Craig Carpenito, a New York partner in the firm’s Litigation & Trial Practice Group, has been named a 2012 Law360
Rising Star for white-collar litigation.
The annual award honors attorneys under the age of 40 whose accomplishments in major litigation or transactions belie their age. Winners are selected based on the strength of their accomplishments in their respective practices thus far in their careers. Text from the full Law360 profile
follows. Rising Star: Alston & Bird's Craig Carpenito
By Lance Duroni Law360
, New York -- Craig Carpenito has parlayed an astounding breadth of experience as a securities regulator and federal prosecutor — including the marquee conviction of Cendant Corp. CEO Walter Forbes — into a role at the helm of Alston & Bird's government and special investigations group, earning him a spot among Law360's top white collar partners under 40.
Carpenito, 38, a graduate of Seton Hall University's law program, devotes a majority of his practice to representing corporations and management in both internal investigations and high-stakes inquiries by the U.S. Department of Justice, state attorneys general and a host of regulators.
Carpenito takes particular pride in squelching these investigations before they can tarnish the reputations of his clients.
"The biggest victories are those that never end up in the press," he said.
Carpenito has become a trusted adviser to those under scrutiny from the DOJ, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trade Commission and Department of Health and Human Services, among others. He is especially attuned to the consequences faced by his clients in cases running the full white collar spectrum, from securities and accounting fraud to insider trading to the recent complex investigations surrounding the purported manipulation of LIBOR.
"It's not just about writing a check or about jail time — it's about the ability to do business, maybe the ability to do business ever again," he said.
John Carney, the attorney's former chief at the Department of Justice, pointed to Carpenito's people skills and other intangibles as a major asset.
"I think Craig is an incredibly gifted lawyer with an intuitive sense for people and the way cases play out," Carney said. "He really understands how a case is going to break before it breaks, knows what can be tried and what can't."
Carpenito took a keen interest in securities law before graduating law school, reading about the savings and loan scandals of the late 1980s and the Michael Milken trial and its aftermath, and soon found himself trying cases on similar stages.
The Securities and Exchange Commission plucked Carpenito directly out of law school, where he rose to senior counsel and earned a reputation for taking on tough cases and seeing them through to trial when necessary.
During his five years at the SEC, Carpenito scored big wins in insider trading actions, including one against former Musicland shareholder and Cirrus Logic director Alfred Teo, Sr.; nabbed several traders at Andover Brokerage LLC for violating the SEC's short-sale rules; and spearheaded the investigation of global advertising giant Interpublic Group of Companies Inc. for accounting fraud that resulted in over $500 million of restatements.
Carpenito then moved on to the Securities and Health Care Fraud unit at the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey, where he capped off his sterling government resume by securing the conviction of Cendant Corp. CEO Walter Forbes for his role in what was the largest accounting fraud of its time in 2006.
That verdict came against tall odds — two previous trials against Forbes ended in hung juries and the CEO was represented by the formidable Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly LLP. But Carpenito and Michael Martinez, another young Assistant U.S. Attorney, prevailed, securing a 12-year prison sentence and a then record $3.28 billion restitution order.
Carney noted that Carpenito's work ethic sets him apart — a quality that was painfully apparent to his wife during the Forbes matter, when Carpenito delayed his wedding for the second trial, squeezed it in during jury deliberations, and then postponed the honeymoon to take on Forbes again.
"I don't know many lawyers who work as hard as he does — he puts in the hours to get the right results," Carney said.
The Forbes trial also displayed Carpenito's intangible skills as a litigator, according to Martinez, like his gift for recognizing when an adversary is stretching in a particular argument and using humor to ensure the mistake resonates with a jury.
Near the end of the Forbes trial, the defense put on the stand the Cendant accountant that was actually cooking the company's books and later blew the whistle on the fraud, in an attempt to distance Forbes from the misconduct.
Working completely on the fly, Carpenito zeroed in on an obvious inconsistency, asking the accountant why he decided to drive hours from Connecticut to New Jersey to report the fraud to the former management of HFS — the company that merged with Forbes’ firm to create Cendant — rather than walk five minutes down the hall to alert his longtime CEO Forbes.
The witness replied that he was afraid Forbes would squash the investigation, casting doubt on the defense's key argument that the executive was unaware of the fraud, according to Martinez.
"It ended up being a brilliant point and fantastic end to the case," he said. "Craig kind of hit a home run on that one."
Carpenito's stellar government track record and diverse experience has paid big dividends for Alston & Bird, solidifying the firm's relationships with investment banks and major financial institutions and bringing in private equity funds and top credit rating agencies as clients.
"He is the rare lawyer who is equally comfortable in the board room and the courtroom," said Todd David, co-chairman of Alston & Bird's litigation practice. "Craig's deft touch enables him to handle delicate and complicated internal investigations, and his extensive experience equips him to handle even the most thorny regulatory matter."