Steptoe & Johnson bolsters Asia investigations practice in New York with Shearman & Sterling duo

Cáitrín McKiernan and Brian Burke join as latest in string of hires in Steptoe’s investigations and white collar defence team

Brian Burke and Cáitrín McKiernan Images courtesy of Steptoe & Johnson

Steptoe & Johnson has bolstered its Asia investigations and white collar defence team in New York with the hire of a pair of lawyers from Shearman & Sterling. 

Newly minted partner Cáitrín McKiernan has joined Steptoe just a few days after former Shearman partner Brian Burke. McKiernan, who like Burke speaks fluent Mandarin, will also be based in Steptoe’s Hong Kong office, the firm said. 

Steptoe chair, Gwen Renigar, commented: "Cáitrín's work enhances Steptoe’s reputation for counselling clients on the enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in the Asia-Pacific region while helping our clients manage the unique risks that arise in connection with investment, trade and business."

McKiernan focuses on conducting multijurisdictional compliance reviews and internal investigations, crafting compliance policies and providing compliance counselling and training. She has joined Steptoe after almost seven years at Shearman, including a year on secondment at Google, where she led the company’s compliance investigations in Asia Pacific. 

Meantime, Burke has moved over to Steptoe after more than eight years as a partner at Shearman, having joined the firm as an associate in 2005. He advises clients with operations in Asia on FCPA/anti-corruption, economic sanctions, antitrust, shareholder litigation, anti-money laundering and other compliance and investigative matters. He has conducted dozens of investigations throughout Asia Pacific, including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Burke commented: "Steptoe is at the top of the market when it comes to investigations and white collar defence, and one of very few global firms with both credibility and resources in Asia. I look forward to drawing on all the firm has to offer to deliver quality results for Steptoe clients."

The duo’s arrival will bring Steptoe’s investigations and white collar defence team to 33 partners globally. Over the past few years, the team has handled matters including representing Volkswagen in the diesel emissions case, which saw it negotiate the largest corporate criminal and regulatory settlement in recent history. The team has also represented iFinex, the owner of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange, and Tether, the world’s largest stablecoin issuer, in investigations by the CFTC and the New York Attorney General's Office. 

The arrival of McKiernan and Burke follows Steptoe luring longtime federal defender Julia Gatto from the Southern District of New York into its investigations team last September, shortly after Assistant US Attorney Dwight Draughon Jr. rejoined the practice in Washington DC. Over the past year the firm has also added partners to the practice on both coasts from litigation boutiques Clarence Dyer & Cohen and Smith Pachter McWhorter. 

A Shearman spokesperson commented on the moves: “We have a particularly deep and market-leading global investigations and anti-corruption compliance practice, with numerous former federal prosecutors, multiple former DOJ-appointed monitors, and other partners and lawyers around the world dedicated to advising clients on these issues, including in Asia.” 

Following the departure of McKiernan and Burke, Shearman’s Asia-based investigations and white collar defence team includes Tokyo-based partner Masahisa Ikeda, Hong-Kong based counsel Jieni Ji and a team of associates. A firm spokesperson said they are supported by a team of US-based investigations partners who are former US federal prosecutors and who have “many years of FCPA experience, including the most complex cases with the DOJ and US Securities and Exchange Commission investigations for major global corporations”.

In April, New York litigator Adam Hakki replaced David Beveridge as Shearman's senior partner, the firm having announced the previous month that it had started the transition early to ensure a ‘seamless passing of the torch’. 

The news followed Shearman confirming it was no longer in merger talks with transatlantic firm Hogan Lovells and came against a background of a flurry of partner departures from its Europe and Middle East offices.

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