Debevoise Hires Brooklyn Prosecutor Paes

April 13, 2017, 2:12 PM

Debevoise & Plimpton announced this morning that the firm has hired Winston M. Paes, a former federal Brooklyn prosecutor focused on financial fraud.

He will join the firm’s New York office on Monday, a spokesperson said, and will specialize in white collar and regulatory defense work.

“I am excited to begin the next phase of my career at a firm that values and promotes collegiality and a team-oriented approach to client service,” said Paes, in a statement.

In a follow-up interview, Paes said that he looked at “very few firms” since he decided to leave his post in March 2016.

“There were no political implications at all with respect to my departure,” said Paes. “I think the office is in great shape... I would say that the people who are there right now can... and are ready to take it even to greater heights.”

Straight out of Brooklyn Law School, Paes practiced at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as an associate from 2003 to 2008. From there, he joined the U.S. Attorneys Office, and spent the past nine years, investigating cases related to securities and accounting frauds, foreign bribery matters, insider trading and Ponzi and kickback schemes. He is joining Debevoise as counsel, although he said his goal is to make partner.

The “team-oriented” approach Paes referred to is one that’s echoed by the firm’s partners and alumni.

That’s partly attributable to the firm’s lockstep compensation system, whereby lawyers earn their income based on seniority rather than credit for case generation, according to Andrew Ceresney, a white collar defense partner who joined the firm this year after serving as the enforcement director at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“There is no incentive to elbow out fellow partners,” said Ceresney. “And the other thing about Debevoise... is that everyone here likes to practice law and enjoys it and is very focused on client service.”

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Paes, who joins the firm at the age of 42, could have joined many other law firms as a partner. He marks the latest to Debevoise’s growing white collar defense line-up.

The layoffs of federal prosecutors and regulators in the wake of President Donald Trump taking office has meant a fire sale for large law firms, as departing prosecutors and government officials flood the market.

Out of all the large firms competing for talent, Debevoise has scooped up some of the most senior officials, welcoming back to the firm Mary Jo White, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as Ceresney.

In terms of Paes’s accomplishments, the firm said he has successfully tried 10 jury trials and argued 12 appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

In a Bloomberg News profile of Paes in 2015, Christie Smythe reported on a number of his headline-making victories as he raised the clout of the Brooklyn-based Eastern District as its Chief of the Business and Securities Fraud Section.

The report recounted some of Paes most impressive victories:

One headline-making victory he helped secure was the conviction of former Aeropostale Inc. executive Christopher Finazzo, who was sentenced last year to eight years in prison for directing hundreds of millions of dollars in supply orders to a friend in exchange for kickbacks. Finazzo is appealing.

In 2009, he successfully prosecuted former Morgan Stanley broker Darin DeMizio, who was sentenced to 38 months for his part in a stock-loan scheme that generated $1.7 million in kickbacks to his family. Paes “took a really fact-intensive case in a rather obscure and arcane area of Wall Street” and “was able to strip it down to its core in a really compelling 10-minute opening statement,” said Kelly Currie, now the [former] acting U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, who worked the case with Paes.

Below, Paes speaks at our Summit in 2016, alongside a roster of white collar lawyers. Debevoise’s Mary Jo White will speak at our 2017 Summit .


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