U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York announced Wednesday that Cooley LLP partner Laura Grossfield Birger is returning to the office as head of the criminal division.
“Laura was an outstanding AUSA during her prior tour in the office and is an accomplished criminal defense lawyer. I am confident that with her intellect, energy, vision and leadership, Laura will be a terrific Criminal Division chief,” Berman said in a statement.
Birger served as chief of the general crimes unit under then-U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, before joining Cooley in 2007. As partner at the firm she handled white-collar criminal, complex civil and regulatory matters, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Birger was part of the Cooley team that represented former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom associate Alex van der Zwaan ahead of his guilty plea for lying to investigators from Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s office as part of the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Practicing in Manhattan federal court, Biger was recently part of Cooley’s team representing ChromaDex, a dietary supplement and food ingredient company, being sued by a rival manufacturer over claims ChromaDex improperly sought a federal probe over the sale of a competing product.
In a statement, William Schwartz, the chair of Cooley’s white-collar and regulatory defense group, said her former colleagues at the firm expected she would find only further success as criminal division chief.
“We wish Laura the very best as she returns to public service in this important role,” Schwartz said. “We have had the enormous pleasure of working with Laura for more than a decade, during which time she has been an invaluable member of our practice and a critical player in some of the firm’s most significant white-collar criminal, complex civil, and regulatory matters.”
Prior to her departure for Cooley, Birger spent a decade in the Manhattan federal prosecutors’ office, having served as deputy chief of the appeals unit before heading up the general crimes unit.
Birger’s return was necessitated by the departure at the end of December of Lisa Zornberg, the previous criminal division chief. Herself a former veteran in the office whose tenure overlapped with that of Birger, Zornberg returned in 2016 to take over the criminal division under then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Zornberg remained head of the division after Bharara was fired by President Donald Trump in March 2017, and then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions named Berman as the U.S. attorney to head the office in January 2018.
In his statement, Berman thanked Zornberg for her years of “exceptional service” as criminal division chief. A spokesman for the office did not have information on where Zornberg was headed. Zornberg declined to comment on any potential future plans when reached by email.