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K&L Gates Adds Pair of Justice Department Lawyers in Washington, D.C., Office

5 December 2023

Washington, D.C. – Global law firm K&L Gates LLP welcomes US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers Varu Chilakamarri and Michael Culhane Harper as partners in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. Chilakamarri joins K&L Gates’ Environment, Land, and Natural Resources practice, while Harper becomes a member of the White Collar Defense and Investigations practice.

“Varu and Michael have extensive experience litigating and investigating high-profile matters for the Department of Justice,” said David Wochner, managing partner of K&L Gates’ Washington, D.C., office. “Their unique backgrounds handling complex multijurisdictional criminal, civil, and regulatory matters position them to advise many clients around the globe that face challenges before the U.S. federal government. We are so excited to have them join us in our D.C. office, as they build on our long-standing commitment to government-facing practices.”

Chilakamarri joins the firm after a 17-year career at the DOJ, where she was a successful district and appellate court litigator and held various policy and leadership roles. Most recently, she was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division’s Torts Branch, overseeing the defense of a wide range of suits for monetary damages, including toxic tort cases arising out of environmental regulatory actions and cases brought under unique statutory compensation programs. Before that, she was an appellate attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, serving as lead counsel in complex civil and criminal appeals, including challenges to the constitutionality of federal laws and regulations and to the validity of federal permitting and land use decisions. She was also the Division’s first counselor for animal welfare matters and served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Attorney General.

Chilakamarri previously worked in the office of the Associate Attorney General as Acting Deputy. She joined the DOJ in 2006 through the Attorney General’s honors program as a trial attorney in the Civil Division’s Federal Programs Branch. Before joining the DOJ, Chilakamarri clerked for Judge R. Guy Cole in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Judge Timothy B. Dyk in the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

With more than 13 years of experience in both private practice and government service, Harper has spent the last seven years as a trial attorney in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) unit of the DOJ’s Criminal Fraud Section. He is an experienced trilingual white-collar lawyer with extensive global experience working on high-profile individual and corporate matters dealing with US laws with extraterritorial reach, including the FCPA and federal statutes pertaining to antitrust or money laundering violations and other financial frauds.

While at the DOJ, Harper spearheaded some of the most significant and complex international bribery and money laundering cases against publicly traded and privately held companies, board members and executives, finance professionals, lawyers, and high-level foreign government officials. His investigations resulted in criminal charges against more than 20 individuals, four corporate resolutions, and total criminal penalties and forfeiture in excess of $1 billion.

“Varu and Michael are both accomplished lawyers and dedicated public servants having served in a variety of challenging positions with the Justice Department,” said Michael Scanlon, a leader of K&L Gates’ global Policy & Regulatory practice area. “Their firsthand experience will provide clients with the judgment and skills necessary to guide them through an investigation and to help manage the significant litigation and reputational risks that an investigation or prosecution might present. They are a perfect addition to our strong regulatory and government investigations practices.”

The arrivals of Chilakamarri and Harper follow the addition of several other new partners and policy professionals to the Washington, D.C., office during the last year, including Jamie Jackson, former senior counsel to former US House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer; Matt Leggett, former minority chief counsel with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Finch Fulton, former US Department of Transportation deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy; Ryan Carney, former chief of staff for two members of Congress; insurance litigator Geoffrey Greeves; and energy tax lawyer Marty Pugh.

K&L Gates’ Environment, Land, and Natural Resources practice helps clients to successfully navigate the maze of regulatory requirements and maintain good relations with regulatory agencies and other publics, anticipate and avoid problems, and, when necessary, litigate matters that cannot otherwise be resolved. The practice assists clients from around the world and from nearly every major industry, ranging in size from small, single-location manufacturers or small local governments to global Fortune 50 companies and major metropolitan service districts.

The firm’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice handles a variety of high-visibility state and federal investigations, grand jury proceedings, parallel civil and criminal proceedings, and criminal trials on behalf of corporations and individuals. The team has conducted complex internal investigations, represented clients in congressional investigations, provided compliance advice to corporations, and assisted clients in evaluating the results of these investigations and taking appropriate responsive steps. 

K&L Gates is a fully integrated global law firm with lawyers located across five continents. The firm represents leading multinational corporations, growth and middle-market companies, capital markets participants and entrepreneurs in every major industry group as well as public sector entities, educational institutions, philanthropic organizations and individuals.

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