Brian Benczkowski

Brian Allen Benczkowski[1] (born October 5, 1969) is an American lawyer who served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice. Prior to assuming that role, he was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.[2]

Brian Benczkowski
Brian Benczkowski official photo.jpg
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division
In office
July 16, 2018 – July 3, 2020
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byLeslie R. Caldwell
Succeeded byBrian Rabbitt
Personal details
Born
Brian Allen Benczkowski

(1969-10-05) October 5, 1969 (age 50)
Fairfax, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of Virginia (BA)
Washington University (JD)

EducationEdit

Benczkowski received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia in 1991. He attended the Washington University School of Law, where he was an associate editor of the Washington University Journal of Urban and Contemporary Law. He received his Juris Doctor in 1994.[3]

Legal careerEdit

Early in his career, Benczkowski served on the staff of former U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner.[4] His previous roles include serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, where he managed the Department of Justice's relationship with Congress.[4] Later, he became Chief of Staff for the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and the Office of the Attorney General. In those positions, he was awarded the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in 2003, and the John Marshall Award for Excellence in Preparing and Handling Legislation in 2008. He was also the Republican Staff Director for the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where he advised Republican members of the committee on legislative, oversight, and nomination issues.[5]

In 2010, Benczkowski joined the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where his practice focused on litigation and white collar criminal defense, including government and internal investigations.[5] Benczkowski's clients there included Alfa Bank, the largest private commercial bank in Russia,[6] as well as BP America, Volkswagen, Charter Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and other corporate entities.[7]

Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal DivisionEdit

Benczkowski was a member of President Donald Trump's transition team, helping to manage the Justice Department transition.[8]

In June 2017, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Benczkowski to become Assistant Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division.[2][9] According to the Washington Post, "Benczkowski is a well-regarded lawyer, especially in conservative circles."[8] Politico called him the "GOP's go-to guy for hearings."[4] At the time of his confirmation in July 2018, Benczkowski had no prosecutorial experience.[10]

At his confirmation hearing, Benczkowski refused to recuse himself from dealing with the Mueller investigation, even though he supervised an internal investigation of a bank owned by two of Russia's leading oligarchs.[11] He did agree to recuse himself from all matters related to the bank.[12] While in private practice, Benczkowski oversaw an investigation by the cybersecurity firm Stroz Friedberg related to allegations that there was a "secret communications channel" between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank.[11] During Benczkowski's confirmation hearing he was emphatic that Stroz Friedberg, like Mandiant, had rejected the possibility of complicity, and the investigation's report found that "there was no communications link between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank."[11] Stroz Friedberg gave the same explanation for why it, along with Mandiant, was "unable to verify" older data in its investigation: it could not inspect the bank's Domain Name System logs from 2016 and before because the bank retained such records at the time for only twenty-four hours.[11] The FBI concluded that the data moving between the companies did not amount to clandestine communications,[13] and Mueller himself later testified before Congress that he did not believe the allegations about a communications link were true.[14] The Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General reinforced that conclusion in its report about the now-discredited Steele Dossier.[15] A British court also has ruled that Christopher Steele and his firm committed libel when they published allegations contained in the Steele Dossier that Alfa Bank's owners arranged for payments to Vladimir Putin in the 1990s, and ordered Steele's firm to pay damages to the bank's owners for this false accusation.[16]

While heading the Criminal Division, Benczkowski became known for his efforts to use data analytics to combat the opioid epidemic and fraud against government programs enacted to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his handling of a whistleblower complaint about President Trump's dealings with Ukraine.[13] He also managed the Fraud, and Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Sections, the largest team of white collar prosecutors in the country.[17] He was responsible for enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an antibribery law,[18] and helped negotiate several FCPA settlements against multinational corporations, including the resolution with Ericsson AB that resulted in the telecommunications-equipment maker paying more than $1 billion in fines.[19]

During his tenure, Benczkowski also announced several policy shifts related to how the Department of Justice prosecutes corporations. One policy, which became known as the Benczkowski Memo, set forth the Criminal Division's practices for selecting monitors—third parties who serve in watchdog roles overseeing a company's compliance with the terms of federal criminal settlements.[17] He also was responsible for the division's Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Program Guidance, the Department's Inability to Pay Guidance, revisions to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Corporate Enforcement Policy (CEP), and the FCPA Unit's publication of declination letters online.[20]  Benczkowski took the view that these policy changes promote greater transparency in how prosecutors apply standards and criteria to cases, which will make investigations more efficient and outcomes fairer and more consistent.[21]

