V. Gerard “Jerry” Comizio, chair of the global banking and payment systems practice at Paul Hastings, has joined Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in Washington, D.C., where he will also head his new firm’s banking group.
Comizio, 61, has advised some of the world’s biggest financial institutions on the Dodd-Frank Act and other regulatory matters during nearly a decade at Paul Hastings. He joined the firm in early 2008 from Thacher Proffitt & Wood, which dissolved almost a year later.
At Fried Frank, where Comizio will work out of the firm’s broader corporate group, he will reunite with former Paul Hastings colleague Roberts Masters, an IP litigator in Washington, D.C., who joined Fried Frank as a partner in August. Fried Frank also hired litigation special counsel Timothy Cremen in the nation’s capital around the same time from Paul Hastings.
“Going into 2017, I was really looking for a firm that had strong presence in New York and Washington, D.C., and which was looking to expand its financial services group,” Comizio said. Fried Frank, he added, is one of the firms that has been able to bridge both worlds.
Comizio credited Fried Frank chairman David Greenwald with recruiting him to the firm to help build out its banking group. Since returning to Fried Frank in 2013 from The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he was deputy general counsel, Greenwald has focused on reviving the Wall Street firm’s fortunes. With some of Fried Frank’s former management heading elsewhere, Greenwald made the tough decision in early 2015 to pull out of Asia by closing the firm’s offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
After years of watching top talent head for the door, Fried Frank began dipping back into the lateral market, bringing on Kirkland & Ellis partner Graham White to head its European private equity practice in London, as well as adding a new global litigation chair in James “Jamie” Wareham from DLA Piper in Washington, D.C., where he made headlines a half-dozen years ago for his reported $5 million payday. Fried Frank also hired a new IP litigation head in 2015 by adding Shearman & Sterling partner Scott Doyle for its inside-the-Beltway base.
Those additions and other changes implemented by Greenwald have started to pay off for Fried Frank, which saw gross revenue surge nearly 10 percent, to $504.5 million in 2015. Profits per partner that year grew 21.5 percent, to nearly $2.21 million. (As a matter of comparison, gross revenue at Paul Hastings rose 5.6 percent in 2015, to $1.056 billion, while profits per partner jumped 6.1 percent, to $2.51 million.)
“David [Greenwald] was one of the most important factors in bringing me to the firm,” Comizio said. “He really walked me through what they’re building here, and I think we’ll continue to have opportunities to expand our banking practice, so stay tuned.”
With his move to Fried Frank, a firm known for its market-leading real estate group in New York, Comizio is once again transitioning amid major changes in the U.S. economic and political landscape. When he gave notice at Thacher Proffitt in late 2007, the signs of the looming financial crisis were just beginning to appear. Thacher Proffitt would not survive the economic crisis, but Comizio’s practice thrived as he was tapped to advise banks and other financial institutions coping with the fallout.
With the future of the Dodd-Frank Act and other financial regulations in doubt following the election of Donald Trump, Comizio acknowledged that the winds of change are blowing once again.
“The laws [for financial services institutions] are changing continually, especially now,” Comizio said. “And there are a bunch of what I would call ‘hot button’ items coming up, such as anti-money laundering, cybersecurity and the rise of fintech regulation.”
Pat Wilson, a legal recruiter with The Wilson Group in Washington, D.C., helped broker Comizio’s move from Paul Hastings to Fried Frank.