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‘Venerable as Cravath’: Wall Street stalwart breaks with tradition to invest in Washington DC

Cravath, Swaine & Moore has announced plans to open an office in Washington DC having hired three partners from US regulatory bodies.

The move is a bold one by the Wall Street stalwart, known for its traditionally conservative approach. The new Washington office will become just the third in the firm’s global network, adding to the New York headquarters established in 1819, and the London outpost added in 1973.

The firm has also once had a presence in Hong Kong and Paris at various points in its 203-year history.

A triumvirate of lateral recruits are to spearhead the new practice. Jelena McWilliams, former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Elad Roisman, former commissioner and Acting chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Jennifer Leete, former associate director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, have all joined the firm in the capital.

Presiding partner Faiza Saeed said: ‘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 the addition of Ms. McWilliams, Mr. Roisman and Ms. Leete, Cravath’s partnership will include attorneys who have served in leadership positions across key federal regulatory agencies.’

McWilliams, who will serve as managing partner of the new practice, commented: ‘Building the Washington DC office for a firm as venerable as Cravath — its second US office in over 200 years — is an opportunity of a lifetime.’

The new office continues the trend of out-of-character news coming out of the firm in recent months. September 2021 saw M&A mainstay Damien Zoubek depart for Freshfields, a rare occurrence for a firm long renowned for retaining talent. Since then, fellow corporate partner Allison Wein has also left to join Kirkland & Ellis in May.