Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. (Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM)
Outgoing U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer is joining Holland & Knight as a partner in its Miami office, leading the firm’s global compliance and investigations team.
As head of the nation’s third largest U.S. attorney’s office, Ferrer oversaw about 400 lawyers and professional staff. His office successfully prosecuted a wide range of financial crimes, including health care, investment and securities fraud, identity theft and Ponzi schemes. He oversaw 11,000 cases since becoming South Florida’s top prosecutor in 2010 and leaves office Friday.
Moving to legal defense work is a “logical next step” in his legal career, Ferrer said, and an opportunity to use the experience he has gained in his years at the Department of Justice.
“I see our profession as one of service either to the government or to private clients,” he said. “I’m switching sides, but I see it as a positive, logical next step after having this experience. I feel good about it. I feel like I’m helping individuals who are facing challenges.”
Ferrer said he expects to start working at Holland & Knight in mid-March. His work will focus on international and domestic investigations for corporate clients, he said. He will also represent companies and individuals facing compliance issues, and will help them formulate corporate policies that are in compliance with state and federal laws.
Ferrer said he knew when deciding his next career move that he wanted to join a firm that not only had a commitment to its clients, but also had a commitment to community service and pro bono work.
“Public service is one of the greatest callings that I know,” he said, noting that his father’s last words when he passed away in 1995 were “haz el bien” — Spanish for “do good.”
Ferrer “is one of the most respected government officials in South Florida. He has an impeccable reputation in our profession,” said Steven Sonberg, managing partner of Holland & Knight in Miami. “We are proud that he has chosen to continue his remarkable career at Holland & Knight.”
The move reunites Ferrer with John Hogan, head of the firm’s litigation section. They previously worked together at the Justice Department when Hogan was chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Ferrer was Reno’s deputy chief of staff. Hogan spoke at his investiture when he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney in 2010, and Ferrer called him “a friend, a colleague and a wonderful confidant.”
Ferrer’s new team focuses on corporate compliance and government investigations in the firm’s white-collar defense practice, which includes 15 former federal prosecutors, two former U.S. attorneys, two former Securities and Exchange Commission trial counsel and two of Florida’s former statewide prosecutors.
It’s customary for new presidential administrations to appoint new U.S. Attorneys. Ferrer said he was particularly proud of the work his staff at the U.S. Attorney’s had done prosecuting health care fraud, charging over 1,230 defendants in the past seven years, and of the office’s work in the national security area.
“We created the national security section in 2013, and by focusing on it and making it a priority we saw a threefold increase in the number of national security cases prosecuted,” he said.
Among the cases was the conviction of a man who conspired to raise money to send abroad in support of the Taliban.
Ferrer also cited his work in combating international narcotics trafficking. He was the first U.S. attorney to travel to Colombia to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to support and encourage collective law enforcement efforts in combating trans-national crime.
Asked whether he thought he might return to public service or run for office, Ferrer laughed.
“I don’t see that in my future right now,” Ferrer said.