The Work

October 26, 2009 5:22 PM

Hedge Fund Billionaire Drops Gibson Dunn for Akin Gump

Posted by Brian Baxter

Hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam has dropped Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as his defense counsel on federal insider trading charges in favor of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. News of the switch was first reported by The New York Times's DealBook on Monday.

John Dowd, head of the criminal litigation group at Akin Gump, is replacing Gibson Dunn white-collar defense cochair James Walden.

Individuals close to Rajaratnam told the Times that the hedge fund executive met with lawyers from prominent defense shops like Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison about coming on board as additional counsel, even after Rajaratnam retained Gibson Dunn.

Sources tell The Am Law Daily that Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel's Barry Berke also was under consideration. (Berke has his hands full at the moment representing former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik on corruption charges.)

Rajaratnam turned to Gibson Dunn initially, and began to assess his options for defense counsel after posting a $100 million bond, sources tell The Am Law Daily.

Gibson Dunn attempted to hold onto the work; according to the Times, Rajaratnam was pleased with the firm's representation over the past week. But the hedge fund executive ultimately chose Akin Gump and Dowd.

Dowd, 68, is based in Akin Gump's Washington, D.C., office, and as a 30-year commercial and white-collar litigation veteran, is highly regarded. Before entering private practice, Dowd was a trial attorney in the tax division at Main Justice and chief of the organized crime task force in the criminal division, where he tried the first prosecution of the federal RICO statute.

Among his noteworthy representations, Dowd advised Sen. John McCain during the Keating Five scandal. (Movie Trivia/Spoiler Alert: In the movie The Informant, based on a true story about a whistle-blower at Archer Daniels Midland, a whistle-blower played by Matt Damon spills the beans to a company lawyer identified as Dowd.)

Dowd could not be reached for comment by the time this post was published.

Asked whether Gibson Dunn will continue to represent Rajaratnam in his SEC civil case, Gibson Dunn securities enforcement cochair Barry Goldsmith referred us to Walden, who did not immediately respond to an interview request. Walden did release the following statement to the Times:

"Raj has retained John Dowd of the Washington, D.C.-based firm Akin Gump to represent him going forward, and we are pleased Raj will continue to get great legal representation from such a fine group of lawyers. Rest assured, his team will not miss a beat and is already well prepared to help him fight these charges and clear his name."

We'll be sure to update on the switch as we learn more.

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