News & Politics

Former US Attorney Ron Machen Is Heading Back to His Former Law Firm

Machen is joining the white-collar criminal defense practice at WilmerHale.

After Jeffrey "Uncle Earl" Thompson pleaded guilty to influencing multiple elections, Ron Machen said it was "just the tip of the iceberg." Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

Fresh off his five-year tenure as the foil of crooked local politicians, former US Attorney Ron Machen is heading back to his previous gig as a partner at WilmerHale. Machen, according to a press release, will join WilmerHale’s Investigations and Criminal Litigation practice, in which he’ll represent the firm’s white-collar clients.

“It was very tough to leave a job I loved, serving as United States Attorney, but I look forward to returning home to WilmerHale for the next phase of my career,” Machen says in the press release.

Machen, 45, announced last month that he would be stepping down as the District’s top federal prosecutor. While the notches on his belt include disgraced former DC Council members Harry Thomas, Jr., Kwame Brown, and Michael A. Brown, along with a slew of national-security convictions, his most famous case—the investigation into former Mayor Vince Gray’s 2010 campaign—remains unresolved, a fact that has earned Machen several doses of criticism. Machen’s biggest victory on the local front came March 10, 2014, when businessman Jeffrey “Uncle Earl” Thompson pleaded guilty to financing numerous “shadow campaigns” on behalf of local and federal candidates, including $668,800 in support of Gray. That day, which was just three weeks before the Democratic primary that ended Gray’s re-election bid, is remembered to observers of DC politics as “Machen Monday.”

Machen’s former deputy, Vinnie Cohen, Jr., is now the acting US attorney for the District and will continue to supervise the “ongoing” Gray inquiry.

Machen worked at WilmerHale from 2001 to 2010, between his stints at the Justice Department. (He was an assistant US attorney for the District between 1997 and 2001.) But he’ll find plenty of former federal colleagues in the firm’s Investigations and Criminal Litigation section. The roughly 100 lawyers in that division include 20 former assistant US attorneys, deputy attorneys general, and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who joined WilmerHale in 2014.

Here’s WilmerHale’s full press release about Machen:

WASHINGTON, DC (April 2, 2015) – WilmerHale is pleased to announce that former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald C. Machen, Jr., is rejoining the firm as a partner in the Investigations and Criminal Litigation (ICL) Practice further enhancing the firm’s roster of trial and white-collar lawyers. As United States Attorney, Mr. Machen earned a reputation for investigating and prosecuting corruption and fraud involving financial institutions, government contractors, health care companies and public officials. He was the longest-serving US Attorney in nearly four decades while leading the nation’s largest US Attorney’s office.

“Building the strength of our Investigations and Criminal Litigation Practice is a high priority for the firm and we are accomplishing this goal by bringing in top-level talent,” said Robert Novick, co-managing partner of WilmerHale. “The ICL Practice is a leader in the market due to the deep experience and comprehensive knowledge our attorneys are known to provide clients. Ron’s experience and reputation will greatly enhance our expanding white-collar practice and we are honored to welcome him back to the firm.”

The firm’s ICL Practice consists of more than 100 lawyers, including 20 former Assistant United States Attorneys, throughout its New York, Washington DC, Boston, California and London offices. Clients rely on WilmerHale for clear understanding of diverse industries and business goals, including in-depth knowledge of the regulatory and political environments in which they operate.

Mr. Machen is the most recent addition to the ICL Practice following the firm’s hiring last month of Anjan Sahni, the outgoing Chief of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Mr. Machen will be joining an all-star team of white-collar and securities enforcement lawyers, augmented in recent years by the addition of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Bob Mueller and former Deputy United States Attorney Boyd Johnson, among others.

“I am thrilled to return to a firm with a top-notch global practice and a great culture. It was very tough to leave a job I loved, serving as United States Attorney, but I look forward to returning home to WilmerHale for the next phase of my career. I am excited about working with a dynamic group of white-collar lawyers at the firm to serve clients on the most difficult matters,” said Mr. Machen.

“Ron’s accomplishments as a highly-skilled trial lawyer, a compelling advocate, and a trusted counselor are widely recognized,” said Howard Shapiro, chair of WilmerHale’s Litigation/Controversy Department. “We’re looking forward to his return to WilmerHale to strengthen our powerhouse criminal investigations and trial practices.”

Prior to his appointment as US Attorney, Mr. Machen was a partner at WilmerHale and a member of the firm’s ICL Practice. Before entering into private practice, Mr. Machen served from 1997 to 2001 as an Assistant US Attorney in the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia where he represented the United States within a wide range of criminal matters in both the local and federal court systems of the District of Columbia.

Mr. Machen graduated from Stanford University in 1991 and Harvard Law School in 1994. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable Damon J. Keith, US Court of Appeals Judge for the Sixth Circuit.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.