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Silk Road Prosecutor Jumps to Freshfields Cyber, Crypto Group

April 25, 2022, 10:30 AM

Timothy Howard, the Manhattan prosecutor who helped bring down dark web marketplace Silk Road, is joining the Freshfields law firm to focus on cybersecurity and cryptocurrency.

Howard will be a partner in the U.K.-founded firm’s growing New York office, Freshfields said Monday. The firm has made an aggressive play for U.S. business in the past two years, poaching major dealmakers and building a roster of white collar defense lawyers.

Howard and fellow Assistant U.S. Attorney Serrin Turner led the 2015 prosecution of Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht over claims he operated a “black market bazaar” for drugs, weapons and illegal services. Ulbricht, known widely under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

At Freshfields, Howard will advise corporations and other clients on cyber threats, and represent them in litigation and investigations stemming from data breaches. He will also work on cryptocurrency and digital assets issues, a largely unregulated area that is getting increasing attention from major law firms.

Freshfields is continuing to add “boots on the ground” across its global investigations practice, Eric Bruce, the firm’s head of U.S. litigation, said in an interview. Howard joins “a really strong group of people in the U.S. who can be front facing” with government enforcement agencies, he said.

The firm’s corporate clients include Oracle, Ericsson, Volkswagen Group, Saint-Gobain and Universal Music Group, as well as others.

Howard joins from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where he spent a dozen years and led the complex frauds and cybercrime unit. Alleged cyber attacks from Iran and a scheme by former National Basketball Association players to defraud the league’s health plan were among his notable cases.

“Cyber has really been exploding over the last several years and even the last several weeks because of the intense disruption internationally,” Howard said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Howard was part of a team that in March charged a pair of California men with money laundering in an alleged non-fungible token “rug pull” scam. The men are accused of using a series of NFTs called “Frosties” to bilk investors out of more than $1 million.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. joined Baker McKenzie in January to lead its cybersecurity group.

Howard has worked on “some of the most complex and novel issues of our time,” said Freshfields’ U.S. Managing Partner Sarah Solum.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com