Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations

GIR 100 2018

Greenberg Traurig

26 October 2018

Greenberg Traurig acted for several high-profile individuals over the past year, including a UBS trader who was acquitted of spoofing charges, and a South American football association’s former president, who received a nine-year jail sentence for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

The firm

Founded in Miami 50 years ago, Greenberg Traurig’s white-collar practice took off in 1989 when veteran attorney Mark Schnapp joined the firm from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Schnapp, a Who’s Who Legal: Business Crime Defence nominee, served as co-chair of the firm’s global white-collar practice in Miami until 2016. He remains a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, the equivalent of a partner.

Schnapp was succeeded by Marc Mukasey, who joined the firm’s New York office in February 2016 from Bracewell, where he headed the white-collar defence practice. Previously, he served at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for eight years. John Pappalardo, a former US attorney for the District of Massachusetts who works from the firm’s Boston office, is the other white-collar practice co-chair.

In the New York office is shareholder Daniel Filor, also a former Southern District prosecutor, and Obiamaka Madubuko, who regularly advises US-based companies on compliance with the UK Bribery Act and the FCPA.

In Washington, DC, the firm boasts former DOJ trial lawyer Pamela Marple and Elaine Greenberg, who was a senior officer in the SEC’s enforcement division and also associate director of the SEC’s Philadelphia regional office over a 25-year career at the agency.

The firm has made a push into the London investigations market, with the hire of Barry Vitou from Pinsent Masons. Vitou joined in May as head of London white-collar and investigations. He now works alongside shareholder Lisa Navarro, who advises companies on anti-corruption compliance measures with a focus on the requirements of the UK Bribery Act. At the time of writing, Vitou’s former colleague Anne-Marie Ottaway was rumoured to be joining him at Greenberg.

In Shanghai, co-managing shareholder George Qi focuses his practice on internal investigations into regulatory violations, including the FCPA. The firm’s Mexico City office is home to Hugo López Coll, a 40 under 40 nominee in 2017, who advises clients on regulatory and compliance matters, including potential FCPA violations. Coll and Vitou are both listed in Who’s Who Legal: Investigations, while Vitou, Schnapp and Gregory Kehoe are listed in Who’s Who Legal: Business Crime Defence.

The firm lost Rudy Giuliani in May 2018. The former Mayor of New York had taken leave from the firm in April to represent US President Donald Trump in the US Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and any related matters. Giuliani had joined the firm in 2016.

Recent events

Pappalardo advised South American football association Conmebol’s former president, Juan Ángel Napout, who received a nine-year jail sentence in August 2018 after being found guilty of racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering charges over claims he accepted bribes linked to the sale of marketing rights for football tournaments.

The firm acted for former UBS trader Andre Flotron, who was acquitted in April of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud. Specifically, Flotron was accused of “spoofing” – the practice where a trader attempts to inflate the price of futures contracts for certain commodities by feigning to make orders but not following through. The acting chief of the DOJ’s fraud section, Sandra Moser, described the decision as a “tough loss”.

Giuliani, when he was at the firm, was among several prominent defence lawyers representing Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was charged in connection with a scheme to violate US sanctions on Iran. Zarrab pleaded guilty in November 2017 and agreed to become a cooperating witness. Giuliani disclosed in court filings that he and another of Zarrab’s defence lawyers, Michael Mukasey, had travelled to Turkey to try and broker an agreement between the US and Turkey to resolve the case.

Network

Greenberg Traurig’s investigations lawyers are based in 13 of the firm’s 29 US offices including Boston, Chicago, Miami and New York. Other white-collar shareholders are based in London, Mexico City and Shanghai.

Clients

The firm has represented a range of high-profile individuals and corporates in white-collar investigations, including Japanese car part supplier Takata, gold trader Reza Zarrab, former Fifa official Juan Ángel Napout and former UBS trader Andre Flotron.

Other corporate clients include healthcare companies Wellcare Health Plans and Exactech, as well as Duke Energy and firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson.

Track record

In 2016, lawyers at the firm were part of the team representing ex-Countrywide executive Rebecca Mairone Steele. Federal prosecutors had pursued both Bank of America and Mairone Steele over the sale of faulty loans, but an appeal courts overturned penalties against both.

In the FCPA space, Greenberg Traurig is well known for representing engineering company Atkins North America in its investigation by the SEC and DOJ. The joint investigation into the Atkins’ bids on contracts in Qatar and Morocco resulted in a declination from the DOJ and the SEC’s second-ever FCPA deferred prosecution agreement in January 2015.

The firm also advised Smith & Wesson in its 2014 settlement with the SEC, which arose from the 2010 Africa sting operation that targeted 22 employees of various military contractors.

Mark Schnapp in 2015 helped Tampa-based engineering firm PBSJ Corp receive a declination from the DOJ, and a rare deferred prosecution agreement with the SEC, over FCPA allegations.

Pappalardo has also acted for the former chairman of Russian oil company Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, before being released in 2013.

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