Get to Know Some of the Division’s Litigators
The Antitrust Division’s deep bench of talented career litigators is a key component of the Division’s enforcement effort.
The Division’s litigation staff is made up of a number of trial attorneys at different points in their careers. At the Division, career litigators typically are assigned to one of the Division’s civil or criminal sections, where they focus on specific industries (in civil) or regions (in criminal), although they may be called on to assist on matters in other sections as needed.
From bringing criminal charges against cartels that fix prices on products and services that American consumers rely on in their daily lives, to filing civil lawsuits to stop conduct or block mergers that threaten competition, the Division’s career litigators work to protect an open marketplace and share a commitment to safeguarding consumers from competitive harm.
The following is a brief question and answer session with five of the Division’s career litigators. These attorneys have worked on a wide variety of civil and criminal matters over the past year and represent just a fraction of the many talented attorneys who work tirelessly to carry out the mission of the Antitrust Division.
Lawrence Buterman is an attorney for the Division’s Network and Technology Section. He has been with the Division for three years. Before coming to the Division he spent a number of years in private practice. He attended law school at Columbia University. Over the last year, he has worked on the Division’s ongoing e-books litigation against Apple and five of the biggest publishers in the United States.
Q: What drew you to the Antitrust Division?
I always had been interested in antitrust law, going back to my clerkship in the Seventh Circuit for Judge Flaum. In private practice, while I had worked on some antitrust litigations, I was more of a general commercial litigator. Around 2009, the Assistant Attorney General was interested in bringing more trial litigators to the Division, and the opportunity to focus on antitrust litigation was very appealing. I was excited about the prospect of getting to work for the Justice Department and of getting to be in the courtroom representing the United States on extremely important and high-profile matters.
Q: What was your most memorable moment at trial?
My first trial here at the Division was the H&R Block/TaxAct case where we had opposed the merger of two of the three largest digital tax preparation software providers. It ended up being the first successfully litigated merger challenge for the Division in, I believe, almost eight years. The trial itself was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in the courtroom. From top to bottom, it was just unbelievable. We were going up against really talented lawyers with virtually unlimited resources, and successfully blocking the merger was a fantastic result for the Division and for consumers.
Q: Why do you think the case went so well?
I really think that the team was just fantastic. It started with Jim Tierney, who is the section chief of Net Tech and an experienced litigator. Jim put the entire team together and guided us from the moment the investigation began. The core team, which included Jim, me, and other Net Tech attorneys, stayed working on the case throughout the investigation and litigation. As we approached the trial and more attorneys were brought in, including Joe Wayland, who was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of litigation at the time, the team continued to operate flawlessly from top to bottom. The team had done so much great work during the investigation and had collected a mountain of evidence to support our case. We had worked so hard and for so long that when we got there, the trial went off more smoothly than any trial I’ve ever been involved in, in terms of the evidence and witnesses’ testimony going in without a problem. There really weren’t very many surprises, and that’s a testament to the great work the entire team had done.
Q: What do you most enjoy about working in the Division?
The Division has a singular focus on doing the right thing and making sure that consumers are protected and not hurt by conduct or transactions that are harmful to the marketplace. Getting to work on cases where you know that’s the focus, and that’s the only focus, is fantastic. Every day, corny as it may sound, you go home knowing that you’re on the right side. And that’s something that feels really good.
Q: What advice would you have for new litigators just starting out?
The Division offers litigators opportunities that they just simply wouldn’t get in private practice, in terms of depositions and opportunities to participate in court proceedings. I would tell young litigators to realize what an opportunity they have and to try to take advantage of it as much as possible. There are also a ton of people at the Division who have a great deal of experience and have worked on some of the most high-profile antitrust matters over the last 20 years. I could rattle off the names of the talented litigators the Division has, starting with our Director of Litigation Mark Ryan, and also people like Claude Scott, Craig Conrath, Steve Kramer, Scott Sacks, Jon Jacobs—the list goes on and on. The chance to work with those people and to learn from them is really invaluable. One thing I’ve found that’s great about working at the Division is that people are always willing to help out. They’re always willing to mentor. I’ve gone to each of those individuals that I just mentioned on matters and said, “Hey I have this situation, do you have any advice?” and they are immediately willing to sit down and talk, and to give you their thoughts based on the years of experience they have doing this work at the highest levels.
