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Bernard Madoff. Marc Dreier. Arthur Nadel: It’s been an active year on the investment fraud scene in New York, and no one knows that better than William F. Johnson. Johnson oversaw those fraud investigations as the chief of the securities and commodities fraud task force in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He also worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He will soon get a taste of life on the other side of the courtroom, however. After 16 years as a government attorney, Johnson is moving to Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, where he will join the government investigations and regulatory counseling practice as a partner. He will work on white-collar defense, securities enforcement and regulation, and internal investigations and monitoring. Johnson has run the securities and commodities task force since June 2007. In addition to recent high-profile fraud cases such as Madoff’s and Dreier’s, Johnson supervised high-profile corporate fraud prosecutions against Adelphia Communications Corp. and Refco Inc. as well as insider trading cases against UBS, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse. The National Law Journal asked Johnson about the move. His answers have been edited for length. NLJ: You’ve had some very high-profile cases recently. What has the past year been like? William Johnson: It’s been very busy. We’ve had a number of investigations, a larger number than usual, and a large number of charges and a fair number of trials have been going on simultaneously, as well as appeals and everything. My job has been to make sure everyone is doing the best they can on that. NLJ: What was your role with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York? WJ: It’s mainly to monitor the cases, intake new cases, new investigations and determine whether they should continue staffing them with one or more prosecutors, working with the investigators to investigate the cases, help review the evidence and make charging decisions and consult on trials. NLJ: It seems like an exciting time to be in that position, with a lot of high-profile cases. Why leave now? WJ: I’ve been working on the government side for basically my entire career, and always I knew I would end up at a law firm at some point … I’ve had a lot of really interesting cases, and I know at Fried Frank there’s going to be a lot more of that same thing. They are going to have more than their share of work in that area, and I’m going to be challenged. NLJ: Do you think it will be difficult to switch gears and be on the other side from the government? WJ: I don’t think so. People on both sides — the government and the defense — are trained to determine the facts, meet with witnesses, look at documents, determine what happened. All of those skills are things I will use … One of the things I have learned over time is that things, when you are a very junior lawyer, seem black and white. I’m excited about helping clients persuade government entities when things are not black or white and not always clear. NLJ: What skills will you bring to Fried Frank from your former job? WJ: I’d like to apply all the different thought processes I’ve picked up during my time at the SEC and [U.S. Attorney's Office]. I have a good sense of how the regulatory bodies think … and what is important to them and what motivates them. In the government we often worked in teams and I am eager to work with the experienced Fried Frank team and apply those skills to client matters. NLJ: You had a hand in a lot of big investigations. Is there any one case that you are especially proud of? WJ: One of the things that I’m most proud of is the WorldCom investigation and how it reassured investors that the government will pursue crime. The second one was the first thing I did when I came to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was work on an investigation of Michael Milken. I had read the book “Den of Thieves” about Michael Milken after law school in which [Fried Frank partner and former federal prosecutor] Audrey Strauss was featured. To then be at the [U.S. Attorney's Office], as was Audrey, then serve as chief, as she did, and now work with Audrey brings everything full circle.

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