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When it comes to comparing the sheer length of one’s experience at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Thomas Newkirk leads the field with almost 20 years at the federal agency. Add to that his stints at the Senate, the Justice Department, and the Energy Department, and it’s clear what his clients see in the Jenner & Block partner. In 2005, Newkirk, 65, got the call from HealthSouth Corp. because of that deep experience. The health care services provider was in the midst of an SEC inquiry alleging accounting fraud; the FBI had actually raided the company’s headquarters in 2003. Gregory Doody, who was HealthSouth’s general counsel at the time, was relying on Colleen Mahoney of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as the company’s primary outside counsel on securities issues. But in light of the recent spate of large SEC fines, including WorldCom Inc.’s $750 million settlement, Doody says he wanted additional advice. He says he was looking for a recent SEC official — a requirement that led him to Newkirk, who had just left the agency. “We thought it would be good to have a perspective of someone who had come out of the SEC more recently,” Doody says. “We wanted to know what the new world was like, at least from the [SEC] staff perspective. It was helpful to set strategy and understand the way they were thinking.” Doody was so impressed by Newkirk’s work that he hired Newkirk again, after Doody had jumped to power company Calpine. As Calpine was going through a Chapter 11 reorganization, questions arose about the company’s accounting practices. As soon as the SEC started looking closely in October 2007, Doody called Newkirk to help him prep for meetings with the agency. Newkirk’s long journey toward private securities practice began with a few years at the now-defunct Donovan Leisure Newton & Irvine in New York. Then he headed for Washington. First he worked on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs’ Securities Industry Study. Later he went to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which he describes as being a “very law heavy, no politics” job, before ending up at the Energy Department in 1978. The department had just opened its doors the previous year. “It was a very exciting time,” recalls Newkirk, who likens the Energy Department then to the Department of Homeland Security today. He served as deputy general counsel and helped win the still staggering sum of $2 billion in settlement from oil powerhouse Exxon. By the mid-1980s Newkirk says he had lost some interest in the oil patch so he made one more shift within the federal government: He signed on at the SEC as chief litigation director for what he thought was going to be a couple of years. He ended up staying two decades, including 11 years as an associate director of the Enforcement Division. And he helped lead the agency’s fraud prosecution of former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski. To his old routine of investigate, get document testimony, and try to figure out who did what, Newkirk has now added: talk to the SEC. It seems to be working well. Since joining the D.C. office of Jenner & Block, where he co-chairs the securities litigation practice, Newkirk notes that none of the cases on which he has labored have gone to trial. He has also gotten involved in some of the newer issues drawing SEC attention, including stock options backdating, for companies such as Emcore Corp. and ScanSource Inc. ScanSource, in particular, was under the gun after the SEC informally requested information regarding its historical practices for granting stock options. John Ellsworth, general counsel of the specialty technology distributor, brought Newkirk on board to advise individual board members after hearing about him from other members of the securities bar. Ellsworth says that Newkirk is good at explaining the complexities of the SEC to business executives. “It’s very apparent that he spent [nearly] 20 years at the SEC,” Ellsworth says. “He’s an excellent counselor.”

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