While heading the Criminal Division, Benczkowski and senior career lawyers from the division's Fraud Section met with Rudy Giuliani to discuss a bribery case in which he and other attorneys were representing a Venezuelan energy executive.[22] This meeting took place before the United States Attorney's office in Manhattan, in an unrelated case, publicly charged two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, with breaking campaign finance laws and trying to unlawfully influence politicians. In an unusual statement, Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr told the New York Times, “When Mr. Benczkowski and fraud section lawyers met with Mr. Giuliani, they were not aware of any investigation of Mr. Giuliani’s associates in the Southern District of New York and would not have met with him had they known.”[23]

On June 10, 2020, Benczkowski announced he would resign on July 3.[24]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts" (Press release). The White House. June 5, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts". The White House. June 5, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  3. ^ Godoy, Joy (May 4, 2017). "Kirkland Partner Likely To Be Tapped For DOJ Criminal Chief". Law360. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Libit, Daniel (June 15, 2009). "The GOP's go-to guy for hearings". Politico. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Schneier, Cogan (May 5, 2017). "Kirkland White-Collar Partner Floated for DOJ Criminal Division". National Law Journal. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  6. ^ Charlie Savage; Adam Goldman (July 25, 2017). "Justice Dept. Nominee Says He Once Represented Russian Bank". The New York Times. p. A11. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  7. ^ Perlman, Derek Kravitz,Al Shaw,Claire. "Brian Allen Benczkowski | Trump Town". ProPublica. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Zapotosky, Matt (November 16, 2016). "Brian Benczkowski, once dubbed 'GOP's go-to guy for hearings,' helping manage Justice Department transition". Washington Post. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  9. ^ Pres. Nom. 569, 115th Cong. (2017).
  10. ^ Carrie Johnson (July 11, 2018). "Senate Confirms New Boss For Justice Department Criminal Division". NPR.org. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d Dexter Filkins. "Was There a Connection Between a Russian Bank and the Trump Campaign? A team of computer scientists sifted through records of unusual Web traffic in search of answers". NewYorker.com. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  12. ^ "A Top Justice Department Nominee Shared New Details About His Work For A Russian Bank". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Benner, Katie (June 10, 2020). "Head of Justice Department's Criminal Division to Step Down". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  14. ^ "Here's what surprised us during the Mueller testimony — and 4 other takeaways". POLITICO. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  15. ^ "Bombshell IG report gives fresh ammo to target 'reckless' anti-Trump dossier author". The Washington Times. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  16. ^ Kantchev, Alan Cullison and Georgi (July 8, 2020). "Christopher Steele's Firm Ordered in U.K. to Pay Damages to Russian Bankers". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Tokar, Dylan (June 10, 2020). "Justice Department's Criminal Division Chief to Step Down". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  18. ^ Shuy, Roger W. (February 1, 2016), "Corrupt Foreign Business Practices (Fraud)", The Language of Fraud Cases, Oxford University Press, pp. 87–110, ISBN 978-0-19-027064-3, retrieved July 5, 2020
  19. ^ Michaels, Dave (December 7, 2019). "Ericsson to Pay Over $1 Billion to Settle U.S. Bribery Charges". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  20. ^ "Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski Announces Departure from Criminal Division". www.justice.gov. June 10, 2020. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  21. ^ "Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski Delivers Remarks at the Global Investigations Review Live New York". www.justice.gov. October 8, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  22. ^ Helderman, Rosalind S.; Barrett, Devlin; Zapotosky, Matt; Hamburger, Tom (November 26, 2019). "A wealthy Venezuelan hosted Giuliani as he pursued Ukraine campaign. Then Giuliani lobbied the Justice Department on his behalf". Washington Post. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  23. ^ Benner, Katie (October 20, 2019). "Justice Department Distances Itself From Giuliani" – via NYTimes.com.
  24. ^ "Top prosecutor overseeing Justice Department criminal division to depart". June 11, 2020 – via www.reuters.com.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Leslie R. Caldwell
United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division
2018–2020