People

Michael J. Leotta

Partner

Leotta, Michael J.

Michael Leotta conducts internal investigations and represents corporations and individuals in matters involving criminal law, securities law and regulations, the Bank Secrecy Act, and anti-money laundering rules.  He represents clients involved in investigations by the DOJ, the SEC, state and federal financial regulators, and Congressional committees.  He also advises media companies in First Amendment and criminal matters.

Mr. Leotta served for nine 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 Ethics Advisor at the US Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.

Practice

Mr. Leotta has recently conducted internal investigations on behalf of global financial institutions, domestic and foreign defense contractors, a hospital company, and a university. He has represented companies and individuals in response to investigations by the DOJ, the SEC, financial regulators, and Congress on a number of topics, including allegations of:

  • securities fraud and insider trading,
  • Bank Secrecy Act / AML violations,
  • 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 individuals who are subjects or witnesses in internal corporate and criminal investigations and prosecutions, including attorneys, a journalist, a defense contractor, and Congressional and campaign staffers.

Mr. Leotta has also counseled companies on compliance matters, including compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act / AML regulations, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and statutes applicable to media companies.

Prior Experience

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Leotta served in the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland for more than eight years, as an Assistant US Attorney prosecuting fraud and public corruption, Appellate Chief, and Ethics Advisor. His government service culminated in a detail to the White House Counsel’s Office as Deputy Associate Counsel.

As a federal prosecutor, Mr. Leotta investigated charges of fraud in government contracting and procurement, corruption in federal and state government, mortgage fraud, health-care fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement from federal programs, and numerous other federal offenses. Some highlights of his 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;
  • A wire-fraud and obstruction-of-justice trial against a commercial mortgage lender;
  • An embezzlement trial against a school principal; and
  • A health-care fraud investigation of a national health-insurance company.

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.

As Ethics Advisor, Mr. Leotta advised the US Attorney, Assistant US Attorneys and staff on financial disclosures, conflicts of interest, and other ethics rules.

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 where he focused on First Amendment and media law issues, including representation of the National Enquirer and Star Magazine. He represented corporations involved in libel and defamation claims, contract disputes, employment actions, attorney-malpractice claims, and securities enforcement actions, among other matters.

After graduation from Harvard Law School, Mr. Leotta 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

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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

Financial Institution Internal Investigations and Representations

Some recent highlights of Mr. Leotta’s representation of financial institutions include:

  • An internal investigation of issues identified by a Monitor, related to an international bank’s AML transaction surveillance systems;
  • An internal investigation and representation of a global financial institution in response to DOJ and SEC investigations of insider trading, money laundering, and securities-law violations by a financial advisor and clients in China;
  • Representation of a global financial institution in a SEC investigation of the institution’s AML program and its program to prevent misuse of material nonpublic information;
  • Representation of a global financial institution in a FINRA examination of its AML controls related to clients along the southwest border;
  • An internal investigation and representation of a global financial institution in response to a grand jury investigation into potential money laundering by clients in Mexico;
  • An internal investigation into potential insider trading by a financial advisor and clients in Colombia;
  • An internal investigation into potential insider trading by a financial advisor who was related to a pharmaceutical company insider;
  • Representation of a global financial institution in response to a SEC inquiry regarding potential insider trading by clients in advance of the public announcement of a DOJ lawsuit;
  • Representation of a global financial institution in response to an SEC inquiry regarding potential insider trading by a company executive using a 10b5-1 plan; and
  • Numerous internal investigations of potential violations of federal and state criminal law, insider trading, and company ethics policies on behalf of an international financial organization.

Corporate Internal Investigations and Representations

Some recent highlights of Mr. Leotta’s work on behalf of corporations include:

  • Representation of a foreign defense contractor in a SEC investigation relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act;
  • An internal investigation of potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at an international corporation;
  • An internal investigation on behalf of a hospital-management company into alleged federal criminal violations by its CEO;
  • Litigation on behalf of a global energy company facing a federal grand jury investigation; and
  • Representation of a renewable energy company facing a Congressional document request relating to the Department of Energy loan-guarantee program.

Individual Representations

Some recent highlights of Mr. Leotta’s representation of individuals include:

  • Representation of a former senior aide to Senator John Edwards in the Senator’s campaign-finance fraud trial;
  • Representation of a defense-contractor employee who was a subject of a grand jury investigation into federal procurement fraud;
  • Representation of a reporter who was a subject of News Corporation’s internal investigation into phone-hacking and related matters;
  • Representation of witnesses in the obstruction of justice trial of a former BP engineer;
  • Representation of a potential witness in the federal criminal investigation of corruption of a state Governor; and
  • Representation of Congressional staffers who were witnesses in a federal criminal investigation related to Congressional travel.

Media Advisory Practice

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

  • Advice to a media company related to the purchase and broadcast of a surreptitiously recorded conversation related to the racial attitudes of the owner of a professional basketball team;
  • Advice to a global media and entertainment company related to foreign criminal charges brought against an employee; and
  • Advice to a global media and entertainment company related to compliance with global law enforcement requests and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Professional Activities

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

Practices

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Education

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

Maryland

Clerkships

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