Updated 12:40 p.m.
Lanny Breuer has found his rock star to run the Justice Department's Fraud Section: a veteran white collar criminal defense lawyer who is a former prosecution supervisor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan.
Yesterday, Breuer announced that Davis Polk & Wardwell partner Denis McInerney has accepted the top slot in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The retiring chief, Steve Tyrrell, is jumping to the private sector. “We’re very excited for Denis to build on the terrific work that Steve and his team has done,” Breuer said.
There may be excitement in the front office, but some career prosecutors in the Fraud Section are concerned that McInerney hasn’t prosecuted cases for 15 years. The search for a section chief in recent months generated angst in the section. Change in the Fraud Section is coming. Earlier this week, Breuer publicly praised the work of deputy chief Mark Mendelsohn, who is leaving for work in the private sector. Breuer called Mendelsohn an “exceptional public servant and a visionary steward” of the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act program.
McInerney’s prosecution experience stems from his work in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. McInerney was a lead prosecutor in the racketeering and money laundering case against Gary Singer, chairman of the Cooper Companies, an eye-care products company. Singer, represented by Theodore Wells Jr. of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a $1.8 million fine. Wells called McInerney a "fantastic" pick. "I have known him as both a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer and he can best be described as a lawyers' lawyer with great judgment and integrity," he said.
McInerney, through a Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment. Click here for his Davis Polk bio.
A former colleague in New York, Patrick Fitzgerald, now the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, called McInerney a “terrific lawyer” who has a reputation of being a straight-shooter. “Denis is smart. He will listen. I see him as a soft spoken, steady leader. He’s a great choice,” Fitzgerald said. He added that it’s in McInerney’s advantage that he has been on both sides of the courtroom, that he can assess cases and proposed legislative changes from different angles.
McInerney has worked at Davis Polk continually since 1994, making partnership in 1997. From 1989 to 1994 he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He was deputy chief of the office’s criminal division in 1993. On the defense side, McInerney was second chair in the criminal prosecution of Arthur Andersen LLP in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He has represented victims of financial fraud stemming from the investigation of financier Bernard Madoff.
Breuer said the Fraud Section chief is a “vital piece” of the corporate fraud task force the Justice Department and Obama administration announced earlier this week.
“I think Denis brings an extraordinary career as a lawyer, both in the public sector and in the private sector. He’s worked on many of the most sophisticated white collar cases,” Breuer told reporters yesterday. “He’s known to be collaborative. He has a remarkable, engaging presence. He’s very much universally respected and liked with respect to both prosecutors and defense lawyers who’ve worked with him.”
Robert Khuzami, director of the enforcement division at the Securities and Exchange Commission, said McInerney brings an “aggressive yet informed perspective” to the Fraud Section. "This is a coup for the government in the fight against financial fraud and white collar crime,” Khuzami said.