Peter Hyun, a former chief counsel to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has joined Wiley Rein as a partner in Washington, D.C.
Hyun will work out of Wiley Rein’s white-collar defense and government investigations practice, where he will defend clients in congressional investigations, government enforcement actions and state attorneys general investigations. He said Monday that he expects a looming shift in political power from Republicans to Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will create an uptick in congressional investigations that in private practice will yield new business for him on matters as disparate as drug pricing and CEO compensation.
Feinstein, the senior senator from California and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, is losing a top lawyer two days after the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Hyun said the timing was “purely coincidental” and noted that his job search began months ago, even before former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s July retirement provided the vacancy that Kavanaugh ultimately filled.
Wiley Rein partner Stephen Obermeier helped entice Hyun to the firm, he said. Both lawyers had worked together as federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia, and Hyun, who started his legal career as a litigation associate at Sidley Austin, cited Wiley Rein’s deep roster of clients, particularly in the telecommunications industry, as an attraction in deciding where to return in private practice.
“I think its bench of lawyers was really attractive,” said Hyun, noting that he met with approximately 25 Wiley Rein lawyers in the months leading up to this move. “In a weird way, I kind of still feel like I’m in the start of my career.”
Hyun’s last day on Feinstein’s staff was Sept. 7, several weeks before Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings began on Capitol Hill. Hyun, whose government portfolio did not include nominations, served as Feinstein’s top legal adviser on law enforcement issues and assisted on oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Before joining Feinstein’s staff in 2015, Hyun was an assistant U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Virginia, where he investigated health care, mortgage and procurement fraud for the Justice Department’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement unit for nearly five years. Hyun has also served as an assistant attorney general in the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s litigation bureau from 2008 to 2010.
“Peter is a triple threat,” said a statement announcing his hire from Wiley Rein’s white-collar defense and investigations chairman Ralph Caccia, who joined the firm in 2012. “His experience … provides him with a unique skill set to navigate increasingly common multi-front federal, state and regulatory investigations.”
Hyun said he considered other opportunities, including working in-house, at other firms and in the government, but no other option piqued his interest as much as Wiley Rein. He declined to identify other law firms that he considered joining.
Wiley Rein has proved to be an attractive destination for others with deep knowledge of law enforcement and the Justice Department. The firm announced last week its hire of partner Richard Sofield, who spent nearly 25 years working at Main Justice and the U.S. Department of Defense and most recently served in the Justice Department’s national security division as director of the Foreign Investment Review Staff.
Hyun is leaving Feinstein’s staff at a time when the senator’s legal team is facing mounting criticism from Republicans regarding whether it had any role in the release of information pertaining to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. Feinstein has said neither she nor her staff leaked the information in her possession. Hyun pointed to the senator’s comments and declined to discuss who he thought might have shared Ford’s confidential information with the press.