Randy Chartash, chief of the white collar section for the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta, is starting his own firm after 27 years as a federal prosecutor.
Chartash said he’ll be handling white collar cases for individuals, as well as qui tam whistleblower lawsuits against corporations. “I’ll see what emerges,” he said. “Those are the core areas.”
Chartash, 62, spent almost three decades as a federal prosecutor, joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia in 1991. He rose to chief of the economic crimes section in 2006, with between 20 to 25 of the Atlanta office’s roughly 100 prosecutors working under him.
“I liked it. It was fun,” he said. “I enjoyed my work there.”
But now he’s ready to try something new. “I want to challenge myself. I’ve been the white collar prosecutor for the Northern District of Georgia for a generation,” said Chartash, who is calling his new firm Chartash Law.
“Randy has been a steady leader of our office for over two decades,” said Atlanta U.S. Attorney BJay Pak. “As a prosecutor, he handled some of the most high profile and complex fraud cases in our office.”
“We will miss his deep legal knowledge and skill, but we will also miss his boundless energy and positive attitude,” Pak said. “He is also a talented chef! We wish him the best in the next chapter of his career.”
Chartash said carrot cake has been his “signature dessert” for U.S. attorney’s office gatherings, estimating that he’s made at least 100 over the years. “The carrot cake always gets eaten first,” he added.
Chartash is subletting space from two of Atlanta’s best-known criminal defense attorneys, Ed Garland and Don Samuel of Garland, Samuel & Loeb, in their Buckhead building at 3151 Maple Drive. He said he’s known the two for more than 20 years from his work trying or supervising cases on the other side.
Plenty of former federal prosecutors from the Atlanta U.S. attorney’s office have joined big corporate defense firms around town over the years—most recently Doug Gilfillan to Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton and Larry Sommerfeld to Alston & Bird.
Chartash said he talked to some of those firms but decided he “wanted the freedom to practice the way I want,” choosing what cases to take without having to worry about billable hours.
“I can do a lot of different things I’m interested in. It’s more freedom,” he said.
Having his own shop also allows him to partner with big firms on white collar cases, which often involve charges against both a corporation and individuals.
“I hope they know my expertise,” Chartash said of his many former colleagues now at big corporate defense firms. “I’ll seek them out if they don’t seek me out,” he added.
Chartash has won numerous DOJ awards, including the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, for the big cases he’s tried over his career, ranging from corporate malfeasance, such as health care fraud, to public corruption to multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes.
“I’ve done a lot of fun stuff as well as supervising all the people doing all the other fun stuff,” Chartash said. Other recognitions include the 2017 Atlanta Federal Executive Board Employee of the Year.
The DOJ in 2011 gave him its highest honor for legal performance, the John Marshall Award, for leading a team of AUSAs in a joint criminal and civil investigation of Allergan’s off-label promotion of Botox for headaches, pain, spasticity and other uses, prompted by a whistleblower tip.
Allergan’s misbranding caused millions in false claims to be made to federal health care programs. As part of the global settlement, the pharma giant pleaded guilty to Botox misbranding and paid criminal and civil fines totaling $600 million. It was the Northern District of Georgia’s largest settlement in history.
Chartash co-prosecuted with Pak the “Coke secrets” case, which led to an eight-year prison sentence in 2007 for former Coca-Cola secretary Joya Williams over a failed scheme to sell Coke’s trade secrets to PepsiCo for at least $1.5 million. Co-conspirator Ibrahim Dimson was sentenced to five years and Edmund Duhaney received two years.
“Everybody thinks it was about the formula. It was actually the financial plans of Coke,” Chartash said.
One big Ponzi scheme case was over a pay phone scam that defrauded $440 million from 12,000 investors, many of them retirees. Defendant Charles Edwards ran the scheme from 1996 to 2000 to sell interests in pay phones for $5,000 to $7,000 per phone, which investors would then lease back to his company, ETS Payphones. Edwards received a 12-year prison sentence in 2006 and was ordered to pay $320 million in restitution.
In a big public corruption case, Chartash in 2001 won fraud convictions of a financial adviser and underwriter’s representative in a 1992 refinancing by Fulton County of municipal water and sewer bonds. In return for a bribe, the financial adviser, Michael DeVegter, a vice president at investment bank Stephens Inc., recommended that the Fulton County Board of Commissioners should hire Richard Poirier of Lazard Freres & Co. as underwriter and manipulated the RFP process in Lazard’s favor. DeVegter received 13 months and Poirer seven months—although the prosecutors repeatedly appealed for longer sentences.
”It’s a little different,” Chartash said of the switch from prosecution to defense, “but you’re still seeking the truth and trying to help people. We all participate in the system together.”
Chartash, who left the U.S. attorney’s office on Oct. 31, said Monday that he is still setting up his new Buckhead office.
“I think it will be fun,” he said. “If I can get my computer to work, it will be fun.”