Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Joan Loughnane, a longtime federal prosecutor who served on the executive staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for three years, has left the office and will join Sidley Austin in October.

Joan Loughnane
Courtesy photo

Loughnane joined the Southern District office about 15 years ago. Over time, she has served as co-chief of the general crimes unit, deputy chief of the criminal division, acting chief of the complex frauds and cybercrime unit and then chief counsel to the U.S. attorney.

When Joon Kim became acting U.S. attorney after the firing of Preet Bharara in 2017, Loughnane became acting deputy U.S. attorney, the second highest position in the office, overseeing more than 200 assistant U.S. attorneys in the civil and criminal divisions.

She was in that role until January 2018, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions named Geoffrey Berman as interim U.S. attorney. That month, Kim left the office, later returning to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and Loughnane returned to the role of chief counsel.

As chief counsel, Loughnane has provided guidance about complex legal and strategic issues to the U.S. attorney and the deputy U.S. attorney on all cases, from the most routine to the most prominent. Loughnane declined to comment on any cases that most recently have drawn her attention. She also declined to comment on the office’s most high-profile matter, the investigation of President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen.

A spokesman for the Southern District prosecutor’s office said Loughnane and Audrey Strauss, senior counsel to Berman, both provided advice to the U.S. attorney. Now, with Loughnane’s departure, Strauss will fill that role exclusively, the spokesman said.

In all, Loughnane has served under seven U.S. attorneys in the Southern District in the last 15 years.

Prosecutors commonly stay on for up to five or six years, making the length of Loughnane’s tenure notable. “I stayed for as long as I did because I was fortunate to serve in a number of different roles,” she said. “It was always something interesting and exciting.”

But after rising up through the ranks to the executive staff, Loughnane said, it was “time for a new chapter.”

At Sidley, Loughnane, 47, will be a partner in the white-collar government litigation and investigations practice in New York. While she spoke with some other large firms for options, she said she was attracted to Sidley for the opportunity to practice at a firm that was “highly regarded” in white-collar defense and securities enforcement, and for the chance again to work with David Rody, Michael Levy and Timothy Treanor, all of whom previously worked in the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Joan will be the fourth former prosecutor to join Sidley’s New York office from the SDNY in the last 10 years, and she adds yet another valuable facet to our top-tier global enforcement and litigation practice,” said Treanor, co-leader of Sidley’s white-collar defense practice.

Loughnane, who left the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Aug. 1, is one of several prosecutors to exit the Southern District office in 2018, after the departures of Kim, Tatiana Martins and Brooke Cucinella.

“There’s always a high level of turn over” in the office, Loughnane said. “The office is lucky to hire lots of terrific lawyers, but it loses lots of terrific layers every year in the normal course.”