Crowell & Moring is launching an attorney general practice, joining a growing list of major law firms which offer legal expertise to clients facing state attorneys general investigations as well as federal and other probes.
Clayton S. Friedman and Michael Yaghi have joined Crowell & Moring as partners in the firm’s new State Attorneys General Enforcement and Investigations practice.
Friedman, who had been a partner at Sidley Austin, will lead the practice, which offers expertise to defend against states which are increasingly utilizing their enforcement and investigative powers.
Crowell & Moring’s move comes as several other large firms, alert to the high stakes and sweeping investigations in huge cases such as the ongoing opioid litigation, have opened practices geared to state-led actions.
Last October, O’Melveny & Myers launched a group led by Daniel Suvor, a former policy chief for Kamala Harris, and staffed with former government lawyers and prosecutors with experience in state-led investigations and enforcement.
Also, in September, Blank Rome hired a ranking official from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. Among other firms with such practices are Cozen O’Connor, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, King & Spalding and Alston & Bird. Dentons also has hired more former state officials and has several former state attorneys general, including Bill McCollum, a former Florida attorney general.
Friedman was an assistant Missouri attorney general for a decade, then also in 1993-94 served as chief counsel and director of business regulation which covered antitrust, consumer protection and insurance for the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington.
Joining him in Crowell & Moring’s Orange County, Calif., office will be Michael Yaghi, also a former Sidley partner, who has experience defending companies against state and federal regulators. The new practice group will include 14 Crowell & Moring lawyers and operate nationally.
The state powers are not new but activating them has waxed and waned in response to the amount of federal investigative and enforcement activity, Friedman said. All states have consumer protection laws, and some states like California are particularly active in enforcing them.
“A lot of states mirror California, and more and more are looking to California to see what it is doing,” Friedman said. “State-led actions can be different from federal actions, and there are 50 different attorneys general, 44 of whom are elected and there can be substantial differences.”
And, Friedman said, there can be huge settlements that result from state-led actions such as the settlement worth hundreds of billions of dollars between attorneys generals of 46 states and the largest tobacco companies in the 1990s.
In addition to bringing aboard Friedman and Yaghi, Crowell & Moring also hired former Kirkland & Ellis partner Andrew Pruitt for its complex civil litigation practice. He has worked with big-name clients including Accenture, British Petroleum and student loan giant Navient.