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Robert L. Wald, 83

Robert L. Wald, antitrust lawyer helped found fast-growing District firm, dies

Robert L. Wald was a former FTC lawyer.
Robert L. Wald was a former FTC lawyer. (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By T. Rees Shapiro
Saturday, September 11, 2010

Robert L. Wald, 83, an antitrust lawyer who helped found one of Washington's fastest-growing law firms of the 1970s and 1980s, died Sept. 7 at his home in Washington. He had liver cancer.

Mr. Wald, a former Federal Trade Commission lawyer, started the law firm in 1960 with FTC colleague Carleton Harkrader. They were soon joined by William Ross, a lawyer with the Federal Power Commission, and for much of its existence the firm was known as Wald, Harkrader and Ross.

Their expertise was in antitrust, federal agency and environmental work, and they represented large corporate clients in major cases such as the Trans Alaska Pipeline, a $5 billion private investment project, and Stroh's takeover of the Schlitz beer company. By the early 1980s, the law firm had more than 100 lawyers and opened offices in New York and London.

The law partners said their focus was not on the bottom line. In 1971, Mr. Wald dropped one of the firm's biggest -- and most lucrative -- clients, Lorillard, the United States' oldest continuously operating tobacco company and manufacturer of the top-selling menthol cigarette, Newport.

Mr. Wald told The Washington Post that it became "difficult to come home at night and have the kids confront you and say, 'How come you represent a cigarette company, Pop?' "

In 1987, the firm merged with the Philadelphia law firm Pepper, Hamilton and Scheetz. Mr. Wald became a partner at Nussbaum and Wald and, in 1996, senior counsel at Baach, Robinson and Lewis, both in Washington.

Robert Lewis Wald was born Sept. 9, 1926, in Worcester, Mass. He attended Harvard College as a member of the Navy's V-12 accelerated curriculum during World War II and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1947. He served aboard a destroyer escort during the Korean War.

At Yale law school, he met a fellow student named Patricia McGowan. When he asked her out for a date, she said he first had to raise his grades. They graduated together in 1951 and were married in 1952.

The couple had five children in seven years before Mrs. Wald became chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Besides his wife, of Washington, Mr. Wald's survivors include the couple's children, Douglas Wald of Bethesda, Sarah Wald of Belmont, Mass., Johanna Wald of Dedham, Mass., Frederica Wald of New York and Thomas Wald of Birmingham, Mich.; a sister; and 10 grandchildren.

Throughout his career as a lawyer, Mr. Wald often described how one case in particular had special meaning for him. In 1965, copyright lawyers representing Roald Dahl's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" threatened to block a performance of the work by members of Mr. Wald's daughter's sixth-grade class.

As counsel for the sixth-graders, Mr. Wald sent a seven-page letter in protest to the copyright lawyers, and the production went on as planned.

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