Michael Bromwich, a litigation partner in the Washington and New York offices of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson who was a Justice Department watchdog in the 1990s, was named Tuesday to head up the Obama administration's effort to improve regulation of the oil industry following the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
Bromwich, the Justice Department inspector general from 1994 to 1999, has been asked to develop a plan for a new oversight structure, the White House said. White House officials said Bromwich has a mandate to implement "far-reaching" changes, starting with the Minerals Management Service.
Bromwich is not being named to run MMS directly. On May 28, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey will serve as acting director of the Minerals Management Service.
"For a decade or more, the cozy relationship between the oil companies and [MMS] was allowed to go unchecked," President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday. "That allowed drilling permits to be issued in exchange not for safety plans, but assurances of safety from oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore."
The White House wants Bromwich to restore "integrity and rigor" to the relationship between MMS and oil companies. Among other things, that means eliminating conflicts in the agency with regard to establishing safety standards, regulating compliance and collecting royalties. Bromwich declined to comment.
The administration is splitting MMS into three new divisions: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.
Bromwich heads Fried Frank’s internal investigations, compliance and monitoring practice group. From 2002 to 2008, he served as the independent monitor of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, focusing on use of force, civil rights, internal misconduct and training issues.
Bromwich was selected in 2005 to lead an independent investigation of the Houston Police Department’s crime lab. That investigation "uncovered severe and pervasive" problems, according to the Innocence Project.
The White House summary of Bromwich’s career at Main Justice reads: "He was best known for conducting special investigations into allegations of misconduct, defective procedures and incompetence in the FBI Laboratory; the FBI's conduct and activities regarding the Aldrich Ames matter; the handling of classified information by the FBI and the Department of Justice in the campaign finance investigation; the alleged deception of a Congressional delegation by high-ranking officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; and the Justice Department's role in the CIA crack cocaine controversy."
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.