Andre Geverola is a criminal prosecutor in the Chicago Field Office. He first came to the Division in July 2007. Before that, he worked in private practice doing primarily white collar criminal defense. He attended law school at the University of Chicago. Over the last year, he has led several parts of the Division’s ongoing investigation into the automotive parts industry.
Q: What drew you to the Antitrust Division?
I was in private practice for a little under four years, primarily doing white-collar criminal defense. Essentially, it was a lot of the same types of cases, but sitting on the other side of the table. I wanted to go to a place where I could do prosecution, but also remain focused on complex white-collar type cases, as opposed to a general prosecution office. At a U.S. Attorney’s Office, for example, you might do those types of cases, but in addition to matters like drug or gun cases. My interest was in large, complex white-collar cases and the Division’s criminal practice offered that.
Q: How would you characterize the difference between being on the side of the prosecution versus the defense side?
First, I think it’s far more satisfying to be on this side, as a prosecutor representing the United States. Second, as the prosecutor you’re really the one driving the activities in the case. A lot of times on the defense’s side you’re reactive to what the prosecutor is doing, and I think it’s far more enjoyable to play offense.
As a junior person on the defense, you work on cases and trials, but you’re more behind the scenes. It’s usually someone who has been practicing for 20 or 30 years who actually stands up in court and speaks. That’s one of the big differences that makes working for the Division so great. As somebody who has only been out of law school for a few years, you often get to be the one presenting the case to the judge and the jury, instead of preparing something for the senior partner who will be doing it.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working for the Division?
I really like the cases we work on. I think they’re very interesting; you get to learn industries and business and economic issues. You get to make significant decisions and really take responsibility for the case, as opposed to private practice, where you might only be responsible for a more limited portion and it takes many years before you’re entrusted with the responsibility for an entire case. Within two years of starting at the Division, I essentially had that responsibility.
Q: What was your first time in court like? What did it feel like the first time you stood up in court to say your name and that you were representing the United States of America?
It’s a great feeling. You certainly have a feeling of pride, but you’re also just somewhat focused on making sure you get your name out audibly and that your voice doesn’t crack, because it is nerve-wracking. [laughs] It certainly gets easier. With each successive time you get more and more comfortable, but the pride you feel in representing the United States never diminishes.
One of my first cases I worked on for the Division was the Iowa ready-mix concrete case. We charged multiple defendants in the case and each one was represented by skilled, experienced counsel. While all the defendants pleaded guilty, there were significant sentencing disputes that required us to essentially conduct a mini-trial at sentencing. In the end, the judge imposed a sentence against one of the defendants that is tied for the longest individual sentence for a Sherman Act crime.
Kathleen Konopka is a litigator in the Division’s Litigation II Section. She has been at the Division for one year. Prior to coming to the Division, she worked in private practice and in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. She attended Northeastern Law School. Last year, she worked on the Department’s review of 3M’s proposed acquisition of Avery-Dennison, which the parties abandoned in September 2012 after the Division expressed concerns over the anticompetitive nature of the transaction.
Q: What did you do before coming to the Antitrust Division?
I was an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. for about eight years. I did both criminal and civil work there, as well as appellate. After that, I went to the private sector where I did antitrust, consumer, and international human rights work.
Q: Is there a difference in the way you prepare for criminal cases compared to how you prepare for civil ones?
