January 13, 2017 / 1:54 AM / 2 years ago

Morgan Lewis lawyer takes center stage on Trump business conflicts

By Karen Freifeld and David Morgan The lawyer U.S. President-elect Donald Trump called upon on Wednesday to explain how he would restructure his business empire to avoid conflicts has represented him for more than a decade and works for a law firm with a large Russia practice.

Sheri Dillon has advised Trump on tax matters since 2005, according to a letter released by the campaign last spring. She joined Morgan Lewis as a Washington, D.C., partner in 2015, having previously represented Trump at other firms.

Neither Dillon nor Morgan Lewis responded to requests for comment.

A 1999 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Dillon specializes in tax planning and litigation. Her other tax clients have included Dow Chemical Co, General Mills Inc and several investment funds, according to a search of the Westlaw database. Westlaw is a unit of Thomson Reuters, which also owns Reuters News.

Dillon said at Wednesday’s press conference that Trump had tasked her and her colleagues at the law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius with creating a business structure “that will completely isolate him from the management of the company” and “assure the American people the decisions he makes and the actions that he takes as president are for their benefit.”

She said the Trump Organization will not enter into any new overseas deals while Trump is president and will only undertake domestic projects after a company ethics adviser has approved them. But the arrangement falls short of the blind trust or complete divestment many ethics experts have called for.

According to her profile on the Morgan Lewis website, Dillon also serves as director and president of the Washington D.C. Center for Public Interest Tax Law, which provides pro bono advice to low-income taxpayers.

She contributed $1,500 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Founded in Philadelphia in 1873, Morgan Lewis has around 1,900 lawyers in 29 offices worldwide. It has one of the larger Moscow offices among U.S. firms, with around 40 lawyers and staff there. Last May, Morgan Lewis was named “Russia Law Firm of the Year” by British legal directory publisher Chambers & Partners, citing the firm’s work in the market.

Trump has said he hopes to improve ties with Moscow, but his plans have come under intense scrutiny after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia used cyberattacks and other tactics to try to tilt the election in his favor over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Dillon has represented Trump at Morgan Lewis with tax lawyer William Nelson, who joined Morgan Lewis in 2014 and previously worked with Dillon at the now-defunct firms Bingham McCutchen and McKee Nelson, the latter of which he co-founded.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Dillon said Morgan Lewis partner Fred Fielding was also advising Trump on conflicts of interest. Fielding was White House Counsel for Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.

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