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New disclosures show DOJ officials' law firm compensation, clients

6 minute read

A woman walks past the U.S. Department of Justice Building, in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Al Drago

  • Former partners at Jones Day, Sidley and other firms snagged front-office posts at Biden DOJ
  • Disclosures are mandatory ethics filings for many senior-level agency officials

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(Reuters) - A former Jones Day partner in Washington, D.C., who returned earlier this year to the U.S. Justice Department to serve as senior counselor to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco reported earning more than $2.8 million in partner compensation on a newly released financial disclosure.

Karl Thompson's disclosure and several others from leading Justice Department front-office lawyers under U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland provide a new window into compensation and client matters at some of the largest law firms in the U.S.

Financial disclosures are mandatory ethics filings that broadly show where a lawyer serving in public service might face a potential conflict based on earlier legal work. Lawyers generally are prohibited from working on matters that involve their firm and former clients for at least a year unless a waiver is approved.

Thompson, a Jones Day partner since 2017 and a former law clerk to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said on his disclosure that he provided legal services to firm clients including Walmart Inc, the Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and General Electric Co. Thompson was a top lawyer in the DOJ legal counsel's office from 2014 to 2017, and he earlier served as counselor to then-Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.

One of Thompson's colleagues, former Sidley Austin partner Kate Heinzelman, is serving as chief counsel to Garland, for whom she was a law clerk when he served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit prior to his confirmation in March as attorney general.

Heinzelman, who clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. in 2010 at the U.S. Supreme Court, left Sidley in July 2020 to be director of vetting for Joe Biden's campaign, according to her disclosure. Her clients at Sidley included Walgreen Co, AT&T, Purdue Pharma LP, Abbott Laboratories, Walmart Stores Inc, McKesson Corp and Salesforce.

Messages to Thompson and Heinzelman were referred to a DOJ spokesperson, who declined to comment on Friday.

A former senior counselor in the deputy attorney general's office, Matthew Axelrod, arrived in January from the partnership at Linklaters, where he reported he received more than $2.88 million in compensation as an investigations and white-collar partner. Among other client engagements, Axelrod served as the independent compliance consultant for Hyundai Construction Equipment Co and provided legal services to the British construction company Balfour Beatty PLC.

Axelrod was based in Washington for London-headquartered Linklaters, and he held various leadership roles at Main Justice during the Barack Obama administration. He has since moved to a special counsel post at the Biden White House. He declined to comment on Friday.

The Justice Department continues to build out its ranks under the Biden administration. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Paul Wolfson, co-leader of the firm's Supreme Court practice, is expected to join the office of Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. Wolfson's last day at WilmerHale is Aug. 20.

Biden nominated Elizabeth Prelogar on Wednesday to serve as U.S. solicitor general. The former Cooley appellate partner has served as the acting top appellate lawyer since January. Former Stanford Law School professor Brian Fletcher was named acting solicitor general after Prelogar's nomination was announced.

Prelogar reported receiving more than $2 million in partner income from Cooley last year, according to her disclosure. She provided legal services to clients including Uber Technologies Inc, Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc, Amgen Inc and Snap Inc.

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