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Cravath Launches D.C. Office With Former SEC, FDIC Leaders (1)

June 6, 2022, 12:51 PMUpdated: June 6, 2022, 1:30 PM

Cravath Swaine & Moore is opening a new office in Washington, anchored by the former heads of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The new outpost, which will open this fall, is the third office for the storied Wall Street firm. Cravath was founded in New York in 1819 and opened in London in 1973.

The office opening is just the latest change for the the firm, which late last year announced that it would end its seniority-based compensation system and adopted a modified lockstep system.

Jelena McWilliams, former FDIC Chairman, Elad Roisman, former Commissioner and Acting Chairman of the SEC, and Jennifer S. Leete, former Associate Director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, will join the firm as partners in its new office, the firm announced on Monday.

The trio will help clients navigate regulatory, corporate governance and investigation matters as well as M&A, IPO and other capital markets transactions.

“Our clients face an increasingly complex and active regulatory environment, and our move today enhances our ability to provide the most creative advice in addressing their most challenging matters,” said Faiza Saeed, Cravath’s presiding partner in a statement.

“With nearly half a century of combined public service, Jelena, Elad and Jennifer will bring exceptional regulatory experience, legal acumen and leadership on critical issues. We are thrilled to welcome them to Cravath,” she said.

McWilliams, a former attorney at Morrison & Foerster and Hogan Lovells predecessor firm Hogan & Hartson, took over as chair of the FDIC in 2018

She previously was executive vice president and chief legal officer and corporate secretary for Fifth Third Bank. Prior to joining Fifth Third, McWilliams worked in the U.S. Senate, most recently as chief counsel and deputy staff director with the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. She also served as an attorney at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors during the financial crisis. McWilliams resigned from her post in February.

“Building the Washington, D.C. office for a firm as venerable as Cravath—its second U.S. office in over 200 years—is an opportunity of a lifetime. I am honored to be joining the Cravath partnership at this important moment for the Firm,” said Ms. McWilliams, who will serve as the managing partner of the Washington office.

Roisman, a former attorney at Milbank, became an SEC commissioner in 2018 and served as acting chair from December 2020 until late January 2021. Leete, a longtime SEC attorney and former branch chief and assistant director, was appointed associate director in the SEC’s division of enforcement in June 2020.

The trio join a long list of former heads of federal regulatory agencies now at Cravath.

Former assistant attorney general and leader of the Justice Department’s antitrust division Christine Varney chairs Cravath’s antitrust practice. David Kappos, a former Commerce Department and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office official, and John Buretta, a former number-two of the DOJ’s criminal division John Buretta, are also partners at the firm.

The firm also recently brought Ronald Creamer Jr., previously the head of Sullivan & Cromwell’s tax group, as well as former assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission Daniel Zach.

Though lateral losses are rare for the firm, it has also seen some recent departures. Dealmaker Damien Zoubek joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year as co-head of its M&A practice. M&A partners Jenny Hochenberg and Allison Wein joined Freshfields and Kirkland & Ellis, respectively, this year.

(Updated with additional information about hiring in paragraphs 12-14)

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com