Former ETF prosecutor Ben Campbell has joined Latham & Watkins, the revolving door firm where his compatriots, the indiscriminate blowjob purveyor Kathy Ruemmler and premature ejaculator Sean Berkowitz have worked (Sean Berkowitz is still collecting paychecks from the firm while Rummler has since returned to government work.) Campbell will be a partner in the firm’s New York office.
Campbell, 44, stepped down as the top federal prosecutor at EDNY almost a year ago after the Obama administration appointed current U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to the job. But Campbell chose to stay on as a senior assistant U.S. attorney for the remainder of the year to mentor young attorneys in the office and take his time deciding on his next move.
“I’ve known Loretta for a long time and she was tremendously gracious in letting me hang around to figure out what I was going to do next,” says Campbell, who officially resigned from the office in January and announced he would be joining a law firm, which he declined to name, in February.
Ultimately, Campbell decided to accept an offer from Latham, and reunite with several former Justice Department colleagues at the firm. As part of the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force–he joined the team of star prosecutors investigating the collapse of the energy giant in 2003–Campbell had worked under former prosector and task force director Sean Berkowitz, who joined Latham in November 2006.
In early 2006, as the task force’s work began winding down, Campbell moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as chief of staff to then associate attorney general and current Latham partner Alice Fisher. Fisher joined the firm in the fall of 2008.
Campbell says Fisher and Berkowitz played a part in his decision to join Latham, as did three old friends who also are partners at the firm: New York office litigation chair Richard Owens, white-collar and government investigations cochair Catherine Palmer, and litigation partner Barry Sabin in Chicago.
“I looked at [Latham] very closely when I was in law school and thinking about becoming a summer associate, but wasn’t able to make everything work out,” Campbell says. “So it was nice to come back and see that the things I liked about the firm then were still present.”
The diversity of Latham’s integrated practices and the firm’s global reach were big draws, Campbell says. “The world has really changed a lot over the past 20 years, and while global integration is a bit of a buzzword, it’s also true,” he adds. “And there’s not a lot of rigidity between folks in one area or another, which kind of mirrors my experience at the [Justice] Department.”
With over 2,000 attorneys, Latham ranks as one of the largest law firms globally, according to The National Law Journal’s NLJ 250 annual headcount survey. The firm had gross revenues of $1.8 billion in 2009 and average profits per equity partner of $1.9 million, according to the most recent Am Law 100 survey of the top grossing firms in the U.S.
Campbell started looking at firms last May after Lynch was officially sworn in as U.S. Attorney. He says he was advised in his search, which picked up in earnest in August, by Andrew Regan, cofounder and partner at Empire Search Partners. Campbell notes that it took a while to decide whether to reenter private practice or stay in government. In the end, the choice rested on Campbell’s desire to broaden his skill set.
“I’ve worked with a lot of people who came back to government from the private sector and invariably they’ve had a more developed set of skills and perspective in certain areas,” he says. “They could bring additional thoughts to whatever problem we were confronting, and that made me conclude that a stint in private practice might be something that could be good for me.
Born in Iowa, Campbell obtained his law degree from the University of Chicago. As a summer associate at Sidley Austin in the early nineties, he shared a secretary with Barack Obama, according to this March 2010 profile in the New York Law Journal, a sibling publication.
Campbell went to work at Kirkland & Ellis after law school, but in 1994, began his career as a federal prosecutor. In October 2007, Campbell was appointed interim chief of the EDNY by former President George W. Bush, succeeding Roslynn Mauskopf after her confirmation as a federal judge in Brooklyn.
As he looks forward to private practice, Campbell reflects on the opportunities he’s had as a public servant.
“I was really lucky in the [Justice] Department to do a lot of great stuff,” he says. “If my public service career was to end today, I’d be very happy with how it turned out.”
In Re: Enron, Campbell has a mixed reputation. Some Enron defendants say he was okay, but I think he showed his arrogance during Rex Shelby’s cross examination. He began the examination on the topic of Shelby’s 302.
The first time he asked Shelby, “This is what you said, right?”, Rex replied, “I took notes of the interview and brought those to the stand with me. If you don’t mind, I will take a look at my notes so I can tell you exactly what I said about that topic.” This seemed to take Campbell’s breath away, and the trial was paused while they passed out copies of the notes to the prosecution team. Cambell, strangely, tried to claim that Ed Tomko, Rex’s attorney, must have written the notes (I guess he thought an engineer cannot write), which gave Rex the opportunity to tell the jury that he did not even have an attorney when he talked to the FBI agents. Campbell tried a few other questions around the 302 without success and so had to move on to another topic.
I wish I could say that Campbell copied this strategy from Berkowitz, who seized on a spontaneous unguarded moment to question Skilling about his jury consultant. Alas, the Broadband trial happened before the Skilling trial. But I guess it is a common tactic: seize the moment. In this case, it made Campbell look like an ass and ultimately backfired.