Steven M. Witzel
is head of Fried Frank's White Collar Defense, Regulatory Enforcement & Investigations Practice as well as its Anti-Corruption Compliance and Enforcement Practice.
Mr. Witzel concentrates his practice in white-collar criminal defense, securities enforcement and regulatory interactions. He has primarily represented public companies, audit committees, private equity firms and individuals in criminal and regulatory investigations. Mr. Witzel has represented several boards and committees in conducting confidential internal investigations. His matters have included investigations into allegations of domestic and foreign accounting frauds, antitrust violations, financial crimes and international anti-corruption violations, as well as related civil matters. Currently, Mr. Witzel is representing a number of professional services firms, financial institutions and senior executives in investigations involving the Department of Justice, the SEC, the CFTC and other regulators.
Among Mr. Witzel's recent noteworthy representations are:
- Former Managing Director and Head of Regulatory Reporting at Bank of America in a favorable settlement against the SEC alleging aiding and abetting and/or causing securities law violations and leveraged conversion.
- Former Lehman Brothers President in criminal and enforcement investigations, and related litigation.
- Independent Monitor of the US Virgin Islands Police Department, following selection by the US Department of Justice and the Virgin Islands Attorney General.
- Broker-dealer (Direct Access Partners) founding partner in criminal FCPA bribery case of South American sovereign entity investors.
- Over a dozen investment bank professionals at several international financial institutions in LIBOR, FX, ISDAfix and Precious Metals market manipulation investigations and prosecutions.
- Board of directors of a public company in an international anti-corruption investigation.
- Investment bank board of director in international criminal and regulatory investigation.
- Japanese auto supply company (T.Rad) in civil and criminal antitrust actions.
- Hedge fund CEO in criminal insider trading case.
- Investment bank board member in criminal OFAC investigation.
- Broker-dealer entity in criminal market manipulation investigation.
Prior to joining the Firm, Mr. Witzel was a partner and Associate General Counsel at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP from 1996 to 2005. Before that, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division, Southern District of New York from 1989 to 1996. From 1985 to 1989, he was an associate at Cravath Swaine & Moore. Mr. Witzel has extensive trial and appellate experience in a wide range of cases, including securities fraud, accounting fraud, money laundering, bank fraud, public corruption and tax evasion.
Mr. Witzel was also appointed to the Criminal Justice Act panel for the Southern District of New York in 2005 and reappointed continuously and most recently in 2019, where he represents indigent defendants on a pro bono basis in federal criminal prosecutions.
Honors & Awards
As a result of a favorable resolution of a nearly four-year SEC investigation and yearlong litigation, Mr. Witzel was named “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer
in September 2017 for a case involving the head of regulatory reporting at Bank of America and its wholly owned broker-dealer Merrill Lynch. The magazine praised Mr. Witzel and his team for their “aggressive campaign to push back on the [SEC's] allegations,” which resulted in a settled order where the executive “neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, paid no financial penalty and incurred no suspension.”
In addition, Mr. Witzel is routinely
recognized by Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business in Litigation
: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations, Legal 500
in White-Collar Criminal Defense and Antitrust: Cartel, and Benchmark Litigation
as a “National Star” in the category White Collar Crime. He has been a faculty member (Adjunct Professor of Law) at Fordham University School of Law. He is the co-author of the nationally recognized and cited treatise on grand jury function and law, H. Goldstein and S. Witzel, Grand Jury Practice
(Law Journal Press, rev. 2018). Mr. Witzel has published numerous articles in a wide variety of legal and academic publications and currently has a regular quarterly column in the New York Law Journal
in which he addresses developments in the corporate criminal and anti-corruption areas. He regularly serves on panels addressing government investigations, accountants' liability and white-collar criminal defense issues. Mr. Witzel has been selected as an International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution Distinguished Neutral, and has served as an arbitrator in several proceedings.
Mr. Witzel served as law clerk to the Honorable John M. Cannella, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York from 1983 to 1985.
Bar Admissions/Licensed Jurisdictions
New York; Connecticut; United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York; United States Supreme Court.