Vinson & Elkins has added longtime in-house counsel and former federal prosecutor Michael Ward to its San Francisco office as a partner in its budding white collar and government investigations practice.
Ward has spent the past 15 years in-house leading compliance efforts at companies like Target Corp., McKesson Corp., Adobe Systems and Cisco Systems. Prior to that, the former Shearman & Sterling associate spent nearly 16 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Minneapolis.
In 2015, Ward joined Juniper Networks Inc., a Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity and networking firm, as its vice president and chief risk and compliance officer where he worked with Vinson & Elkins attorneys while overseeing a six-year Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation concerning its sales practices in China and Russia. In August 2019, Juniper settled with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for $11.7 million.
Ward and his counterparts at Vinson & Elkins recognized that compliance program management experience was key to a company’s defense, which led to discussion about him joining the firm.
“We just saw a great synergy and maybe even an essential synergy going forward,” Ward said.
“With the addition of Mike Ward, Vinson & Elkins adds a leading authority on compliance and investigations who is uniquely capable to offer the insights and practical solutions sought by boards, general counsel and executives,” Brian Martin, general counsel of Juniper, said in a statement.
The Justice Department and increasingly the Delaware Supreme Court have evolved their expectations when they evaluate board liability, Ward said. In the past compliance consisted of a collection of policies and procedures, some training accompanied by some investigations. Now they want a proactive compliance management system where you’re proactively identifying and assessing the risks that are unique to your business model, Ward said.
“The recognition [at Vinson & Elkins] is that the compliance program expertise is essential to both dimensions of the practice,” Ward said.
John Wander, litigation and regulatory department co-chair and investigations partner, said in a statement that Ward “has an incredibly rare background as both an experienced in-house compliance officer and a former prosecutor with deep trial experience.”
Vinson & Elkins has been busy building its complex litigation and white-collar teams in New York, Washington, California, and Texas.
Palmina Fava, former co-chair of Paul Hastings’ global compliance and disputes department, joined Vinson & Elkins in September. Fry Wernick, formerly of the Justice Department’s FCPA unit, Ron Tenpas, formerly of the agency’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and former deputy chief of the Eastern District of Virginia’s criminal division Mike Dry have also joined the firm.
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