As general counsel of Fannie Mae, Beth Wilkinson had been a major player backing up the mortgage giant during its recent struggles, and also over the summer, as the company first began working with the federal government to stem tanking market confidence.
Earlier this month, she quarterbacked Fannie’s legal team as it navigated the government’s plan to replace the company’s board members with a government conservator and allow it access to billions of dollars of public money. She was at the table in meetings over the first weekend of September as the Treasury Department laid out the details of the bailout, announced on Sept. 7.
News broke late last Friday that Wilkinson was one of four senior executives that resigned from Fannie. A receptionist at her former office says Wilkinson immediately left her post as GC and is currently out of town.
One place she could eventually turn up is Latham & Watkins’ D.C. office, where she co-chaired the white-collar practice before joining Fannie in 2006. Eric Bernthal, Latham’s Washington managing partner says he cannot yet comment on whether Wilkinson will return to the office, but says he expects the firm will “talk to her, and others probably will as well.” However, he doesn’t anticipate that she will rush into a decision: “Beth is, I think, taking a breather at the moment and considering her various options.”
Now that Wilkinson is no longer at Fannie, there’s also a question of whether Latham will continue to serve as outside counsel to the company. As GC, Wilkinson farmed out work on shareholder derivative suits and other matters to Latham, and the firm also replaced Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr as lead outside adviser on issues stemming from the company’s 2004 accounting scandal after Wilmer was criticized for its handling of the matter.
Bernthal says that Latham is presently still handling legal work for Fannie, but says he doesn’t know if or how Wilkinson’s resignation will affect that client relationship. “It’s a fluid situation. Ownership’s changing, management’s changing,” he says.