I don’t know that you take a significantly different approach to preparing in terms of the way you think about putting your case together, but certainly the level of information you have is usually more extensive in civil. In criminal it’s often more accounting for, and anticipating, what may happen. There are a lot more unknowns and a surprise factor in criminal.
Q: What drew you back to the Department and specifically to the Antitrust Division?
I had been in the private sector for five years and really wanted to come back to DOJ. This seemed like a good fit because the work I had done in the private sector was predominantly antitrust litigation on the plaintiff’s side.
Q: How did you feel the first time you stood up in court to say your name and that you were representing the United States of America?
When I was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office it was very much part of our thought process and culture—there was a big responsibility in saying that you represented the United States. The idea was to be so complete, in terms of our credibility and our thoroughness, and in our adherence to the facts and the law. I certainly think that culture carries through in terms of really maintaining your credibility with the court, with really maintaining an honesty and an integrity in the way that you prosecute your cases and conduct your investigations. There was the idea that, certainly as a prosecutor, you had the power to prosecute, but you also had the power to dismiss. So in a way that defense attorneys do not have, you had an ability to maintain your integrity, because you could always move in the direction of justice. I take that very seriously, in terms of how I conduct my caseload.
Q: What do you most enjoy about working for the Division?
The people that I’ve worked with have been very, very dedicated and shown that they’re very committed to the cases and the work that we’re doing. In cases where there is a need for creativity, there is an openness to really deep thought from both the attorneys and economists in terms of thinking about ways to approach certain scenarios.
Q: What advice would you have for new litigators just starting out?
I think the best advice is to really fight for and take every opportunity that you can, in terms of depositions or court appearances or any aspect of litigation. I think the only way you really become accomplished in the art of litigation is by doing it. It’s really not something you can excel at by reading a book, or even by watching others. I think watching helps, but ultimately, the only way you become accomplished in the art is by doing it. So, the more you do it, the better you become at it.
Mary Strimel is an attorney for the Division’s Networks and Technology Section. She has been with the Division since 2004. She is currently working on U.S. v. Anheuser-Busch InBev et al., as well as U.S. v. Nix, a criminal matter being run out of the National Criminal Enforcement Section (NCES). Prior to coming to the Division, she worked in private practice at a plaintiffs’ class action firm. She attended law school at Harvard University.
Q: You’re currently working on both criminal and civil matters, have you always worked on both while you’ve been at the Division?
No, I came in as civil attorney when I first came to the Division, although it was really hard to decide which one seemed more appealing because they both have really great elements. But I did primarily civil work until about two and a half years ago, when I had an opportunity to do a detail in NCES.
Q: How would you describe the differences in your experience between the two?
Each has so much to recommend. On the civil side, typically there is a large focus on documents and economics. I find the document review process in civil matters fascinating. It’s always like unraveling a sweater, where you’re trying to grab one thread, and when you find the thread you can really hone in quickly with the tools we have now. When I first started practicing, document review was in a large room full of dusty boxes. Now, with the electronic tools available, you can find a particular document then go back to the beginning and start a search with that new information in mind, in a way that just wasn’t possible before.
On the criminal side, I really enjoyed doing grand jury work. You get a chance early on in a matter to put witnesses on under oath in a situation where they are under the hot lights of regular citizens. One thing I find most fascinating about criminal matters is how you work with potential cooperators. There’s a real high level of art that goes into inducing cooperation, yet making them aware of the downsides if they don’t cooperate. So I loved to see how people in NCES were operating on such a high level of strategy.
Q: What drew you to the Division in the first place?
Renata [Hesse], who at the time was the chief of Net Tech, actually asked me the same question during my interview and I remember saying, “Well it’s the premier antitrust enforcement agency in the world, who would not want to work here?” And as I left, I remember thinking, I hope that didn’t come off as too earnest. But it was how I really felt. As an outsider, you see the things that are accomplished by the Division, and you just want to be a part of it. So that’s how I ended up here and I’m really glad I came. It really is the best job in the world.
