With help from firm chairman David Greenwald, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson has recruited another Goldman Sachs alum, hiring financial services litigator Michael Keats.
Keats, 48, who joined Fried Frank late last week, was most recently co-head of the financial services litigation and enforcement practice at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. Keats represents investment banks, private equity firms, hedge funds and payment processors in regulatory proceedings and civil litigation.
His clients have included Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan & Chase Co., hedge fund King Street and First Data Corp., as well as his former employer, Goldman Sachs.
While at Goldman Sachs from 2007 to 2012, during the heart of the financial crisis, Keats was managing director in the bank’s litigation and regulatory proceedings group and an associate general counsel. There, he worked closely with Greenwald, who was international general counsel and a deputy general counsel at Goldman before joining Fried Frank in 2013 as co-chair. Greenwald then became the firm’s top leader when co-chair Valerie Ford Jacob stepped down in 2014 and then left for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
“David and I have been chatting on and off for years about me coming over,” Keats said in an interview. “He helped rejuvenate the firm” and “I think he wants to help strengthen the litigation practice, already strong.”
The hiring comes just months after Fried Frank added another Goldman Sachs alum, corporate partner Darren Littlejohn, who was previously managing director and senior counsel in the bank’s legal department. Littlejohn joined Fried Frank in January, arriving from Blake, Cassels & Graydon.
Keats’ prior firm, Stroock, has recently undergone a strategy shift, emphasizing core areas, while establishing a nonequity partner tier and internal guidelines covering expectations for equity partners. Last year, the firm saw a string of corporate partner exits, but has hired partners in its financial restructuring and real estate practices.
Keats said Stroock’s strategy shift, personnel changes and other developments didn’t factor into his decision to leave the firm, and he was not part of the de-equitized partner group. Indeed, Stroock has been seeking to strengthen its financial services litigation department, he said.
Besides working with his former colleagues from Goldman, Keats said the practice advantage at Fried Frank was its strength in corporate practices, including private equity, asset management, mergers and acquisitions and capital markets.
“Historically, those are the practices I often work with from a litigation perspective,” he said, adding, they are an “important source of both business and expertise for someone” who focuses on financial services litigation.
While Stroock is well known for its real estate and financial restructuring practice, Fried Frank’s private equity and M&A practice is further established, he said. “You look around. I saw the opportunities I had at Fried Frank and I didn’t have to wait for somebody to build a corporate practice that was already there. It made it very attractive to me,” he said.
Keats added that he has had a long relationship with Fried Frank going back to 2007, having worked with the firm’s litigators when he was at Goldman.
A Stroock spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Keats’ exit.
In the last few weeks, Stroock also saw the exit of Marissa Holob, who joined Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel as a partner and co-chair of the firm’s employee benefits department.
But earlier this month, Stroock touted its addition of Evan Hudson, co-chair of Duval & Stachenfeld’s real estate capital markets group, as a corporate partner. The firm this year also added Michael Emanuel as a partner in its private funds group, arriving from asset management firm Eagle Investment Solutions, and restructuring partner Daniel Fliman, who joined from Kasowitz Benson Torres.