GIR 100 2021

Willkie Farr & Gallagher

Willkie Farr & Gallagher

Professional notice

In the past year, Willkie Farr & Gallagher helped secure a landmark acquittal for Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell in a high-profile Italian trial over alleged bribes made to Nigerian officials.

The firm

The firm has once again proven its record of helping companies and individuals alike secure favourable outcomes in white-collar matters.

In the past few years, the firm has helped its clients avoid prosecution in cases brought by the UK's FCA and SFO, DOJ and SEC. In the FCPA space in particular, Willkie has helped a significant number of major companies accused of foreign bribery secure settlements with US authorities, including Daimler, Tyco, Pride International, Teva and Alcatel-Lucent.

Willkie's compliance and enforcement practice group is led by Martin Weinstein in Washington, DC. Weinstein is a former prosecutor with three decades of experience to call on. As a young assistant US attorney in Atlanta, he led an investigation into whether aircraft manufacturer Lockheed (now Lockheed-Martin) had violated the FCPA by bribing officials in Egypt to win a contract. In 1995, the company was fined $24.8 million – at that time the highest ever corruption fine.

Peter Burrell leads the litigation, compliance and enforcement, and white-collar defence practices in London. Also in London is US-qualified partner Rita Mitchell and partner Simon Osborn-King, who was selected for the 2020 edition of GIR 40 under 40.

The securities enforcement practice boasts a strong cadre of former government officials – notably Elizabeth Gray, who was assistant director in the SEC's division of enforcement. Also on the team is Amelia Cottrell, who previously served as associate director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, and deals with regulatory investigations and compliance matters.

Willkie's white-collar defence practice group is led by Michael Schachter in New York and William Stellmach in Washington, DC.

Schachter and Stellmach are both former assistant US attorneys in the Southern District of New York, where Schachter notably prosecuted TV personality Martha Stewart in 2004. Stellmach also served as acting chief of the Fraud Section in the Criminal Division at Main Justice.

The firm is also home to New York-based Randall Jackson, who previously worked at Boies Schiller Flexner. The former Manhattan assistant US attorney is regularly seen, along with Schachter, working on cutting-edge cases, often fighting back against what many see as the DOJ’s overly expansive legal theories.

In Houston, Willkie can call on the in-house expertise of senior counsel Jay Martin, who was the associate general counsel and chief compliance officer at oil field services company Baker Hughes for 15 years.

In Italy are partners Bruno Cova and Francesca Petronio. Cova has had a handful of in-house roles at prominent companies.

In January 2021, the firm added to its sanctions offering by hiring Britt Mosman, a former adviser at the US Treasury who served as the lead lawyer on the US government’s economic sanctions programmes targeting Iran, Cuba, Syria and Russia.

The firm has seven Who's Who Legal: Investigations nominees and three Who's Who Legal: Business Crime Defence nominees.

Recent events

Whether the firm is advising individuals or companies, Willkie has a good track record of securing acquittals.

Willkie Farr in Italy was counsel to Shell, alongside Debevoise & Plimpton, in a landmark Nigerian bribery case. A Milan court in March 2021 acquitted Shell and another oil company, Eni, of paying millions in bribes to Nigerian officials to secure prospecting rights to a lucrative oil field. Italian prosecutors alleged that the companies and certain executives paid bribes as part of a $1.3 billion deal to secure business on the lucrative oilfield, known as OPL 245, in 2011.

About a year before, Schachter and Jackson secured another acquittal, this time for Lebanese businessman Jean Boustani. The acquittal was the first trial defeat for the DOJ's FCPA Unit in several years. After a six-week trial, a federal jury found Boustani not guilty in December 2019. US prosecutors had accused Boustani of defrauding US investors by carrying out and concealing a bribery scheme in order to secure loans for projects in Mozambique. Prosecutors claimed that $2 billion in loans were sold to US investors who were unaware that at least $200 million was diverted as bribes and kickbacks.

Willkie Farr’s UK team helped financial institution Barclays avoid charges in a blockbuster UK fraud case over deals the bank arranged to raise billions in 2008, GIR previously reported. The ruling in the long-running case was handed down in 2018 and eagerly anticipated by the UK investigations bar for two years. The decision, which was made public in February 2020, clarified how the directing mind and will test can be applied to prosecute a company. The Barclays and Boustani results earned Willkie GIR’s Most Impressive Investigations Practice of the Year Award for 2020.

In a landmark settlement, David Mortlock guided a subsidiary of a UK cigarette manufacturer to a resolution with US authorities in July 2020, GIR previously reported. The company, Essentra FZE, entered into the resolution for attempting to sell over $300,000 in tobacco products to North Korea. The DOJ said the agreement is its first corporate enforcement action for breaches of the broad US trade restrictions that have been in place on North Korea since 2008.

