The Big Law Attorneys Behind Tech Giants’ Hill Testimony

Top lawyers from Google, Facebook, and Twitter who testified in front of Congress this week about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election had Big Law back up.

Attorneys from three law firms — WilmerHale, Mayer Brown and Debevoise — have been prepping them as witnesses, and earlier helped conduct internal reviews to help the GCs understand what actually happened at their own companies during the election.

The assistance came ahead of the most revealing look to date at how each of the three tech companies may have been exploited by Russian operatives. Testimony came from the social media giants’ general counsel — Colin Stretch of Facebook, Richard Salgado and Kent Walker of Google and Sean Edgett of Twitter.

Sean Edgett, acting general counsel with Twitter Inc., center, speaks as Richard Salgado, director of law enforcement and information security with Google Inc., right, and Colin Stretch, general counsel with Facebook Inc., listen during a Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 Congress is putting Facebook, Twitter and Google under a public microscope about Russia's use of their networks to meddle in the 2016 election, a day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's criminal investigation disclosed its first indictments and guilty plea. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Left to right: Colin Stretch, Sean Edgett, and Richard Salgado, at a Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

In three separate hearings, the GCs had to answer questions under oath about whether their companies delivered fake information to voters. The heightened scrutiny of the companies and the sensitive nature of the subject meant that the GCs had the dual task of steering their companies through a PR crisis while making sure to stay on the right side of the truth in the process.

“In hindsight, we should have had a broader lens,” said Stretch, when asked how Facebook could have missed the fact that electoral ads on its network, paid for in rubles, were coming from Russia. “There were signals we missed.”

Raj De of Mayer Brown, and the former general counsel of the National Security Agency, advised Google, while David O’Neil, a former Justice Department lawyer with Debevoise & Plimpton, represented Twitter.

Meanwhile, Reginald Brown, the head of WilmerHale’s congressional investigations group, represented Facebook, the company that took perhaps the most heat of the three.

That’s according to two people familiar with the matter, but it’s no secret within Washington’s clubby legal circles: O’Neil sat directly behind his Twitter client at the Congressional hearing and Brown’s fellow WilmerHale partner, Anjan Sahni, was spotted on-scene as well.

Spokespeople at Wilmer, Mayer Brown and Debevoise either didn’t respond to a request for comment or declined comment, but below we’ve listed some details about the lawyers that we gathered via law firm bios and other publically available sources.

 

Reginald Brown, WilmerHale, for Facebook

-Chair of the firm’s financial institutions group and head of its congressional investigations practice.

– Represented Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager who has been indicted on various charges, in his dealings with Congress.

-Onetime deputy general counsel to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

– Served in the second Bush administration as special assistant to the President and associate White House counsel from 2003 to 2005.

 

 

David O’Neil, Debevoise, for Twitter

-Served as acting assistant attorney general of the criminal division at the Justice Department.

– As a federal prosecutor, he helped extract an $8.9 billion plea deal from BNP Paribas for transferring money on behalf of Sudan and other countries blacklisted by the United States.

– Worked as an associate at WilmerHale between 2002 and 2006.

– Clerk to Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Debevoise & Plimpton partner David O'Neil explains how foreign government agencies are trying to replicate the same level of enforcement as seen in the United States.
Debevoise & Plimpton partner David O’Neil speaks at the Big Law Business Summit in 2015. Photo: Jamie Watts for Big Law Business.

 

 

Rajesh De, Mayer Brown, for Google

-Heads the firm’s cybersecurity and data privacy practice and co-leads its national security practice group.

-Served as general counsel of the National Security Agency during disclosures of NSA surveillance after the Edward Snowden leaks.

-Held senior roles in the Obama administration including staff secretary and deputy assistant to the president, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy and counsel to the 9/11 Commission.

 

Rajesh De at Big Law Business Summit.
Mayer Brown partner Raj De speaks at the Big Law Business Summit in 2015. Photo: Jamie Watts for Big Law Business.

 

Contact the reporter responsible for this story: Casey Sullivan at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com.

Contact the editors responsible for this story: Gabe Friedman at gabefriedman@outlook.com and Tom Taylor@bna.com.