Leslie Caldwell, a New York-based partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and veteran white-collar defense lawyer, was nominated Tuesday to serve as assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division in the U.S. Department of Justice. Caldwell would fill the position vacated by Lanny Breuer, who left the Justice Department earlier this year to rejoin Covington & Burling as the firm's vice-chairman.

Caldwell has been a partner at Morgan Lewis since 2004; she cochaired the firm's white-collar practice from 2004 to 2009. Before joining the firm, she served as director of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force from 2002 to 2004. She spent her early career as a federal prosecutor, serving in the U.S. attorney's offices in the Northern District of California and in the Eastern District of New York.

In California and New York, Caldwell prosecuted violent crimes and securities fraud cases. In San Francisco, she served as chief of the criminal division and securities fraud section. In New York, she was senior trial counsel for the business and securities fraud section and chief of the violent criminal enterprises section, according to the White House.

At Morgan Lewis, Caldwell's clients in white-collar matters have included Hewlett-Packard, Oracle Corp. and Fannie Mae.

Caldwell would take over a division that faced criticism during Breuer's tenure for not prosecuting major financial institutions for their role in the 2008 financial meltdown. At the same time, Breuer was credited with expanding the division's profile, securing billion-dollar settlements in pharmaceutical and banking cases and creating a new money-laundering unit.