Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Pease, one of the prosecutors in the high-profile federal corruption case against former state Senator Vincent Fumo, has announced he is leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after nearly 16 years to join Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries as senior counsel in charge of government investigations for North and South America.
Pease told The Legal on Wednesday that his last day with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is today, and that he’ll start at Teva on Monday.
“It’s just a great opportunity,” Pease said of the move. “I had been looking to try something different and the time is right.”
Pease, who started his career as an associate in the litigation department of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis in Philadelphia, joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in April 1997. Since March 2009, he has served as the chief of the Government and Health Care Fraud Section, supervising all of the office’s prosecutions related to health care fraud, procurement and program fraud affecting federal agencies and environmental crimes.
Pease has also overseen all of the office’s prosecutions related to those federal regulatory offenses that fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, including off-label promotion of pharmaceutical products and misbranded drugs and food products.
Pease said he anticipates that role will serve to inform his new position with Teva, one of the world’s largest generic drug manufacturers.
“I’ve had a lot of experience doing FDA investigations, particularly in matters involving the pharmaceutical industry,” Pease said. “That experience definitely is going to be valuable.”
As senior counsel in charge of government investigations for North and South America, Pease said he will be responsible for managing outside counsel, as well as for responding to all government investigations into the company.
Pease said that with the Obama administration now firmly in place for another four years, he expects FDA enforcement activity with regard to drug companies, in particular, to continue at the same level it had during the course of the first term.
“Over the last four years, we’ve seen an uptick in FDA enforcement activity in the pharmaceutical industry,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect that would change. The FDA emphasis is likely to continue.”
While Pease focused much of his recent work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on prosecutions related to health care fraud, the Fumo corruption case was one of the most high profile of his career.
Pease, who tried the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer, had alleged that Fumo improperly used many of the workers on his 90-member Senate staff as his personal servants or campaign workers, ignoring ethical rules that specifically call for a separation of legislative and campaign work.
In March, after an eventful five-month trial, Fumo was convicted by a federal jury on all 137 fraud, obstruction of justice and tax counts. While Pease had urged U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to impose a 15-year term, Fumo was sentenced to 55 months in prison on July 14.
In November 2011, following two days of resentencing hearings during which Pease called Fumo “a thief” who is “utterly corrupt and dishonest to his core,” Fumo received six additional months in prison.
Pease told The Legal on Wednesday that the courtroom experience he gained trying high-profile cases, including public corruption cases, has provided him with a unique perspective on how the government makes decisions.
Pease said he believes this will prove valuable in his new position.
“I like the idea of going in-house and working for a corporation from the strategic side,” Pease said. “It’s going to be interesting to be on the client’s side and dealing with complicated legal issues. I think this will be a new challenge for me.”
Still, after more than a decade and a half, Pease said it won’t be easy to say goodbye to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“I didn’t expect to be at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for 16 years, but I loved this job so much and have really enjoyed every day,” he said, but added that he believes change can be a good thing.
“I’ve done a lot of different types of cases, I’ve tried some big cases and I’ve now had a chance to be a manager,” he said. “It’s just time for me to try something different.”
U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania told The Legal on Thursday that Pease has been “a valued member of my executive team since I became U.S. attorney several years ago.”
“He’s just been a very important person in terms of our efforts to combat government fraud and health care fraud,” Memeger said, but added that Pease trained many of the younger lawyers in the office, who will now take over and continue his cases.
Memeger said he’s still in the process of choosing a new head of the Government and Health Care Fraud Section.