The merger of Pepper with Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan L.L.P. will bring 12 new lawyers to the 500-lawyer firm, and Freeh will serve on its executive committee. As part of the transaction, Pepper Hamilton also acquired Freeh Group International Solutions, a related consulting firm that specializes in internal compliance probes for companies and institutions overseas.
"The relationships go back very far," said Freeh, who served as FBI director from 1993 to 2001. "We know it better than any other law firm, and we have worked closely with it for a number of years in very intricate and important investigations."
Pepper Hamilton chair Nina Gussack said the combination, effective Sept. 1, would deepen the firm's white-collar practice and added to its overseas reach.
"The cross-border capability that this provides is significant," Gussack said. "It has been four years that we have been working collaboratively, and when you work side by side with people and it is easy, the next step is to say we should be doing this full time."
Freeh, 62, has a reputation as a tough, straight-laced prosecutor who draws a firm line on matters of principle. His report on Penn State was scathing, taking its administration, including former head football coach Joe Paterno, to task for failing to take steps to protect boys when suspicions arose about inappropriate behavior by Sandusky.
Freeh butted heads on key occasions with President Clinton, once insisting to former Attorney General Janet Reno that a special prosecutor be named to investigate possible campaign-finance-law violations by the White House. Reno declined to take Freeh's advice.
Freeh also figured into the 9/11 Commission's report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The commission said Clinton had employed what was effectively a law-enforcement approach toward combating terrorism during the 1990s. It reported that Freeh had told the commission staff "in very strong terms" that he believed the Iranian government had been involved in the bombing in Saudi Arabia of the U.S. Air Force Khobar Towers residential complex in 1996, which killed 19 Americans and wounded 372, and that he had provided the same information to the White House in 1999.
The Clinton administration sent a team of FBI agents to investigate, resulting in the indictments of 13 members of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. The point of the 9/11 Commission was clear: What effectively had been an act of war engendered a law-enforcement response, rather than military retaliation.
After leaving the FBI, Freeh, who was raised in Jersey City, N.J., and graduated from Rutgers University Law School in Newark, served for a time as vice chair and general counsel of MBNA America Bank in Wilmington. He formed Freeh Sporkin in 2007.
Pepper's merger with the Freeh law firm is the second high-profile move the firm has made this year. In February, it announced that it had selected Scott Green, a non-lawyer, to serve as CEO with responsibility for both daily operations and strategic planning. Both practice-group chairs and the heads of non-legal departments now report to Green. In the legal world, where leadership positions in the overwhelming majority of cases are held by lawyers, the move was seen as most unusual, if not daring. But it also reflected the growing urgency with which big firms are re-examining their business models and the way they are managed.
Freeh said part of the appeal of the merger was the entrepreneurial spirit at Pepper, which he said was exemplified by the appointment of Green as CEO. He said he anticipated that the white-collar defense practice would continue its growth of recent years and that federal bribery prosecutions of companies under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a boom area of the law in recent years, would remain robust.
Contact Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.