Leslie Caldwell
Leslie Caldwell (Photo: Jason Doiy)

Leslie Caldwell spent the last decade defending Fortune 500 companies and CEOs in criminal matters. On Tuesday, the Senate takes up her nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, where she’d be on the other side of the courtroom.

If she’s confirmed, Caldwell will leave behind a $2.8 million partnership income at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius—plus bonuses, such as the estimated $250,000 to $500,000 last year—as co-chairwoman of the corporate investigations and white-collar practice group, according to her nomination papers on file at the U.S. Senate.

Caldwell also would leave behind a client roster that includes tech companies such as Oracle Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett Packard Co. and Hitachi; big business Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., 3M Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.; and financial institutions such as Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank Trust Co. and Fannie Mae.

Caldwell, a Morgan Lewis attorney since 2004, told the Senate she has conducted “numerous confidential internal investigations” for the clients. Sixty percent of those investigations have dealt with criminal matters, the other 40 percent with civil issues. She reported a net worth of $8.2 million, including a $1.9 million home in New York.

When describing her litigation history and experience in the courtroom, Caldwell wrote: “As a partner at Morgan Lewis, I have appeared occasionally—given my goal of my practice has been mainly to assist my clients in avoiding indictment or other events that would require court appearances.”

The Justice Department’s Criminal Division, under Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., has touted its recovery under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and under health care fraud initiatives. But the Justice Department has also faced criticism for not being more aggressive in the pursuit of banks and other financial institutions in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

The nomination of Caldwell, who for two years led the investigation into the collapse of Enron Corp., has received support from former colleagues at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and from Securities and Exchange Commission officials, including Rob Khuzami, former director of enforcement who is now a Kirkland & Ellis partner.

Former Justice Department prosecutors wrote the Senate Judiciary Committee to support Caldwell’s nomination, including the last lawyer to lead the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, now at Covington & Burling. Former deputy attorney generals Jamie Gorelick of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, George Terwilliger of Morgan Lewis and Paul McNulty of Baker & McKenzie also wrote in support.

“Ms. Caldwell has held several management positions and has the necessary management skills to oversee the 750 plus individuals working in the Criminal Division,” the letter from the former DOJ officials states. “She is thoughtful and pursues a principled approach to matters and policy issues.”

In addition, throughout her career, she has worked well with state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as independent agencies such as the SEC and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the prosecutors wrote.

“This ability to work with those outside the Department of Justice is also an important component of her ability to lead,” the letter states. “She is known throughout for her professionalism, legal acumen, ethics, and fairness.”

Caldwell’s list of her 10 most significant litigation matters illustrates her switch between aggressive prosecutions in public service and the defense in private practice.

Caldwell took on the SEC’s prosecutors as chief counsel for Oracle, along with co-counsel Susan Resley of Morgan Lewis’ office in San Francisco, during an internal investigation into a violation of the books and records section of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In that case, the SEC accused former employees of Oracle’s subsidiary in India of keeping funds separate from Oracle’s books, creating the risk that the funds could be used improperly. The case settled in August 2012; Oracle did not admit or deny a violation.

Caldwell took on the DOJ’s Antitrust Division in 2011, representing the chief marketing officer of Hitachi LG Data Storage, Young Keun Park, in a cartel investigation of price-fixing and bid-rigging by Asian manufacturers. Park pleaded guilty in March 2012 and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

She represented Myron Olesnyckyj, the former general counsel of Monster.com, who received one year of probation in 2010 after cooperating and then pleading guilty to securities fraud as part of a backdating scheme.

When she was a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, Caldwell was lead prosecutor against Genentech, which pleaded guilty in 1999 and agreed to pay $50 million in penalties.

Also in California, she was chief counsel for the United States in a case where Beverly Enterprises–California pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud in 2000 and $175 million in fines and penalties.

She took down a tong boss and an Asian organized crime ring in New York City as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. That included the prosecution of David Kwong, who was convicted of attempted murder of an assistant U.S. attorney via a mailed booby-trapped briefcase.

Caldwell’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Contact Todd Ruger@truger.com.