A 29-year-old overachiever who worked for the now-defunct law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf after college got indicted recently with the top leaders of that firm, and his inclusion in the indictment has baffled many in the legal industry.
Zachary Warren was 24 when he joined Dewey in 2008, taking a job helping partners collect money from firm clients and later working as a “client relations manager,” according to The New York Times.
But in 2009, Warren went on to Georgetown Law, graduating magna cum laude and scoring two prestigious judicial clerkships. He currently has a job offer from the top law firm Williams & Connolly.
How did Warren get swept up in an indictment that included the firm’s former chairman, executive director, and chief financial officer? Many former partners and employees told the American Lawyer the then-24-year-old left little impression on them. One partner hadn’t even heard of Warren until the indictment.
Officially, Warren is charged with helping to hide Dewey’s financial problems before its spectacular collapse in 2012. The indictment states that Warren was told he’d receive his full bonus if the firm satisfied cash projections the law firm promised its bank.
The law firm’s leaders allegedly helped create a “master plan” to make it look like Dewey had more revenue than it already did. After an employee known only as “Employee C” made that plan, Warren allegedly wrote him an email stating, “Hey man, I don’t know where you come up with some of this stuff, but you saved the day. It’s been a rough year but it’s been damn good. Nice work dude. Let’s get paid!”
Warren is also charged in a separate indictment accusing him of falsifying business records.
The young lawyer is not named in a parallel civil suit brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which claims several firm leaders misled investors in a 2010 bond offering.
Warren realised he might be a witness in the SEC civil proceedings but had no idea he’d get caught up in a criminal investigation, sources told the Times. He agreed to be questioned by the SEC without a lawyer present but was then told a district attorney would be “sitting in,” according to The Times. Here’s how the interview went after the DA took over questioning:
By all accounts, the interview was a disaster for Mr. Warren. He had trouble remembering details from his time at the firm, which prosecutors interpreted as evasion or, worse, lying. They showed him emails and documents, most of which he did not recall. He was not prepared for the hostile tone and became defensive. Prosecutors thought that Mr. Warren was arrogant, even that he was “playing them” by trying to ferret out what they knew, rather than offering to help the investigation.
Warren has pleaded not guilty. His attorney said in a statement to The American Lawyer that Warren did nothing wrong, and that his inclusion in the indictment is “a travesty.”
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