Veteran appellate lawyer Christopher Landau, the Trump administration’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Mexico, reported earning $3 million at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in a newly released financial disclosure, a mandatory ethics filing that includes details about partner compensation and the scope of a nominee’s potential conflicts of interest.
Landau’s financial disclosure, released late Monday, is particularly noteworthy in the legal profession, given the scarcity of Quinn Emanuel lawyers who jumped to posts in the Trump administration. Quinn Emanuel ranked second overall on a 2018 Am Law 100 list of firms based on profits per equity partner, identified as $4.73 million. Landau joined Quinn Emanuel in March 2018.
Landau’s partnership income from Quinn Emanuel appears to mark a substantial cut from Kirkland & Ellis, where he had been a partner since 1995 and a onetime leader of the firm’s appellate practice. His financial disclosure said he received more than $11 million from Kirkland and its international subsidiary. The amount would include work performed in 2017.
Read Landau’s financial disclosure:
President Donald Trump nominated Landau in March, and his confirmation hearing will come amid significant turmoil over the administration’s immigration policies. In recent weeks, Trump has threatened to shut down the U.S. border with Mexico, and his efforts to restrict asylum are tied up in the courts. Landau has no substantial diplomatic experience, a point Democrats are reportedly expected to raise when he appears before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A hearing date has not been set.
Quinn Emanuel managing partner John Quinn said in a statement in March: “As an ambassador, he will bring his unique intelligence and high professionalism to the task of advocating for the country.”
Landau declined to comment Tuesday.
The disclosure and an accompanying ethics agreement, another filing nominees are required to submit, reveal Landau’s plans to divest financial interests in the banking, technology and pharmaceutical industries that otherwise could give rise to potential conflicts of interest. Within 90 days of his confirmation, Landau said he would divest interests in companies including Apple Inc., Chevron Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev, IBM and CVS Health Corp.
“I understand that a heightened prospect of a conflict of interest could exist as to companies that maintain a presence in Mexico, because they may be more likely than other companies to seek official assistance from or make contact with the embassy or otherwise be affected by policies and engagement implemented by the embassy. I will remain alert to the possible need to recuse where appropriate,” Landau wrote in the ethics agreement that accompanied his financial disclosure.
Landau joined Quinn Emanuel early last year after spending 25 years at Kirkland. He first joined the firm as an associate in 1993 and would depart in 2018—more than a year after it acquired the Washington litigation boutique Bancroft, a move that brought on U.S. Supreme Court and appellate veteran Paul Clement.
Landau has argued eight cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. He clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and for Justice Clarence Thomas. Landau said he would resign from his position as a trustee of the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society upon his confirmation, according to his ethics agreement.
Landau’s compensation at Kirkland rivaled that of a former partner, Robert Khuzami, who last year reported on a financial disclosure receiving $11 million in partnership income. Khuzami, formerly the second in charge at the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, has not announced his plans since recently leaving the post.
Landau said he anticipates receiving about $306,000 annually from Kirkland in benefits after he retires from the private practice of law.
His financial disclosure identified more than 50 corporate and individual clients for whom he has provided legal services since 2017. The report did not reveal which clients belonged to Quinn Emanuel and those that were Kirkland matters. Landau said he provided legal services to companies including Honeywell International, IBM, Corp., Raytheon, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., The Boeing Company, Dow Chemical Co., and ConAgra Brands Inc.
“For a period of one year after my resignation, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know this firm is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate” pursuant to a waiver, Landau said in the ethics agreement. Landau made the same pledge for matters involving Kirkland.
Criticism of Landau’s nomination has focused on his lack of foreign affairs experience. A column published in March at Slate claimed that “Landau would be the least experienced American diplomat to occupy the Mexican ambassadorship in a generation.”
Landau was born in Madrid and is fluent in Spanish. He earned a certificate in Latin American Studies as an undergraduate at Harvard. Landau’s late father, George W. Landau, was a veteran diplomat, serving as U.S. ambassador to Paraguay in 1972 and later as the ambassador to Chile and to Venezuela.
“The Mexican government is confident that, should Mr. Landau’s appointment be confirmed, it will help promote and strengthen a bilateral relationship of mutual respect and understanding,” the Mexican Foreign Relations Secretariat said in a statement in March.
The Obama administration’s ambassadors to Mexico—Carlos Pascual, Earl Anthony Wayne and Roberta Jacobson—each brought extensive foreign policy experience to the post. Antonio Garza, the George W. Bush administration’s ambassador to Mexico for seven years, is now counsel in the Mexico City office of White & Case. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Landau would join at least two other Big Law alums who are now serving as Trump-appointed U.S. ambassadors.
A.B. Culvahouse, chairman of O’Melveny & Myers from 2000 to 2012, was confirmed in January to serve as ambassador to Australia. David Friedman, a former name partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, is the ambassador to Israel. He was confirmed in May 2017.