Updated 2:39 p.m.
A former senior U.S. Justice Department attorney who advised top officials on matters that included the Fast and Furious congressional investigation and the inquiry into Aaron Swartz's death is joining Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Steven Reich, a former associate deputy attorney general, is joining Akin's New York office as a partner in the white collar defense and government investigations practice. At the Justice Department, Reich advised Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and Deputy Attorney General James Cole and oversaw a team of attorneys.
"My primary responsibility at the department was managing the department's response to investigations of the department that were conducted by Congress, inspector generals or watchdog groups," Reich said in an interview.
Two of the more high profile matters on which Reich advised include the Fast and Furious gun-running congressional investigation and the inquiry into the prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Republican lawmakers hammered Holder over the extent of his knowledge of the gun sting, whose tactics the attorney general has called flawed. In the Swartz case, the Justice Department came under fire from critics who charged that the computer crimes prosecution, brought in Boston federal district court, was overbroad and the potential penalty too steep. Swartz committed suicide in January while the case was pending.
Reich declined to comment on the two matters, citing his lack of contact with the Justice Departure since his departure April 1.
Before joining the DOJ in June 2011, Reich was the co-chairman of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips' corporate investigations and white collar defense practice. At Manatt, Reich worked on securities, health care, pharmaceutical and financial fraud matters. Before that, he was senior associate counsel to President Bill Clinton.
In his decision to join Akin, Reich said that he was drawn to the firm's white-collar and internal investigations strengths, both of which, he said, fit his interests. Reich also cited one notable encounter with Akin partner James Benjamin Jr., who was representing the audit committee of Monster.com, while Reich was representing the CEO.
"While our client's positions in the matter did not align, I came away from the matter incredibly impressed with Jim and Akin," Reich said. "I always had it in the back of my mind how impressive the firm was."
It’s not uncommon for an attorney to return to the law firm the lawyer left behind to join the government. In some instances, like Reich’s, there’s a switch-up after service in the public sector.
"I loved my time at Manatt and have only the best things to say about the firm," Reich said in an email. "In an era of increasing globalization, Akin Gump's international platform held great appeal for me."