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DC Lawyer Stars in Docudrama: Power Players

How did a local banking attorney land a part in a movie about the subprime-mortgage meltdown? It started with an e-mail.

When banking attorney Keith Fisher got an e-mail from a Swiss director seeking help with a movie about the subprime-mortgage meltdown, he assumed the filmmaker needed a legal expert to consult on the script. But by the end of his first meeting with director Jean-Stéphane Bron, Fisher had been offered a leading part in the docudrama, Cleveland Versus Wall Street.

Fisher is the latest DC attorney to have a brush with show business. Howard Gutman, a former Williams & Connolly partner who is now US ambassador to Belgium, has a Screen Actors Guild card thanks to his bit roles, and McDermott Will & Emery partner Abbe Lowell was asked to play himself in the Kevin Spacey film about Jack Abramoff, Casino Jack, though Lowell declined.

Cleveland Versus Wall Street is based on a real lawsuit brought by the city of Cleveland against 21 investment banks. The suit claimed that the banks had enabled the city’s foreclosure crisis. The case was dismissed, but the docudrama imagines what the trial would have been like. Fisher, who practices in Ballard Spahr’s DC office, plays the banks’ lawyer. In other words, he says, “the bad guy.”

Would Ballard Spahr’s financial clients be thrilled about one of its lawyers starring in a movie that depicts Wall Street as the villain? Fisher says part of the reason he agreed to the project was to persuade the audience that the complexity of the subprime crisis means “no one group is solely to blame.”

This article appears in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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