Southern District U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman

Geoffrey Berman, the court-appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, reported earning about $3.5 million in salary and bonus last year at Greenberg Traurig, where his clients included Deutsche Bank and a handful of individuals, according to a financial disclosure released on Thursday.

Berman’s disclosure, a required filing for many top government officials, provides a peek into the compensation scheme at one of the country’s largest law firms and a broad picture of the client relationships the former white-collar defender left behind when he took over one of the most visible U.S. attorney offices in the country.

The disclosure form, obtained by ALM through a records request, does not appear to offer any more clues why Berman is not overseeing his office’s criminal investigation of Michael Cohen, the longtime personal attorney to President Donald Trump. Berman received a 90-day extension to file his financial disclosure, which the U.S. Justice Department certified on Thursday.

Berman is recused in the investigation of Cohen, which had been referred to the U.S. attorney’s office by the special counsel team leading the inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Berman has not indicated publicly why he is recused in the Cohen probe.

Berman declined to comment through a spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.

Trump reportedly personally interviewed Berman last year for the Manhattan U.S. attorney post but did not formally nominate him for the position. The one-on-one interaction was unusual: Presidents generally do not meet with U.S. attorney candidates. Trump also reportedly met with Jessie Liu, the former Morrison & Foerster partner who’s now the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Berman served on the Trump transition team’s general counsel’s office between September 2016 and January 2017, according to his disclosure. The work was part-time and uncompensated.

Berman’s deputy, Robert Khuzami, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner who joined the Manhattan federal prosecutors’ office in January, is supervising the Cohen investigation. Like Berman, Khuzami also was required to file a publicly available financial disclosure form. Khuzami last year provided legal services to, among other clients, Deutsche Bank AG, UBS Financial Services, The Blackstone Group and Premium Point Investments, according to his filing.

Robert Khuzami, speaking in 2013 in Washington. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Berman’s financial disclosure also shows he provided legal services to Deutsche Bank AG NY last year. Berman said in the disclosure Deutsche Bank is paying the legal fees for 16 current and former employees of the bank, whose identities were not disclosed “because they are subject to non-public investigations.” His financial disclosure also notes two other “individual confidential clients” who are subject to nonpublic probes.

Deutsche Bank’s ties to people in Trump’s orbit have come in focus in Mueller’s investigation, and the bank is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors. Deutsche Bank teamed up with Debevoise & Plimpton to handle its engagement with the special counsel’s investigation.

Berman’s disclosure identifies other individual clients. Among them: Harold Levine, a former tax attorney at Herrick Feinstein, who was sentenced in October 2017 to two years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to a scheme in which he siphoned millions of dollars of tax fee shelter income from his law firm, then failed to report the diverted fees as income.

Levine was prosecuted by the office Berman now leads. Announcing the guilty plea, Berman’s predecessor, former acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, said Levine “stole first from his law firm partners and then from American taxpayers by filing tax returns that left out millions of dollars of income.”

Berman also defended Spiros Hatiras, the former chief executive of Hudson Healthcare Inc., against allegations that he and other board members mismanaged the healthcare provider in the buildup to its bankruptcy. Berman’s disclosure showed he represented Phil Kwon, a former deputy general counsel at the Port Authority, in connection with the Bridgegate scandal.

Berman’s salary at Greenberg Traurig puts him at the high end of other partners. Revenue per lawyer at Greenberg Traurig grew 4 percent in 2017, to $760,000, up from $731,000 the previous year, The American Lawyer reported in February. Profits per partner grew 5.6 percent, reaching $1.6 million last year, up from $1.5 million in 2016.

Berman was a former Greenberg Traurig colleague of Rudy Giuliani, the onetime Manhattan U.S. attorney who is now serving on Trump’s legal team involving the special counsel’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Giuliani resigned from the firm in May, a move that came amid increasing scrutiny over his role as a lawyer for Trump and various remarks characterizing his style of lawyering.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January appointed Berman as the U.S. attorney for Manhattan. At the time his appointment was expiring, in April, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York designated Berman as the U.S. attorney, allowing him to remain in the post until the vacancy is filled.

Trump has not announced a nominee for the position.

 

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