Michael J. Leotta


Leotta, Michael J.

Michael Leotta conducts corporate internal investigations into potential violations of criminal law and company policy, and represents companies and individuals involved in investigations by the Department of Justice, the SEC and Congressional committees. He served for eight years in government, including as an attorney in the White House Counsel’s Office, as an Assistant US Attorney prosecuting fraud and public corruption, and as Appellate Chief and as ethics advisor at the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

Mr. Leotta has conducted internal investigations on behalf of a Fortune-50 bank/broker-dealer, domestic and foreign defense contractors, an international nongovernmental organization, a hospital company and a university. He has represented companies and individuals in response to DOJ, SEC and Congressional investigations on a number of topics, including allegations of: 

  • securities fraud and insider trading,
  • government contracting fraud,
  • violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,
  • political corruption,
  • obstruction of Congress,
  • illegal access to computers, and
  • other federal crimes.

He has represented attorneys, Congressional staffers and others who are witnesses in trials and criminal investigations. He has also counseled companies on compliance matters.
As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Leotta investigated charges of fraud in government contracting and procurement, corruption in Congress and the executive branch, mortgage fraud, health-care fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement from federal programs and numerous other federal offenses. In civil litigation, he represented corporations involved in contract disputes, libel and defamation claims, employment actions, attorney-malpractice claims and securities enforcement actions, among other matters.

Prior Experience

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Leotta served in the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland for more than seven years, both as Appellate Chief and as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA). His career as an AUSA culminated in a detail to the White House Counsel’s Office as Deputy Associate Counsel.

As Appellate Chief, Mr. Leotta managed the appellate work of more than 70 AUSAs. He directed the briefing of hundreds of briefs in the Fourth Circuit US Court of Appeals, trained AUSAs in appellate advocacy, and personally argued cases of particular significance to the US Attorney’s Office. He also served as the office’s Ethics Advisor.

Before becoming Appellate Chief, Mr. Leotta was a trial lawyer in the US Attorney’s Office’s Fraud and Public Corruption section.

During his detail to the White House Counsel’s Office, Mr. Leotta helped manage a team of 12 attorneys vetting President Obama’s executive branch nominees.

Prior to his government service, Mr. Leotta was a litigation associate at Williams & Connolly LLP, and served as a clerk to the Hon. Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Honors & Awards

  • Mr. Leotta is a 2011 recipient of the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for his work on the Jack Abramoff investigation, including a trial of Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying partner.
  • Mr. Leotta received the Department of Justice EOUSA Director’s Award for superior performance in 2008 for the RICO prosecution of a Maryland state senator and other individuals.
  • Mr. Leotta received the Skolnik Award from the US Attorney’s Office in 2007 for outstanding professionalism, determination and creativity in a case of unusual public significance.

Publications & News


January 6, 2014

WilmerHale Announces the Elevation of Partners and Special Counsel

We are pleased to announce the elevation of our new partners and special counsel.

February 22, 2013

WilmerHale Attorneys Publish Article in Bloomberg BNA's White Collar Crime Report

An article entitled "You May Already Be a Government Agent: United States v. Carson And What Will Turn a Corporate Internal Investigation Into 'State Action'" by Michael Leotta and Haryle Kaldis, published in the February 22, 2013 edition of Bloomberg BNA's White Collar Crime Report.

August 1, 2004

Supreme Court Overrules the Nexus Requirement in 18 U.S.C. § 666

An article by Michael J. Leotta appearing in Business Crimes Bulletin, August 2004.

July 1, 2003

‘Theft or Bribery’: The Circuit Split Over the Federal Nexus Element

An article co-authored by Michael J. Leotta and Jefferson M. Gra, appearing in Business Crimes Bulletin, July 2003.

January 1, 1997

The Fifth Amendment Privilege Against Cross-Examination

An article co-authored by Michael J. Leotta and Charles R. Nesson, appearing in the 85th edition of Georgetown Law Journal, p. 1627, 1997.

Recent Highlights

Some recent highlights of Mr. Leotta’s practice include: 

  • Representation and internal investigation of a bank/broker-dealer in response to DOJ and SEC investigations of insider trading, money laundering, and related securities-law violations;
  • Representation of a foreign defense contractor in an SEC investigation relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; 
  • Internal investigations of potential violations of federal criminal law and company ethics policies on behalf of an international nongovernmental organization;
  • An internal investigation on behalf of a hospital-management company, of alleged federal criminal violations by its CEO;
  • An internal investigation of potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at an international corporation;
  • Litigation on behalf of a global energy company facing a federal grand jury investigation;
  • Representation of a renewable energy company facing a Congressional document request relating to the Department of Energy loan-guarantee program;
  • Representation of a former senior aide to Senator John Edwards in the Senator’s campaign-finance fraud trial;
  • Representation of a reporter who was a witness in News Corporation’s internal investigation into phone-hacking and related matters;
  • Representation of witnesses in the trial of a former BP engineer; and
  • Representation of Congressional staffers who were witnesses in a federal criminal investigation.

Some highlights of Mr. Leotta’s career as a federal prosecutor include:

  • A trial stemming from Jack Abramoff's corruption of congressional offices and executive branch officials;
  • A RICO prosecution involving the bribery of a state senator;
  • A law-enforcement-corruption trial against Coast Guard petty officers assigned to drug-interdiction duty; and
  • A wire-fraud and obstruction-of-justice trial against a commercial mortgage lender.

Professional Activities

Mr. Leotta serves on the Board of Governors of the Federal Bar Association, Maryland Chapter. He has served as Treasurer and sits on the Board of the Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellowship, Inc., a non-profit organization devoted to public service and appellate impact litigation. He serves as assistant treasurer to the campaign of Congressman John P. Sarbanes. He has also served as the President and on the Board of the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Maryland.


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JD, magna cum laude, Harvard Law School, 1997, Notes Editor, Harvard Law Review

BA, Psychology, summa cum laude, University of Maryland at College Park, 1994, Phi Beta Kappa

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia



The Hon. Francis D. Murnaghan, US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 1997 - 1998