Latham & Watkins has won a hard-fought battle to recruit chief Enron prosecutor Sean Berkowitz into private practice.
Berkowitz, who headed the Department of Justice’s task force into Enron and successfully prosecuted the energy giant’s CEO and chairman, chose Latham over Chicago stalwarts such as Kirkland & Ellis and Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, which reportedly wanted him to launch its new Chicago office.
Berkowitz, a Chicago native, told The Lawyer: “Latham provides me with the opportunity to live in Chicago but have an international and national practice at the highest level.”
He said that after a tumultuous three years persuing Enron, he wanted to stay in Chiacgo. “I have a dog that needs walking,” he joked.
He joins Latham as a litigation partner just one week after Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for insider trading, conspiracy and securities fraud. Kenneth Lay, Enron’s chairman, died in July and subsequently had his 10-count conviction vacated.
Berkowitz follows other former Enron prosecutors who have joined private practice, including his task force predecessors Leslie Caldwell and Andrew Weissman, who went to Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Jenner & Block respectively.
Prosecutors are hot property for US firms because of the increasing emphasis on white-collar crime. Berkowitz’s hire follows Gibson Dunn & Crutcher’s hire of two former public officials in October.
Peter Wald, Latham’s global head of litigation said that Berkowitz’s hire was “an important statement about our position in this highly competitve global market.”
Speaking to The Lawyer, Berkowitz conceded that although he was happy to be known for his Enron work, “I hope that in 20 years’ time I’ll be known for more than Enron.”
Although he had no specific plans to go back into government work, he said he appreciated Latham’s encouraging stance on its lawyers taking spells in public office.