Former FERC chairman James Danly rejoins Skadden to head energy regulatory group

Washington DC-based Danly spent seven years at government energy regulator

Image courtesy of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has hired former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chairman James Danly in Washington DC to chair its energy regulatory group.  

Danly has returned to the top five US firm after nearly seven years at FERC, where he oversaw a 200-lawyer team as general counsel before becoming a commissioner in 2020 following a nomination by the then-President Donald Trump.  

During his term as a commissioner, which was due to end last June but was extended until the end of the year, Danly served for a few months as chairman until early 2021, when President Biden replaced him with Richard Glick. He earned a reputation as a dissenter on the Democrat-led commission.

“James is an exceptional lawyer. His track record as an excellent administrator while at FERC – combined with his skilled advancement of policy initiatives – has resulted in being recognised as a leader in the US energy industry,” said David Rievman, global head of Skadden’s regulatory practices. “We are thrilled to welcome him back and further expand our energy regulatory capabilities.” 

Danly’s time at FERC coincided with the US becoming the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter and his work included defining the agency’s responsibility to ensure that gas pipeline and LNG infrastructure was adequate. He also helped to develop reforms to modernise the US’s transmission system. 

Danly drew criticism at times, including for his lack of legal experience compared to previous commissioners. Danly began his legal career four years before starting at FERC, clerking for Reagan appointee Judge Danny Boggs in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals before joining Skadden as an associate in 2014. Earlier he served two tours as an army officer in Iraq and later became managing director of the Institute for the Study of War, a military think tank in Washington DC. 

Watchdog Accountable.US also raised concerns in 2020 over Danly’s ties to energy companies Exelon and NextEra, both of which had been his clients during his first stint at Skadden and had natural gas projects that fell under FERC’s jurisdiction. A FERC spokesperson said at the time that Danly had followed the Trump administration’s ethics pledge.  

Pankaj Sinha, head of Skadden’s Washington DC M&A group, said Danly’s knowledge of the energy industry and senior-level government experience would augment the firm’s energy transactions practice.  

“He is an exciting addition to the team, and I am delighted to work alongside him again,” he said.  

At Skadden, Danly will lead a four-partner energy regulation team, including David Meister, former assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York. 

“Skadden has an outstanding reputation in the energy industry,” Danly said. “I am delighted to be returning and look forward to guiding clients as they navigate their most significant regulatory, litigation and transactional challenges.”

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