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Matthew Friedrich is a good hearts player. He ought to be. While the jury deliberated for 10 days in Arthur Andersen’s obstruction of justice trial last June, Friedrich and other prosecutors played cards. “The final score was something like 3,000 to 2,000,” says lead prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, Friedrich’s opponent in the hearts marathon. “That’s way too much cards.” Friedrich, 36, spent almost as many days playing hearts as he had preparing for the case. It had been set for trial on short notice, leaving prosecutors Weissmann and Samuel Buell scrambling to find someone who could talk to a Texas jury. Although Friedrich works in Virginia, he is also a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Texas, so he fit the bill. The government’s so-called Enron Task Force comprises a half-dozen prosecutors from U.S. attorney’s offices all over the country. Weissmann, lead prosecutor in the Andersen case, comes from the New York office, and Buell from Boston. Both are veteran mob prosecutors. Just two weeks before trial, Weissmann asked Friedrich to join them in Houston. A week later, they handed him jury selection and opening arguments. The whirlwind trial played to Friedrich’s strengths: an ability to work around the clock and process information at warp speed and, not least, a knack for making allies in hostile territory. “He is really a quick study,” says Weissmann. “There is no way I would have been able to do what he did.” The case was not a slam-dunk, but the jury returned a guilty verdict. The accounting firm paid a $500,000 fine and is serving five years’ probation. Friedrich is now back at his regular gig. The son of academics who moved around a lot, he was born in Ithaca, N.Y., but grew up mostly in North Carolina and Texas and retains a mild twang. Following law school, he held a clerkship with Judge Royal Furgeson Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. “He showed up in September of 1994 and immediately was at full speed spitting out stuff of incredible quality,” Furgeson recalls. In December of that year, however, Friedrich was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With a grapefruit-sized tumor in his abdomen, he began aggressive (and ultimately successful) chemotherapy. In 1995, Friedrich joined the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, one of the few divisions where green attorneys get to try cases, and his original Justice Department identification photo shows him with a chemotherapy-bald pate. He’s had a clean bill of health ever since, however. The Tax Division launched Friedrich into the world of white collar crime. “What the Tax Division gives you,” he says, “is experience taking complex transactions and concepts and reducing them to simple ideas and themes.” It was a perfect training ground for the fraud cases Friedrich likes, he says. Friedrich returned to Texas as an AUSA in 1998 and soon was assigned to the Campaign Finance Task Force, investigating fund-raising improprieties in the 1996 campaign of Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.). He toggled between Plano, Texas, Newark, N.J., and headquarters in Washington, D.C. — where he met his wife, then an AUSA in Virginia and now an aide to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The probe disrupted a political machine that extended well beyond Torricelli. By many accounts, there was great antipathy in New Jersey, and accusations of misconduct were leveled against the investigators. Task force chief Robert Conrad Jr., now a U.S. attorney in North Carolina, had Friedrich lead the response. “Matt is a pretty young guy, but rather than jumping into the emotional aspect of accusations that go to the core of one’s integrity and standing in the bar, he took a very sober and pragmatic tack,” Conrad says. “He just laid it all out for the district judge and showed there was no basis for the complaint.” The federal prosecutors in Newark stayed out of the case, so when Conrad left for North Carolina, the investigation was transferred to the Southern District of New York. Once again, Friedrich ingratiated himself with the local crew. It paid off: The Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who worked with Friedrich on the Torricelli matter later recommended him to Weissmann and Buell for the Andersen job. Back in Virginia, Friedrich is leading the case against a former Department of Defense official charged with bribery and extortion. The pace is nothing like Andersen, but that’s probably a good thing.

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