Freshfields Partner Matt Friedrich on Working for a UK Firm in the US

UK law firm Freshfields is creating corporate criminal defense beachhead in the United States.

In New York, Freshfields has partners Aaron Marcu, Benito Romano, Adam Siegel and Kimberly Zelnick.

In Washington, D.C., they have partner Tim Coleman.

And last week, Matthew Friedrich came over to Freshfields’ Washington, D.C. office from Boies Schiller.

After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Friedrich spent fifteen years as federal prosecutor, doing a stint on the Enron Task Force and ending his career as acting head of the Criminal Division under President Bush.

In 2009, Friedrich signed on with Boies Schiller as a white collar criminal defense attorney.

Why join a UK based law firm in the United States?

“I was impressed with the strength of their existing white collar bench,” Friedrich told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week.

“Also, it’s a truly international firm. It’s much larger outside the United States than in it. They have a strong reputation for the quality of the legal services they provide to clients. In terms of leveraging that in an internal investigations practice, it’s the difference between saying to a client – we have the right people here in the United States, and we’re going to find someone at a foreign law firm we have relations with, as opposed to – it’s all under one roof.”

“We have existing assets, including people with investigations experience on the ground and in the same locations where we will be conducting interviews and gathering information. And that just gives the client a very highly level of service and a degree of confidence that data privacy laws, or laws regarding the collection of evidence are going to be observed from beginning to end.”

“Ideally, it’s all done seamlessly and under one roof.”

And when a young American defense lawyer is about to interview with a UK based defense firm, do you have to travel to the UK?

“Yes, you do have to go over there,” Friedrich says. “That’s a part of it. They actually want to meet the people they are going to be working with.”

“I should add, that during the interviewing process, I went not only to London, but I also went to Paris and Frankfurt.”

“I was glad to do that as part of the process. It’s a two way street. You want to meet the people you are going to be practicing with. You want to understand who they are what they are about. And so I was glad to have the chance to do that. But to the extent there is a difference with some of the other U.S. based firms, one is travel. There probably will be an increase in travel.”

We asked Friedrich about the apparent lull in the first part of 2013 in FCPA cases. Lanny Breuer is out. There’s an acting head of the Criminal Division. When there is flux, does that mean that things slow down at the Department?

“I’m glad that you asked that, because that gives me a chance to say great things about the current acting, who is Mythili Raman,” Friedrich said.

“I know she is the keynote at your May 3 conference at the National Press Club,” Friedrich said. “She is fabulous. I had the great fortune that she served as my chief of staff. And then Lanny kept her on and made her his principal deputy.”

“Given what happened between the Obama and Bush administration, the fact that someone would stay on and be promoted is terrific. That says great things about her. She’s an enormously talented person. She was well respected within both the Bush and the Obama administrations. She’s terrific.”

“As to the lull, I know there is a downturn in terms of numbers. I don’t think that is a lasting metric. I don’t think that is the beginning of a continuing tick downwards. Not unlike the stock market, there may be temporary blips down here and there, but if you look at the trend line over time, it’s going to steadily increase.”

We asked Friedrich about the failure of the Justice Department to criminally prosecute any major Wall Street bank or executive from a Wall Street bank in connection with the 2008 financial meltdown.

“I don’t think it is a lack of effort,” Friedrich says. “I don’t think it’s a lack of interest. I just don’t think it’s right to assume that every time there is a significant economic downturn that there necessarily are criminal costs to it.”

“I remember during the Enron prosecutions in 2003 and 2004, Lou Dobbs would have his clock and talk about how long it has been since someone has been prosecuted for Enron. And very reputable reporters — people like Jeffrey Toobin – were saying — they are not going to get there. This was too complicated, that the criminal process isn’t set up for this. This was not a case that was going to be solved.”

“And then eventually, one series of events led to another, and there ended up being an indictment. But for years, it was questioned whether or not we would ever get there. It was a witness by witness, document by document by document process. But it was by no means assured when the Enron investigation started that there would be the level of prosecutions that there were.”

We mentioned to Friedrich that David Uhlmann, the former head of the Environmental Crimes Section at the Department of Justice, will be at the May 3 conference making the argument that the Environmental Crimes Section generally doesn’t use deferred and non prosecution agreements and the Justice Department shouldn’t use them either, except in extraordinary circumstances. And we will be asking Raman and other Justice Department officials attending the conference to defend the Department’s practice.

Friedrich said he disagreed with Uhlmann on this point.

“The government had only blunt instruments — indict or don’t indict,” Friedrich said. “The prospect of being charged is not a prospect that any company wants to face. In that vacuum of extremes, deferred and non prosecution agreements come up as a way to mitigate those extremes.”

“It’s interesting that it has been reported that the UK is looking to see whether it will incorporate deferred and non prosecution agreements into its system.”

“I find that interesting, because you have some in the United States arguing that we ought to be going in the direction of the UK Bribery Act — passing legislation that will enable an affirmative defense of having an adequate compliance program.”

“While some in the U.S. are saying we should look to the UK, the UK is actually looking in some ways here to see if the deferred prosecution model is something to embrace.”

“So, deferred and non prosecution agreements are not right in every situation, but it makes sense to have them as an option.”

[For a complete transcript of the Interview with Matthew Friedrich, see 27 Corporate Crime Reporter 16(13), April 22, 2013, print edition only.]

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