Jeffrey Wertkin is a smart lawyer, especially when it comes to litigating fraud claims.
Wertkin joined the prominent firm Akin Gump last year as a partner, bringing with him six years of trial experience from the U.S. Department of Justice. Having led 20 major fraud investigations there, he had in-depth knowledge of the legal and practical considerations that shape government investigations. His specialty was the False Claims Act.
So why was Wertkin, wearing a wig and using a fake name, trying to sell confidential court records for $310,000 to a company being sued under the False Claims Act?
Was it for the money? Was it for gambling debts? Was it for a drug addiction?
For now, Wertkin's life story is a mystery. The criminal complaint provides facts leading to his arrest and only one statement he made at the time: "My life is over."
Life started for Wertkin 40 years ago in affluent Westchester County in the New York suburbs. His father was a surgeon and his mother a registered nurse.
After receiving his B.A. from Haverford College, Wertkin earned J.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Georgetown. He later taught a class on federal agencies and administrative rule-making at the university's public policy school. Following his arrest and arraignment for criminal contempt, his law firm issued a statement of disbelief.
"We are shocked and deeply troubled by the conduct alleged in the charges filed against Mr. Wertkin," Akin Gump said in a statement, adding that he was fired immediately.
Hiring Risks for Firms
Reporting on Wertkin's fall, the American Lawyer spotlighted similar cases to illustrate the risks of lateral hiring and the limits of due diligence.
"There may be no foolproof way to weed out potential problems, but a recent study by ALM Intelligence found that while most firms consider lateral hires an important part of their strategies for driving revenue growth, the vetting process surrounding those hires is often ad hoc and unstructured," the article said.
Law firms typically try to assess an incoming lawyer's business prospects, according to the magazine, but they are not as vigilant when it comes to conducting screens such as psychological testing during the hiring process.
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