Senior FCPA Counsel Leaves SEC to Join K&L Gates

K&L Gates has just pulled in its second top lawyer in the past year from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This time it's Neil Smith, former senior counsel in the SEC's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit.

After investigating FCPA cases globally over the last seven years for the SEC, Smith joined the firm July 27 as a partner in the firm's investigations, enforcement and white-collar practice in Boston.

Among other high-profile FCPA cases Smith handled at the SEC, he co-led the civil investigation into Och-Ziff Capital Management Group and its executives that resulted in a $413 million global settlement last September—$200 million of it civil and $213 million criminal. It was the SEC's first probe of a major hedge fund.

The SEC said the "investigation of Och-Ziff found that the fund used intermediaries, agents, and business partners to pay bribes to high-level government officials in Africa." According to the SEC, the bribes induced government officials to invest in Och-Ziff managed funds or compensated them in exchange for mining rights. 

Smith also co-led the FCPA investigation into JPMorgan Chase & Co. that resulted in a $264 million global settlement last November ($130 million of it civil). The SEC said bankers in a Chase Asian subsidiary created a program that rewarded job candidates referred by client executives and influential government officials with well-paying jobs.

"JPMorgan hired approximately 100 interns and full-time employees at the request of foreign government officials, enabling the firm to win or retain business resulting in more than $100 million in revenues to JPMorgan," the SEC said.

Mark Haddad, administrative partner of K&L Gates' Boston office, said in a statement: "We are delighted that Neil has joined our firm and we are excited about the highly relevant and unique experiences he brings with him from his time at the SEC."

Smith is the K&L Gates' second recent hire from the commission. Last August, the law firm hired Vincente Martinez as a partner in the government enforcement practice of its Washington, D.C., office. Martinez previously worked as chief of the SEC's Office of Market Intelligence.

And Smith is the fifth new ex-government partner to join the law firm's beefed-up investigations, enforcement and white-collar practice in the past year. The law firm has also hired former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay in Seattle, former Financial Industry Regulatory Authority counsel Michael Dyson in Washington, D.C., and ex-Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Nasson in Boston.

Contributing Author

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Sue Reisinger

Sue Reisinger is a Senior Reporter for Corporate Counsel. You can read more of her articles here or email her at

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