Cravath, Swaine & Moore, one of the last remaining elite law firms confined to New York, is launching its second U.S. office, announcing on Monday an upcoming Washington, D.C., location with three prominent partner hires from the government.
Jelena McWilliams, most recently the former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Elad Roisman, former commissioner and acting chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and Jennifer Leete, former associate director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, will join Cravath as partners, the firm said.
With the opening of the office this fall, Cravath said, the firm will have offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and London.
Cravath said McWilliams, Roisman and Leete will advise clients in regulatory, corporate governance and investigation matters, as well as M&A, IPO and other capital markets deals. McWilliams will be the managing partner of the D.C. office.
The firm said it anticipates the trio will advise clients in financial services, fintech and emerging technology — key industries in Cravath’s client base. The firm’s clients include IBM, Qualcomm, Morgan Stanley, among other bank and tech clients.
The firm was not immediately available to comment. Faiza Saeed, Cravath’s presiding partner, said in a statement, “Our clients face an increasingly complex and active regulatory environment, and our move today enhances our ability to provide the most creative advice in addressing their most challenging matters.”
“With nearly half a century of combined public service, Jelena, Elad and Jennifer will bring exceptional regulatory experience, legal acumen and leadership on critical issues,” she added.
By launching a Washington office, Cravath is joining the ranks of most of its other competitor firms in New York and elsewhere. The move marks another competitive step for Cravath, about six months after it decided to move away from a pure lockstep compensation for its partners.
McWilliams, as chair of the FDIC, managed over 6,000 employees and engaged in oversight of approximately 5,000 banks. She resigned as chair in February 2022.
She previously served as executive vice president and chief legal officer for Fifth Third Bank; chief counsel and deputy staff director with the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; and assistant chief counsel with the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
Before entering the government, she practiced corporate and securities law at Morrison & Foerster in Palo Alto, California, and Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) in Washington, D.C.
“Building the Washington, D.C. office for a firm as venerable as Cravath—its second U.S. office in over 200 years—is an opportunity of a lifetime,” McWilliams said in a statement.
Roisman, appointed by President Trump to the SEC, was sworn into office in September 2018. He was acting chair of the SEC in December 2020 and January 2021. At the SEC, Cravath said, he led the agency’s efforts to improve the proxy voting process. Roisman joined the SEC after serving as chief counsel with the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Before working in the U.S. Senate, he was counsel to SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher, chief counsel at NYSE Euronext and worked as an associate at Milbank.
Leete served in the SEC’s enforcement division for more than 20 years, supervising a range of investigations and enforcement actions. She managed a team of more than 40 attorneys and collaborated closely with the SEC’s regulatory divisions, the firm said, adding she frequently coordinated the resolution of highly complex matters with other government authorities. Before joining the SEC, Leete was an associate at Baker & Botts.