Skadden Hires Top National Security Lawyer

Michael Leiter, a top national counterterrorism lawyer under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the firm announced on Tuesday.

Leiter, 48, joins Skadden as a partner in its 13-person Washington, D.C. national security practice, although he will work closely with the firm’s attorneys in its global investigations and M&A practices.

“The marriage of looking at [legal issues] from a business and national security perspective is something we have been growing for a number of years,” said Ivan Schlager, a senior Skadden partner who recruited Leiter.

After leaving his position as director of U.S. National Counterterrorism Center in 2011, Leiter joined the data analysis software firm Palantir Technologies as senior counselor to CEO Alex Karp and head of global government and cyber solutions.

In 2014, Leiter joined Leidos — a provider of technology to the U.S. Department of Defense — and became president of Leidos Defense, a $2.5 billion business unit.

During his time with Leidos, Leiter negotiated its 2016 acquisition of Lockheed Martin’s information systems and global solutions business, according to a Skadden press release.

In an interview, Leiter said he intends to bring his knowledge of national security issues and apply them to Skadden’s representations, including mergers and acquisitions. Such issues have become more relevant with the “shrinking global environment,” he said.

“If a foreign company buys something here in the U.S., there is a really good chance that something that company does is going to touch on critical national security interests,” said Leiter. “If 20 years ago, a company bought a U.S. thermostat manufacturer, nobody would have ever given it a national security review. Today, that thermostat company is going to be connected to the Internet of Things and there is going to be a national security interest in that.”

This year, Skadden has advised on a handful of mega-mergers. The firm represented Rockwell Collins Inc. in its acquisition by United Technologies Corp., a gigantic $30.2 billion aerospace deal announced on Tuesday. And in August, the firm advised Gilead Sciences Inc. in its $10.1 billion acquisition of Kite Pharma Inc.

Leiter, a Harvard Law School graduate, said that he had hired Skadden lawyers while at Leidos to help handle the $5 billion acquisition of Lockheed Martin’s information systems business.

“I was deeply impressed,” said Leiter.

Write to the reporter at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com.

Write to the editor at srussellkraft@gmail.com.

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