Geoffrey Berman Joins Fried Frank After Ouster From NY’s Southern District

Geoffrey Berman, the ousted former U.S. attorney for Manhattan, arrives for a House Judiciary Committee closed-door interview on July 9, as the panel investigates politicization in the Justice Department. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

MANHATTAN (CN) — In a fitting development for the final weeks of the Trump administration, a white-shoe New York law firm announced Tuesday that it has hired the former federal prosecutor whose high-profile investigations made him an enemy of the White House.

Geoffrey Berman will provide criminal defense in white-collar cases and work on complex commercial litigation at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. 

“I am thrilled to join Fried Frank’s litigation and white-collar team,” Berman said in a statement. “The firm is well known for its cutting-edge counsel to top tier companies and high-profile individuals and I am looking forward to working with the team to advance the practice’s key client initiatives and priorities.”

Appointed as interim U.S. attorney in January 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Berman was messily ousted from his post two years later.

Openly defying an invitation to step down quietly and take a Justice Department promotion, Berman triggered a standoff that ended with him effectively calling Attorney General William Barr a liar for publicly claiming he had resigned.

Berman would later testify behind the closed doors of the House Judiciary Committee that Barr had threatened him with career consequences. 

“I asked the attorney general if he was in any way dissatisfied with my performance as U.S. Attorney,” Berman told the committee. “He said that he three yearswas not at all dissatisfied.” 

Berman’s crusading predecessor Preet Bharara had lived through a similar shakeup and public firing by the Trump administration three years earlier, shortly after Trump’s inauguration. 

A Republican and onetime Trump donor, Berman proved his independence from the White House on multiple occasions during his brief tenure. He recused himself from the prosecution of Trump’s ex-fixer Michael Cohen and would not interfere with his team implicating the president in the hush-money scandal.  

While the president’s impeachment inquiry unfolded, Berman indicted Rudy Giuliani’s business associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two men implicated in Trump’s Ukraine scandal. House Democrats used discovery in Berman’s prosecution to build their case to impeach the president, and a related investigation against Giuliani has been reported to be ongoing. 

If Barr intended to muzzle any of these cases — a charge that the attorney general denies — he ultimately retreated from his initial position by allowing Berman’s deputy Audrey Strauss to take over leadership of New York’s Southern District. 

Berman’s track record includes stints as assistant U.S. attorney for SDNY from 1990 to 1994; as associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel for the Iran/Contra matter where he successfully prosecuted a former CIA employee for tax fraud; and a partnership at an international Am Law 100 law firm. 

The early weeks following his ouster saw Berman take on a visiting professorship at his alma mater, Stanford Law School. He taught an elective course titled “Prosecutorial Discretion and Ethical Duties in the Enforcement of Federal Criminal Law.”  In addition to the Parnas-Fruman prosecution, Berman is credited with opening probes into former Congressman Chris Collins for insider trading, Michael Avenatti for extortion, Jeffrey Epstein for sex trafficking and Halakbank for sanctions violations.

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