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12 October 2020

Quinn Emanuel claims France first as it hires leading state prosecutor

Paris-based financial prosecutor Eric Russo makes ground-breaking switch to private practice

By Ben Rigby

Eric Russo

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has hired a leading state prosecutor for France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) as a partner in Paris.

Eric Russo has successfully secured deferred prosecution agreements against HSBC, Société Générale and Airbus leading to settlements amounting to €2.7bn. He has also led investigations and agreed settlements with UK and US counterparts in the Serious Fraud Office and the Department of Justice. 

These include the 2020 €3.6bn fine levied against Airbus, following a four-year joint investigation, in which Airbus was represented by Clifford Chance and August Debouzy in France, Dechert in the UK, and Paul Hastings and Arnold & Porter in the US. The fine was the largest penalty imposed for corruption offences globally. 

A career prosecutor who joined the PNF in 2015, Russo has also been an investigating magistrate – an important role in France’s inquisitorial system of justice – as well as stints at the French Ministry of Justice and as a public prosecutor of the Paris Court of Appeal.

Kami Haeri, head of Quinn Emanuel’s Paris disputes practice, said: “Eric is not only a brilliant and recognised magistrate, but he is also the first prosecutor in the history of the PNF to join a law firm - a very rare move in France.” 

The firm’s founder, John Quinn, hailed Russo’s “outstanding reputation in France and around the world for his expertise in complex financial investigations and white collar matters”. 

Russo was the first prosecutor to conclude a deferred prosecution agreement under reforms to France’s corporate criminal law, following the implementation of the Sapin2 Act in 2016. The reforms have been behind other US law firm lateral hires in France, given the heightened need for international companies for lregulatory law advice.

Hari was chair of August Debouzy's litigation, arbitration and white collar crime group before he joined Quinn in 2017.

Juan Morillo, co-chair of Quinn Emanuel’s global corporate crime practice, said Russo’s arrival illustrated the firm's desire to establish a white collar criminal practice in France, as well as bolstering US and European cross-border links.

Last month, King & Spalding hired a four-lawyer white-collar-crime team, led by partner Jean Tamalet, from Bird & Bird. 

Last week, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) hired a seven-strong team of real estate lawyers from CMS Francis Lefebvre Avocats.

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