about the matter, with protective public responses that impose waiting periods and other limitations.  Glenn Reynolds (U. Tennessee) excoriated the practice in a USA Today column, calling for punishing income tax on practitioners.

Amid the professional and scholarly debate, the masses seem to find the revolving door inherently repulsive while stock market reactions suggest that sophisticates value the practice.

Within that framework, it is not surprising that the esteemed Washington law firm of Covington & Burling boasted today about its rich roster of former prosecutors, on the occasion of the return to the firm of the latest example, Lanny Breuer, who has just stepped down from a four year stint as assistant U.S. attorney general.

A press release and an email blast went out detailing the deep bench.  The email had three paragraphs; the boastful last follows.   All law firms boast an impressive bench of former government officials, but this would seem to brook few rivals.  Are they more effective at helping clients avoid violations or evade accountability? Is the firm really able to cash in on this experience through a bigger and more lucrative book of business?  The research is equivocal, but many think the answer is yes, including the masses, the money and, manifestly, the firm.

Lanny will practice alongside colleagues with strong international and U.S. federal enforcement backgrounds such as: Robert Amaee, the former Head of Anti-Corruption and Head of Proceeds of Crime at the UK Serious Fraud Office; Bruce Baird, former Chief of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; Tom Barnett and Deborah Garza, both former Assistant Attorney Generals in charge of the Antitrust Division; Michael Chertoff, himself a former Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division before becoming Secretary for Homeland Security; Steve Fagell, former Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor in the Criminal Division; Jim Garland, former Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to Attorney General Eric Holder; Haywood Gilliam, former Chief of the Securities Fraud Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California; Nancy Kestenbaum, former Chief of the General Crimes Unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; Lynn Neils, former Chief of the Major Crimes Unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; Ethan Posner and Jean Veta, both former Deputy Associate Attorney Generals; Alan Vinegrad, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; and numerous other former federal prosecutors and enforcement officials such as Stephen Anthony, David Bayless, Casey Cooper, John Hall, Geoffrey Hobart, David Kornblau, and Simone Ross.

Hat Tip: Lynn Turner

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