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Louis Freeh's law firm taps top white-collar lawyers

By Casey Sullivan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Law firm Pepper Hamilton, which two weeks ago elevated former FBI director Louis Freeh to chairman, said on Thursday it had hired Larry Byrne, a former federal prosecutor and head of Linklaters' U.S. litigation department in New York, along with three other Linklaters lawyers.

The hires underscore Pepper Hamilton's aggressive move into the lucrative practice of investigations.

Byrne, 53, served as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan and Washington from 1988 to 1994, and as head of Linklaters' litigation department from 2006 to 2011. He moves over as a partner in the white-collar and investigations practices.

Byrne told Reuters he would bring with him as a client Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

The former prosecutor also becomes managing director of the Freeh Group, a wholly owned subsidiary and consulting arm led by Freeh that specializes in crisis management.

Bryne said he moved to Pepper Hamilton because he and Freeh had worked together as federal prosecutors in the early 1990s in prosecutions related to the "Pizza Connection" trial, which centered around a mafia-run heroin and cocaine ring.

"It was something I couldn't really pass up," he said.

Byrne is joined by Linklaters colleague Ruth Harlow, who represented Deutsche Bank in a number of securities fraud cases related to the 2001 demise of energy-trading firm Enron. Harlow also will be a partner in the corporate investigations and white-collar practice area.

Linklaters white-collar lawyers Martin Bloor and Linda Regis-Hallinan join as of counsel.

Freeh, who led an investigation into the Penn State sexual-abuse scandal before joining Pepper Hamilton last year, has elevated the firm's profile and made it more attractive to prospective hires from competitor law firms, according to three New York legal recruiters.

The Linklaters hires mark the second group of lawyers Pepper Hamilton has brought on this week. On Tuesday, the firm announced it had hired white-collar lawyers Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Marie Gomez, who represent universities and non-profits in internal investigations related to sexual misconduct, from the law firm Ballard Spahr.

Over the last five years, white-collar practice chair Thomas Gallagher has brought on board a string of prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia, including Michael Schwartz, Gregory Paw, Bob Hickok and Richard Zack.

The prosecutors have worked largely with Pepper Hamilton's pharmaceutical clients, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly, in lawsuits relating to drug-marketing campaigns.

Now, Pepper Hamilton hopes to build its white-collar practice in a variety of other areas, under the direction of Freeh, said Scott Green, the firm's chief executive.

Freeh told Reuters in early February he plans to build the firm's investigations practice in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. He was not immediately available to comment for this story.

Spokespeople for Ballard Spahr and Linklaters said they wished their former lawyers well.

(Reporting by Casey Sullivan; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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