Q: What have been your most memorable moments at trial?
In the H&R Block-Tax Act trial, I was able to do a direct of an expert witness and a cross of a lay-witness. It was such a great experience. Honestly, my most memorable moment was as a spectator to some of the cross-examinations Joe Wayland did in that trial. You read the transcripts, and you just can’t help but smile. He just very artfully showed the ways their analysis just didn’t hold up and he made it entertaining at the same time.
Q: What would you say you enjoy most about working at the Division?
Dealing with witnesses is pretty hard to top in terms of the intellectual challenges and bringing our interpersonal skills to the fore. So much of our job is very analytical and very right-brained—and that’s awesome. We like that; it’s why we picked this job. But when you’re meeting with a witness, suddenly you have to keep that analytical ability and that abstraction, and at the same time you have to maintain total awareness of what’s going on for that person in front of you. So in real time you’re trying to adapt to and suss out what the witness is telling you, while also thinking of the economic concepts at play. So to me, that’s the biggest joy among many, because it brings together so much of what we do.
Heather Tewksbury is a criminal prosecutor in the San Francisco Field Office. She has been with the Division for seven years, after spending four years in private practice. She attended law school at Berkeley. Over the last year, she has worked on trials against AU Optronics (AUO) and its executives, as well as on the Department’s investigation into price-fixing in the coastal shipping industry between the continental United States and Puerto Rico.
Q: How did you first become interested in antitrust law?
I always was really fascinated by how markets work. When I was growing up, my parents had small “mom and pop businesses” and I could see the effects of competition in the market and how that trickles down to even your average citizen. I was really cognizant of how important it is for people to purchase goods at fair and competitive prices. And before I went to law school, I was a paralegal here at the Division.
Q: Tell me about your experiences as a paralegal.
After college, I knew I wanted to go to law school but I also wanted to get my feet wet to make sure that it was the most prudent and practical choice for me. So I applied to become a paralegal specialist in the Antitrust Division. I was assigned to the Computers and Finance Section—now it’s called Networks and Technology—and as soon as I got there, I was assigned to a matter that ended up becoming U.S. v. Microsoft. It was a defining moment for me to experience being a part of that. Not only was it a monumental case, but I also got a real appreciation and understanding of the mission of the Antitrust Division.
Q: You worked on the LCD investigation from the early stages. What is it like to see a case through from the beginning of the investigation to the trial?
When I first started in the Division, the LCD investigation was covert, and I really got to see the “soup to nuts” development of the case. And for a period of time in my career, I was actually more of an investigator than a litigator. So at some point in the past seven years, I switched hats to really litigating. However, to have the opportunity to participate in the investigation too helped allow me to really develop an understanding of the facts of our case. The Division is unique in that we get to do both litigation and investigation.
Q: When you change your hat from an investigator to a litigator, does it take a moment to reorient yourself, or do you find that one complements the other really well?
I think one complements the other really well, and it’s important to keep your litigation skill current too. As an investigator, I think it helps to inform your decisions if you always have an eye towards the litigating because you can’t be certain that you’re going to reach a disposition with the people you are investigating. That’s exactly what happened with AUO. Almost everybody ended up settling with the government and AUO held out and decided to go to trial. So, it’s really important to continue to be very mindful of the litigation perspective. But I do think one complements the other; by being the investigator you get to understand all aspects of your case in a complete way and I think that alone helps to inform your litigation strategy because you have a really good understanding of your facts and where your strengths and weaknesses are.
Q: What has been your most memorable moment at trial?
A memorable moment for me was the first day of trial in the AUO case. We walked into the courtroom and not only was the gallery completely packed with people, but if you looked at who was in front of the bar, you could see a sea of suits. There were seven defendants and probably two dozen lawyers all sitting on the other side of the courtroom. I took the first witness in the trial. The feeling of standing up and questioning the first witness, in what turned out to be a pretty significant trial, will always stick in my mind.