Lockheed Puts Faith In Tough Lawyer
Monday, August 8, 2005
Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, the Justice Department's second in command, says he's got some homework to do, learning about Bethesda's Lockheed Martin Corp. before he becomes its top lawyer in October.
But the man who brought criminal charges against domestic entrepreneur Martha Stewart and investment banker Frank P. Quattrone has become a quick study in his current job, fielding what he calls "a constant firestorm" of requests from more than 110,000 prosecutors around the nation.
Comey, 44, will manage a team of 140 lawyers for the Pentagon's biggest defense contractor, replacing Frank H. Menaker Jr., a prominent figure in the Washington area legal community who worked for Lockheed or its predecessor companies for 35 years.
Comey said in an interview that he chose Lockheed from among a number of opportunities partly because of the company's clean reputation. He said he also preferred having a single client rather than taking the course pursued by many other former prosecutors -- joining a law firm and defending some of the same sorts of clients in private practice that he targeted during his long government tenure.
"It strikes me as a logical extension of what I do now, which is help provide legal advice and manage a huge entity," Comey said. "I like what they do, I like their values and I like their leadership. They are a company focused on compliance."
Charles W. Garrison of District-based Garrison & Sisson Inc., a recruiter, said Comey was "pretty much able to write his own ticket," given his credibility and his longstanding contacts within federal agencies.
"While Lockheed Martin hasn't had a lot of problems, it's probably a very good defensive acquisition for them, and an offensive acquisition for them as far as Comey being able to open doors," Garrison said.
Lockheed executives said Comey's record in both the public and private sectors drew them to him. "James Comey brings a wealth of talent and experience to Lockheed Martin, and in particular exceptional litigation expertise and leadership skills," said Thomas C. Greer, a company spokesman. "He also has valuable insight into commercial litigation, having been a partner in a private law firm."
Although Comey had a stint at the Virginia law firm McGuireWoods LLP, he has spent most of his career in government service, as a federal prosecutor in New York, Richmond, and Washington. He played a key leadership role in the president's Corporate Fraud Task Force, created after the collapse of Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc.
Life inside Lockheed, which employs about 130,000 people around the world and posted sales of $35.5 billion last year, may involve a change of pace for Comey, whose affable manner serves as counterpoint to his 6-foot-8-inch stature.
Still, he is not the first Justice Department official to choose a high-profile job inside a corporation. Former deputy attorney general Larry D. Thompson now works as general counsel at PepsiCo Inc. Clinton-era deputy Jamie Gorelick worked for years at Fannie Mae. William P. Barr, former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, is general counsel at Verizon Communications Inc.
"There is a different set of dynamics at work inside a company," said George J. Terwilliger III, a partner at White & Case LLP in Washington who was deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. "Jim is so intelligent and perceptive that I suspect he will be a very quick study on those issues."