Distressed Fannie Mae

Hires a Top Defender

Chalk up another troubled corporate client for veteran defense lawyer Robert S. Bennett.

Last week District-based mortgage giant Fannie Mae hired him to help stave off Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into its accounting practices.

Bennett, 65, a partner in the Washington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, in recent years has developed a lucrative specialty of representing companies ensnared in financial scandals.

He and other Skadden partners also run interference for French bank BNP Paribas, disgraced energy trader Enron Corp., rehabilitation hospital chain HealthSouth Corp., audit firm KPMG LLP, and the Allbritton family of Riggs Bank fame.

In all, Bennett said, his team in Washington has nearly 65 lawyers -- including longtime partners Carl S. Rauh and Alan Kriegel and former SEC enforcement deputy Colleen P. Mahoney -- plus 60 legal assistants.

But the affable former prosecutor may be best known to a wider audience for his defense of President Bill Clinton in a sexual harassment lawsuit that ultimately helped lead to Clinton's impeachment.

"When representing companies it is a very nuanced practice, because you have so many constituencies: regulators, law enforcement people, shareholders, boards of directors and board committees," Bennett said. "You have to deal with all these things fairly quickly, because if you don't, the franchise can be seriously jeopardized."

-- Carrie Johnson

Robert S. Bennett has been hired to defend Fannie Mae.