Leading white collar crime duo exits Greenberg Traurig for HFW
London firm secures Greenberg’s global co-chair of corporate crime and investigations and a former SFO prosecutor as it pushes to strengthen offering
Barry Vitou has left his role as global co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s corporate crime and investigations practice for HFW, along with Greenberg partner and former Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecutor Anne-Marie Ottaway.
The London hires are a coup for HFW, whose managing partner, Jeremy Shebson, said: “It isn't every day that you get a chance to bring in two genuine market leaders in a field such as white collar criminal defence.”
Vitou, who has left Greenberg after three and a half years, was previously a senior partner at Pinsent Masons and Winston & Strawn, among other City practices.
Ottaway was a career prosecutor with the SFO for more than a decade, before moving to Pinsent Masons and then Greenberg Traurig over her 20 years in the field. In 2018 she was appointed as the Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords’ Select Committee on the UK Bribery Act.
Shebson praised the pair’s “formidable track record of handling investigations and defending clients in high-profile cases”, particularly in the UK, EU, Russia and the former CIS states, as well as in offshore jurisdictions including the BVI and Cayman Islands.
They will report to HFW’s global disputes practice, working closely with the fraud and insolvency group, with Shebson adding that hiring the duo “represents a real step-change for our capabilities in white-collar crime".
The move was part of a targeted push to strengthen and broaden HFW’s offering, with further hires considered that “add value to our clients, including in white collar crime and regulatory investigations.”
Vitou said he was attracted to HFW for its client base, particularly across its core sectors of energy, insurance, infrastructure and transport, and that the firm “shares our aspiration to create a marquee practice for big-ticket white-collar work.”
He added that the firm's “strong relationships across the insurance market will also benefit our practice, as much of the work is covered by insurance.”
Vitou recently secured a win against the SFO in the UK Supreme Court on behalf of US-based infrastructure conglomerate KBR, whose UK subsidiaries had been under investigation by the SFO for alleged bribery and corruption for four years, leading to the closure of the investigation.
Shebson said: “We expect this to be a busy area, with the pandemic and consequent market shocks leading to an increase in regulatory investigations and prosecutions." Fraud-related cases for corporates are expected to rise, owing to the pandemic, as furlough schemes wind down and potential abuses discovered on audit leading to investigations.
Ottoway developed the SFO’s self-reporting regime for corporates, which is central to the Deferred Prosecution Agreement regime under the Bribery Act, on which both she, and Vitou, are expert.
Vitou and Ottaway have worked with the full range of US and UK prosecutors active in this area, as well as Australian and Swiss prosecutors.
Ottaway also has cross-government experience in dealing with overseas corruption, particularly politically exposed persons accused of money laundering, a timely subject given the release, by the BBC and the Guardian, of the Pandora Papers, the latest exposé on the financial dealings of powerful ultra-high-net-worth individuals.