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Lately, James Doty’s name is often mentioned in tandem with the travails of mortgage giant Freddie Mac. But Doty’s internal report on the troubled Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. is just one chapter in a long history of counseling companies that are under Securities and Exchange Commission scrutiny. Indeed, the 63-year-old partner and head of Baker Botts’ D.C. office is regarded by peers as (in the words of one observer) “the go-to guy for a big crisis.” Among his many clients is Baker Hughes Inc., the world’s third-largest oil field services company. Part of Doty’s job is to guide Baker Hughes through SEC and Justice Department investigations into the company’s business practices in Nigeria, Angola, and Kazakhstan. Alan Crain Jr., the company’s senior vice president and general counsel, describes Doty as Baker Hughes’ “outstanding expert” for corporate governance issues. “He has such a great sense of how the SEC works, of how Washington works, and what impact that has on a practical level,” says Crain. “He knows where enforcement priorities are going, and even where we are going in terms of culture — because business better be there, too. It takes a unique adviser to help you do that.” Indeed, attitudes and regulatory measures regarding corporate compliance can undergo rapid sea changes, says Doty, who became a partner at Baker Botts in 1977. “None of us would have thought that the problems we were dealing with during the middle of Levitt’s term would be the consuming front-page issues that they are now,” says Doty, referring to Arthur Levitt, the SEC chairman under President Bill Clinton. “You’re seeing an elevation of our sense of what the minimum requirements are.” Doty calls the last few years a time of “consciousness raising” in corporate compliance and, in some ways, a natural reaction to the excesses of the 1990s. Before President George W. Bush named Harvey Pitt as Levitt’s successor, Doty himself was considered a candidate to head the SEC. He had already served as general counsel in the early 1990s, when the first George Bush was president. But a stint as the Bush family’s private lawyer and the fact that when he was general counsel, the commission had investigated and declined to take action on allegations of insider trading by the younger Bush, nixed the possibility. Doty’s a Texas native whose client list maintains his home-state ties. Besides Baker Hughes, two other Texas giants, CenterPoint Energy and the Halliburton Corp., count on the Yale Law School graduate and former Rhodes scholar for counsel. The Houston-based Reliant Resources Corp., a recent spinoff from CenterPoint Energy, also looks to Doty to help it maneuver through regulatory scrapes. In May, for example, the SEC settled with Reliant Resources (and CenterPoint) over allegations that Reliant had shifted earnings and engaged in improper round-trip trades — transactions designed to artificially increase trading volume. The SEC neither levied any fines against the companies nor required them to admit to any violations. Critics said the settlement was tepid punishment for Reliant Resources, which in a separate case will pay up to $50 million in a settlement over allegations that it manipulated western electricity markets in 2000 by withholding power, contributing to the California energy crisis. Michael Jines, senior vice president and general counsel for Reliant, has known Doty for a decade and says his “tremendous amount of credibility” with SEC staffers helps to smooth the way for clients under the commission’s microscope. And unlike some talented big-ticket lawyers who play solo, adds Jines, Doty is skilled at gathering a team of lawyers. “He has no hesitation about delegating, but by the same token he’s as comfortable doing an individual interview with an employee in a case as he is reporting to the board,” says Jines. “He has the ability to play at all levels of the spectrum.”

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