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Another well-known federal prosecutor is crossing over to the other side. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs, who prosecuted several big cases — including several Enron Corp. executives — will head up a new white-collar practice at the Palo Alto office of McDermott, Will & Emery. The firm, which has about 1,050 lawyers, spearheads its white-collar practice out of Chicago. It also has a white-collar defense team in Los Angeles, and Jacobs will head a similar group in Northern California. McDermott expects him to lead a local expansion of the practice area. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for me,” said Jacobs, whose last day working for U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan is expected to be Friday. For months, there’s been abundant speculation that Jacobs, who also served as the spokesman for the Northern District U.S. attorney’s office, was looking to leave. “There was a lot of interest in Matt. He is the most significant hire out of the U.S. attorney’s office in quite awhile,” said Anthony de Alcuaz, partner in charge of McDermott’s Palo Alto office. Jacobs said he began his job search in May. He declined to name other firms with which he spoke, but said he was “gratified that there seemed to be some interest.” Jacobs, who said he never intended to be a career prosecutor, is leaving now because several of his big cases have recently wrapped up. He started out as a journalist and worked at a now-defunct Louisiana newspaper before deciding to study law. After graduating from Stanford Law School, he worked at Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin. He thought he’d stay in the U.S. attorney’s office about three years, Jacobs said, but ended up having too much fun and getting too many interesting cases, so he stayed twice as long. In the Enron case, Jacobs helped secure the convictions of three former executives involved in manipulating California’s power market during the state’s energy crisis, using schemes dubbed “Ricochet” and “Death Star,” among others. Jacobs said another memorable case dealt with a subsidiary of Guidant Corp. that made a medical device to treat aortal aneurysms. The U.S. attorney’s office called the June 2003 guilty plea in the Guidant case a “landmark” because the health care corporation pleaded to 10 felonies and agreed to pay $92.4 million to settle criminal and civil charges for covering up device malfunctions. Jacobs said he’s looking forward to growing McDermott’s Silicon Valley presence. “There are some great lawyers down there, but there are fewer former assistants,” he said. “I think there’s room for that market to grow.” McDermott has more than 30 lawyers doing white-collar work nationwide. De Alcuaz said at least 14 of those are former veteran assistant U.S. attorneys. McDermott opened a Silicon Valley office in 1997, but didn’t really start growing until 2000. De Alcuaz said he’s hired at least 50 lawyers since then. There’s always a steady trickle from the U.S. attorney’s office to the white-collar defense bar, where time as a prosecutor can be a huge resume boost. Two other big names left the U.S. attorney’s office at the end of the summer. Martha Boersch , who was head of the organized crime strike force, joined Jones Day’s burgeoning San Francisco practice. And Patrick Robbins , the head of the securities fraud unit, went to Shearman & Sterling, a New York-based firm with West Coast offices in San Francisco and Menlo Park.

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