Has the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan Been Outsourced to Wall Street’s Law Firms?
Has the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan Been Outsourced to Wall Street’s Law Firms? By Pam Martens and Russ Martens for Wall Street on Parade
On May 2 of last year, the Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote a decisionfinding that the U.S. Department of Justice had outsourced a criminal investigation to the target of the investigation – Deutsche Bank – and Deutsche Bank’s outside law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. (Paul Weiss is a big defender of alleged crimes by Wall Street banks, particularly those of Citigroup.)
A larger, more critically important question would be: has the U.S. Department of Justice outsourced the entire U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York to Wall Street’s favorite law firms?
No matter how many times the New York Times tells its readers that the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York is known for its “independence,” the cold, hard facts on the ground keep getting in the way of that narrative.
The fact that Jay Clayton, Trump’s golfing buddy and his sitting Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, felt comfortable to ask Trump and Attorney General William Barr for the job of U.S. Attorney in the SDNY while the post was already occupied by Geoffrey Berman, says a lot about how things are done in that U.S. Attorney’s office.
Both Clayton and Berman came from Big Law firms that defend Wall Street’s biggest banks. Clayton had worked for Sullivan & Cromwell for two decades prior to Trump’s nomination for him to head the SEC. Clayton has spent much of his time at the SEC rolling back the safety protections of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010 to the cheers of his former law partners at Sullivan & Cromwell and their Wall Street banking clients.
While at Sullivan & Cromwell, Clayton had been outside counsel to Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is currently attempting to get out of pleading guilty to a felony in a bribery and embezzlement case known as 1MDB being handled by the U.S. Department of Justice – of which the U.S. Attorney’s office is a part. It might be soothing for Goldman Sachs to have their former lawyer sitting as a federal prosecutor while they navigate their way out of another criminal matter without being prosecuted.