* Richard Klapper seen as a tough advocate
* Klapper has represented Barclays, Bank of New York
By Dan Margolies
WASHINGTON, April 19 He keeps a low profile,
but Richard Klapper, the lead lawyer defending Goldman Sachs
Group Inc (GS.N) against civil fraud charges by the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission, is no pushover.
Former colleagues say he shies away from trumpeting his
achievements, despite an impressive record of courtroom
victories on behalf of some of biggest financial firms in the
world, including Barclays Plc (BARC.L) and
IntercontinentalExchange Inc (ICE.N).
They say he is a fearsome litigator -- a trait that could
help Goldman if the firm moves ahead with its vigorous denial
of the charges and goes toe-to-toe with an army of SEC lawyers
in Manhattan federal court.
"He knows how to make a sharp point without it going over
the line," said Paul Mahoney, dean of the University of
Virginia law school and an alumnus of Sullivan & Cromwell,
where Klapper has been a partner since 1987.
In his three-decade-long legal career, Klapper, a 1979
graduate of Yale law school, has repeatedly -- and successfully
-- represented the interests of big banks.
Earlier this decade he won a case for the Bank of New York,
which was facing a shareholder action accusing it of money
He was also part of the team of lawyers in 2007 that
represented Barclays in a class action suit by Enron Corp
shareholders against the banks that advised Enron before its
implosion in 2002. Klapper successfully argued on appeal that
the link between the shareholders' claims and the banks conduct
But Klapper does not just cater to the world of banking and
Wall Street, which tend to lean Republican.
He is a contributor to Democratic causes, giving $2,300 to
Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2007 and $1,000 to
Barack Obama's campaign a few weeks later.
"It's certainly fair to say that 'formidable' is the right
word for him," said Charles Whitehead, a securities law
professor at Cornell University and a one-time attorney at
Sullivan & Cromwell.
"He's diligent and very, very focused," Whitehead said,
while also noting there is a reason Klapper does not have a
lengthy biography on the firm's website. He does not brag.
Goldman also has tapped Gregory Craig, a former White House
counsel for President Barack Obama, to assist on political and
legal matters, website Politico reported on Monday. Craig now
practices with the Washington, D.C. office of mega-law firm
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.
Vince DiBlasi, a Sullivan & Cromwell attorney who has
represented numerous individuals in SEC investigations, will
also be part of Goldman's defense team, according to a source
familiar with the matter.
Like Klapper, DiBlasi is no stranger to thorny, highly
publicized financial cases. He represented David Duncan, the
lead partner of Arthur Andersen's Enron auditing team, after
the accounting firm was indicted for obstruction of justice in
Klapper and DiBlasi did not respond to requests for
Their firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, is considered one of the
top corporate go-to law firms in the country and has had a
long-standing legal relationship with Goldman Sachs.
Goldman's legal team is expected to mount a fierce defense
against the SEC complaint, which alleges Goldman did not
disclose the role played by a hedge fund in selecting subprime
mortgages for an investment packaged and marketed by Goldman.
The hedge fund, Paulson & Co, bet against the investment, a
so-called synthetic collateralized debt obligation, and
pocketed $1 billion when the subprime mortgages soured,
according to the SEC. Investors in the instrument, meanwhile,
lost $1 billion.
In responding to the SEC's "Wells notice" to Goldman last
year that it was considering taking legal action against the
bank, Klapper and his colleagues conceded no ground.
They argued that all the participants in the transaction
were highly sophisticated institutions and that the SEC was
acting "with the benefit of perfect hindsight."
(Reporting by Dan Margolies with additional reporting by
Kristina Cooke in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)