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As WorldCom’s Bernard Ebbers heads to prison — and former HealthSouth chief Richard M. Scrushy enjoys his recent acquittal — Powell Goldstein is capitalizing on the federal government’s increased emphasis on corporate fraud prosecutions by forming a special matters and investigations group. Longtime PoGo litigator John T. Marshall, who 30 years ago got his start in white-collar issues investigating a news leak for the U.S. House of Representatives, will lead the group. He’ll get assistance from W. Scott Sorrels in Atlanta and Ralph J. Caccia in Washington. The group brings together about 30 lawyers with expertise in securities work, white-collar crime, litigation, corporate transactions and employment matters, he said. Developments since the 2001 Enron scandal will have a lasting effect on corporations, Marshall predicted. “It’s a different ballgame,” he said, explaining that the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, an increase in corporate investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, as well as an increase in shareholders’ suits have “seriously challenged the corporate world.” “White-collar crime is hot,” said legal recruiter Lee Ann Bellon of Bellon & Associates, who said she’s seeing more demand for attorneys specializing in this area. Thomas L. Hawker of Kirkley & Hawker, which is busy defending clients in securities fraud cases, agreed. “It’s the hot area right now and it does not appear to be going anywhere with Sarbanes-Oxley on the books and the current priorities of the justice department,” he said, adding that his firm has seen an expansion in SEC investigations. “White-collar crime practices have been a significant area since before Enron but after Enron even more so,” said Wilmer “Buddy” Parker III, who noted that white-collar crime is generally a distinct practice from Sarbanes-Oxley work, even though both are under the rubric of what firms call “special matters.” Parker has focused on white-collar crime for more than 20 years, first as a federal prosecutor investigating tax fraud and now on the defense side at Gillen, Parker & Withers, where he’s broadened his practice to include money-laundering. Parker said Atlanta’s first substantive special matters practice started at King & Spalding in the 1980s. The firm’s Web site says former U.S. Attorney General Griffin B. Bell organized the group, which grew out of his work as an internal investigator for E.F. Hutton and his role on the independent litigation committee of Exxon that investigated the 1989 Valdez oil disaster. Marshall said it made sense to form a special matters group to “let people know that we had a team to put on the field at a moment’s notice,” encompassing various types of investigations, corporate and securities compliance and white-collar crime. Marshall’s first special matters work was for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ethics Committee, which hired him to find out how a Senate document got leaked to newsman Daniel Schorr. He said he’s been involved in white-collar cases off and on ever since. Most recently he handled an investigation in response to a derivative shareholders’ suit for one of the largest banks in the country, which he declined to name. Sorrels, a former SEC enforcer, focuses on securities investigations, and Caccia, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, focuses on white-collar crime. “We see the demand,” said Sorrels. “For the past year I’ve been living on the road on one investigation after another.” But, he added, it’s an area where lawyers often can’t celebrate their big successes, since their job is to make the client’s problem go away without attracting attention. “We won something really big recently — but I can’t say what,” he said, adding ruefully, “it makes it a challenge to market a practice of this nature.”

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