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It’s 7 a.m. on Sept. 18, and Robert Hoyt, general counsel at the Treasury Department and the busiest lawyer in Washington, sounds chipper as he barrels through the laundry list of crises he’s helped manage during the last several weeks. He’s praising his team, running down some of the nuts and bolts of the work he’s handled, and chatting about his old days at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. The tone is surprisingly light for a lawyer who’s just managed the legal work on the biggest corporate bailouts in U.S. history. At 7:29, however, his press aide breaks in. It’s time to go — now — and within a minute, Hoyt is off the phone and, presumably, back to work. Within 24 hours, Treasury would announce that it would prop up the U.S. financial system with a sweeping plan to buy out bad mortgages from faltering banks. For all the lighthearted conversation, Hoyt is clearly up to serious business. Since March, Hoyt, the top legal adviser to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., has led the department’s legal team as it has crafted bailouts for Bear Stearns Cos., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and American International Group. The 44-year-old former Wilmer partner and associate White House counsel might be forgiven for betraying strain as his workload and the panic over the financial system have mounted. But colleagues who’ve worked on the deals say Hoyt has been a calming force as dozens of lawyers from federal agencies and private firms have worked to stem the crisis. Over a chaotic weekend of meetings earlier this month, complaints and arguments festered as lawyers and key executives for Fannie and Freddie met with government lawyers and officials to review details of the bailout plan. “There was mass confusion on the other side,” says Edward Herlihy, one of the partners who led the 17-lawyer Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz team working with Treasury. “Bob was the guy that got in the center of it and directed things and made them happen. … He was working around the clock. He never slept. He was always in his office, but he was always calm and reflective, and very cool under pressure.” Fannie’s general counsel, Beth Wilkinson, who worked across from Hoyt during the Oklahoma City bombing trials a decade ago, says knowing his work helped her during the tense discussions over Fannie’s future, and she considers him to be thoughtful and a good listener. He became her main point of contact during the crisis. “He was always accessible, and he would return my calls if he needed to,” she says. “When you’re in this very pressured, quick, volatile situation, from a lawyer’s perspective that’s very meaningful.” ‘A GROWN-UP’ Hoyt’s situation is a novel one for a Republican lawyer in an administration that, until recently, wasn’t known for aggressive regulatory action. In some ways, the bailouts are turning eight years of policy upside-down. But friends and colleagues say that although he’s conservative, Hoyt doesn’t let political leanings trump common sense. Wilmer partner Reginald Brown, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and associate White House counsel who recommended Hoyt for the political post, says his former colleague “was someone who believed in the president’s agenda, but is not the kind of guy who would let ideology get in the way of sound legal reasoning.” The sentiment crosses partisan lines. Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration who is now a partner at Wilmer, counts Hoyt as a close friend. The two had lunch last Monday, the day after the AIG bailout. She says that they often teamed up at Wilmer to promote keeping the firm as politically balanced as possible when it came to hiring. “I’m really glad that he’s [at Treasury],” she says. “He’s a grown-up.” Hoyt, when asked how he’s managing the crisis, sounds a bit like a consultant wielding an organizational chart. “When you get to some of these extremely busy times, it’s very much a divide-and-conquer strategy,” he says. That means, he likes to delegate: For the financial crisis, he’s relying on a core senior team that includes Deputy General Counsel John Knepper, Counselor to the General Counsel Stephen Albrecht, and Assistant General Counsel for Banking and Finance Laurie Schaffer. Meanwhile, the department — which includes 2,000 lawyers, if all agencies that are under the Treasury umbrella are counted — still has to complete its work on other issues, including counterterrorism, foreign investment in the United States, and routine litigation. “Some of us get very focused on what the immediate, pressing issues of the day are,” Hoyt says, while others have been asked to stay on top of the everyday responsibilities of the department. The organizational challenge of deploying so many lawyers is something Hoyt says he enjoys. “I very much like the management. A lot of lawyers don’t. A lot of people will tell you that lawyers are lousy managers.” He got experience with management early on in his career: He was one of the youngest-ever members of Wilmer’s management and executive committees when he was at the firm. “It’s something I enjoyed, the business of law.” When it came to the financial meltdown, however, Hoyt reached outside the department for extra help. He decided to bring in the Wachtell team to help on the Fannie and Freddie bailout, saying he needed lawyers with expertise in scrutinizing securities contracts. “That’s not a skill set you would expect to find in the government,” he says. Wachtell’s expertise has helped with what Hoyt says has been a major task: designing the new financial structures of the embattled corporations and understanding how Treasury’s and the Federal Reserve’s actions will affect the companies’ securities. Hoyt says he chose Wachtell because he has worked with some of the lawyers before and has “great confidence in the firm.” It’s unusual for Treasury to bring in private outside counsel, and Hoyt says this is the first time he’s done so in his time there. Wachtell partner Harold Novikoff, one of the partners leading the Wachtell team, says the firm is charging Treasury “less than 1 percent” of what it would normally charge and has described the work as pro bono. During his Senate confirmation hearings in November 2006, Hoyt told the Senate Finance Committee that maintaining the integrity of the markets was one of Treasury’s most important roles. Now, as some critics say federal bailouts are undermining that integrity by helping those who don’t deserve it, he defends the steps the department has taken. “I guess I would say this, which is that I don’t think any corporation would look at Bear Stearns’ situation and set out purposely to go on that course,” he says. MAKING TIME Hoyt, an Ohio native, got his bachelor’s degree at Cornell University and his J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. He joined Wilmer as a summer associate in 1988, made partner at 33, and by 40 was in management. He and his wife, Alysia, a lawyer at the Drug Enforcement Administration, have an 8-year-old son. He left Wilmer in 2005 to become associate counsel in the White House and spent about a year there before President Bush nominated him to be the Treasury general counsel. Somehow, despite his recent workload, he’s made time to have lunch with friends such as Gorelick and to spend time with his family. He admits to overseeing the family grill, though on other kitchen matters, he defers to his wife — “a tremendous chef.” “Sometimes I wonder if he’s got a clone,” says Brown, the Wilmer partner. A clone — or several — would be handy right about now.
Scott Alvarez, general counsel, Federal Reserve: Alvarez took the top legal job at the Federal Reserve in July 2004. The Fed is now working on the bailout of American International Group. He spent more than two decades in various legal jobs within the Fed before ascending to GC. Alfred Pollard, general counsel, Federal Housing Finance Agency: Pollard heads the legal department at the FHFA, which has roughly 40 lawyers and paralegals. The agency is serving as the conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Pollard is a former senior director of legislative affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable who also worked in the Washington offices of Security Pacific Corp. and Bank of America. Stephen Albrecht, counselor to the general counsel, Treasury Department: Albrecht, a former associate at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, joined Treasury in May 2007 and advises on matters including regulatory, corporate, and securities law. John Knepper, deputy general counsel, Treasury Department: Knepper became deputy general counsel in August 2008 and helps oversee the 2,000 lawyers in the legal department. He previously was deputy general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget. Laurie Schaffer, assistant general counsel for banking and finance, Treasury Department: Schaffer was vice president and general counsel at Charles Schwab before joining Treasury in April 2008. She advises on Treasury’s borrowing authorities, debt issuing activities, financial markets oversight, regulation of the government securities market, and issues affecting the financial services industry.

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