Boeing has turned to titans from Kirkland & Ellis, McGuireWoods and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to handle its defense against a federal criminal investigation into the crashes of two 737 Max 8 jets.
According to a report in the Seattle Times, the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer has engaged Kirkland’s Mark Filip, McGuireWoods’ Richard Cullen and Quinn Emanuel’s William Burck to lead the defense team.
Boeing has not been charged with any criminal misconduct connected to the failures of two 737 Max jets, one that crashed Oct. 29 off Indonesia and a second that went down in Ethiopia on March 10. But a federal grand jury has commenced a probe, and U.S. House and Senate committees are also in the midst of investigations.
The three attorneys all have experience defending well-known individuals and large corporations against headline-garnering government investigations, and they also all have strong ties to Republican politics.
A spokesman for Boeing was not immediately able to confirm the names in the report, and the three attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
Filip is a former deputy attorney general under the George W. Bush administration who now leads Kirkland’s government enforcement defense and internal investigations practice, while also sitting on the firm’s worldwide management committee. His previous high-profile cases include leading BP’s defense against the government investigation that followed the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and defending General Motors in criminal proceedings over an ignition switch defect in the Southern District of New York federal court.
Cullen spent 11 years as chair at McGuireWoods before stepping down in 2017. He started with the firm in 1977 and returned after detours into public service for posts including U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and attorney general for Virginia. He recently represented Vice President Mike Pence in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election. Cullen has previously represented former FIFA president Sepp Blatter during an investigation into corruption at the global soccer federation.
Burck, the co-managing partner of Quinn Emanuel’s Washington office, also had a significant role in the special counsel’s investigation, representing Steve Bannon, the former chief political strategist for Trump; Reince Priebus, the former White House chief of staff; and White House counsel Don McGahn. He’s also representing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft against charges stemming from a Florida prostitution sting. In 2018, he led a team of lawyers reviewing current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s documents from his time in President George W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office as part of the judge’s nomination process. He himself worked as a special counsel and deputy counsel to Bush.
Boeing shook up its internal team handling the response to the two 737 Max 8 crashes at the start of May, naming former Boeing Japan president Brett Gerry the company’s new general counsel. The company also moved Michael Luttig, its former general counsel, to a new role as counselor and senior adviser to chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
Luttig, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, continues to handle all legal matters related to the Oct. 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 and the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines 302 accidents.
Luttig, referring to the three partners from Kirkland, Quinn and McGuireWoods, told the Seattle Times that “these individual lawyers and their firms are a team of some of the most respected lawyers and law firms in the country,” noting that the team has previously represented Boeing in various matters for more than a decade.
Attorneys from Perkins Coie have responsibility for the civil litigation stemming from the accidents.