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One way to quickly grasp William McLucas’ place among Washington lawyers who specialize in high-stakes corporate investigations is to listen to his competitors. When searching for a way to describe such attorneys, a representative of a rival law firm resorted to this shorthand: “A Bill McLucas type.” Or listen to his clients. Thomas Strickland, executive vice president and chief legal officer of UnitedHealth Group Inc. since May 2007, says McLucas “is the gold standard in his area of practice, and deservedly so.” McLucas, a partner in the D.C. office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, first made his name as the longtime head of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement. Since leaving the SEC in 1998, he has helped corporate boards look into some of the biggest business scandals in recent U.S. history, including the debacles known as Enron and WorldCom. More recently, McLucas and a team from Wilmer advised an independent committee established by the board of UnitedHealth Group in its review of stock options dating practices. The board created the independent committee in the spring of 2006 in response to SEC inquiries, which came on the heels of an eyebrow-raising Wall Street Journal article. After McLucas’ team finished their report in the fall of 2006, the CEO and the general counsel of UnitedHealth resigned. Another major piece of recent business for McLucas was advising the special committee of the board of Nortel Networks in its review of certain accounting restatements. Last year Nortel Networks agreed to settle SEC charges that the company had engaged in accounting fraud from 2000 through 2003 “to close gaps between its true performance, its internal targets and Wall Street expectations.” Without admitting or denying guilt, Nortel agreed to pay $35 million in civil penalties and to report periodically to SEC staff on its implementation of remedial measures. In his line of work, McLucas says, “Balance is the key. The best approach is to find a way to proceed that does not disrupt a company’s operations and key players, and that gets to the bottom of the problem and gets it right. A sizable amount of work we do is resolved before it becomes public.” In mid-December, the D.C. Council brought Wilmer on board to help in a broad review of the Office of Tax and Revenue in the wake of the largest embezzlement scandal in city history. Officials are accused of stealing as much as $50 million in fraudulent tax refunds. McLucas is leading his firm’s pro bono effort to advise the city on what new controls should be put in place. “The D.C. tax inquiry is taking up a lot of my time right now,” he says, though he declines to elaborate on a matter that is currently under investigation by federal prosecutors. For the D.C. matter, McLucas has called on PricewaterhouseCoopers for auditing work. As it happens, Charles Gerdts III, general counsel of the accounting giant, has some history with McLucas — in McLucas’ previous role as an SEC regulator and now as a counselor. “Bill is exceptionally helpful to us because he has developed a deep sense of how we think about issues, and he conveys to senior leadership an excellent grasp of the firm’s strategic positioning,” says Gerdts. “Bill has a great sense of how issues will play out with our regulators, our clients, our people, and the markets.” McLucas, who chairs Wilmer’s securities department, is quick to assert that he depends on “a fairly deep bench in the securities practice group here.” Among his key partners are Laura Wertheimer, who worked on the Nortel review, and Harry Weiss, who co-chairs the firm’s securities enforcement and securities litigation practice group. But McLucas remains the biggest name. “Bill McLucas is the type of guy you go to when it’s crunch time,” says Robert Fatovic, executive vice president and chief legal officer of Miami-based Ryder System Inc., who adds that McLucas has done a lot of work for Ryder’s management and board. Fatovic adds, “No matter what the situation, no matter how complex, he’s a great thinker and a regular guy who has a practical way of solving problems.”

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