Those successes no doubt help explain why the firm continues to work on major matters.

A Willkie team led by DC partner Michael Gottlieb is representing Houston-based oil company Citgo in a sprawling DOJ corruption investigation. The investigation, which Citgo is cooperating with, mainly focuses on bribes paid to officials at Citgo's parent company, the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).

The firm also has experience handling monitorships. Stellmach and New York partner Rita Molesworth were selected in 2021 as the monitors for the Bank of Nova Scotia. In 2020, the bank agreed to take on a monitor as part of its $60 million agreement with the DOJ to resolve charges over a commodities price manipulation scheme in the precious metals futures contracts markets.


Willkie has offices in Washington DC, New York, Houston, London, Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, and two Italian locations in Milan and Rome. The firm recently launched a Chicago office.


Willkie Farr has built up an impressive client list, with on-the-record instructions from companies including oil company Citgo, networking products developer Juniper Networks and oil exploration business Afren.

Track record

The firm has a history of advising on FCPA matters.

A team of lawyers at Willkie Farr advised Israeli company Teva Pharmaceuticals, helping it through a foreign bribery investigation. In December 2016, the Israeli company agreed to pay a combined $519 million in the US to settle allegations of bribery in Russia, Ukraine and Mexico. The DPA was dismissed in 2020 following the end of a successful monitorship.

A Willkie team led by Weinstein represented California-based networking products developer Juniper Networks in an FCPA investigation by the DOJ and SEC. The company settled the SEC investigation with a $11.7 million civil resolution in August 2019 without admitting to misconduct. The DOJ dropped the case without enforcement action in February 2018.

The firm’s success in representing individuals started long before its work for Boustani. Schacter represented former Rabobank traders Anthony Allen and Anthony Conti, who were convicted in 2015 for manipulating Libor. The pair appealed against the conviction to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2017 and were acquitted after successfully arguing that the use of compelled testimony violated their constitutional rights.

The UK team has pedigree too. The firm conducted an internal investigation for collapsed UK oil company Afren in 2014, focusing on allegations of fraud and money laundering by its former CEO and COO. The SFO charged Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah in 2017 and a jury in London found the pair guilty in October 2018. Later that month, they were sentenced to a combined 11 years in prison.

Willkie is an elite international law firm that provides unparalleled legal advice and dedicated client service to individuals and companies across a wide spectrum of business areas, industries, countries and cultures. Established in New York in 1888, Willkie today has approximately 1000 lawyers spread over 13 offices in six countries. The firm is comprised of individuals who are recognised as some of the world’s foremost practitioners in their respective fields.

Willkie’s award winning Compliance, Investigations & Enforcement practice represents companies, financial institutions, boards and individuals on sensitive, high stakes matters, involving or potentially involving government enforcement authorities, both in the United States and around the world. This includes matters relating to FCPA, UK Bribery Act, Sanctions, Export Controls, Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Kickback Statute, False Claims Act, Mail/Wire Fraud, and Modern Slavery.

The firm was named “Most Impressive Investigations Practice of the Year” and honored for its role in the “Most Important Case of the Year” at the Global Investigations Review (GIR) Awards 2020. We are also frequently recognized as a market leader by leading legal directories and are highly ranked for FCPA and Financial Crime in Chambers USA and Chambers UK 2021 guides.

With market-leading leading lawyers on the ground in the United States, United Kingdom and Continental Europe, Willkie brings together diverse practitioners on both sides of the Atlantic who are among the most highly skilled in their fields. Many of the matters they work on involve novel issues of law and result in significant wins for our clients. The majority of our litigators have prior government experience, including former state and federal prosecutors, white collar criminal defense lawyers and former SEC officials.

We are the go-to practice for:

  • Defending against government investigations
  • We have defended some of the largest, most complex cases
  • We aggressively defend or effectively negotiate, as circumstances require
  • Complex internal investigations
  • Our vast experience makes us efficient and credible to all stakeholders
  • We scope carefully, minimizing disruption and cost without sacrificing thoroughness
  • Compliance counseling
  • We have designed, tested, and defended hundreds of compliance programs
  • Transactional due diligence
  • We risk assess and design and conduct due diligence in mergers and acquisitions and other business transactions

In 2019, we launched the Willkie Compliance Concourse, a widely used, first-of-its kind “app” with practical guidance and latest developments on a wide range of compliance topics. The app has had approx. 100,000 users and has become a must-have resource for compliance professionals.

For more information, please contact Martin Weinstein [email protected] or Peter Burrell [email protected]. Alternatively visit us at |


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