Two years ago today, we founded WTAII PLLC to help clients solve complex legal problems using a business model that prioritizes positive relationships, efficiency, and flexibility over maximizing firm profits. We’re convinced we’re on the right path: In our second year of operation—despite the challenge of operating during a global pandemic—we increased gross revenues by over 250% and more than doubled our client roster. We also grew our team and are thrilled that a third friend from Skadden, Gary A. Rubin, joined the firm as a member. Additionally, the firm’s members were invited to comment on numerous legal developments by various publications, Ray D. McKenzie joined the Law360 White Collar editorial board, and Warren T. Allen II was once again selected for inclusion in Thomson Reuters’ “Super Lawyers” publication. As we take stock of our second year and continue building a relationship-driven law firm model, we are grateful for our clients’ trust and referrals from friends.
On May 17, 2021, the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) approved Ray D. McKenzie’s application to join its Consumer Arbitration Panel (“Consumer Panel”). The AAA was founded in 1926 as a neutral, independent, and private not-for-profit organization to provide a broad range of conflict management services to businesses, organizations, and individuals in order to facilitate settling disputes extrajudicially. Members of the AAA Consumer Panel preside over arbitrations involving individual consumers and businesses that provide personal or household goods or services and issue final, binding decisions (i.e., “awards”) to settle disagreements outside of court. We are proud of Mr. McKenzie’s invitation to the AAA Consumer Arbitration Panel.
On May 19, 2021, the Virginia Department of Small Business & Supplier Diversity formally certified WTAII PLLC as a small, minority-owned business. As companies increasingly recognize the importance of diversifying their suppliers and business partners, we are thankful that the Commonwealth of Virginia provides a free, independent, and objective verification process.
Firm Co-Founder Warren T. Allen II spoke with the Anti-Corruption Report regarding Deutsche Bank AG’s $130 million settlement stemming from alleged conspiracies to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and the Commodity Exchange Act. The settlement is Deutsche Bank’s second FCPA-related resolution within approximately sixteen months. The New York Department of Financial Services also separately fined the bank $150 million this past summer for alleged failures in its anti-money-laundering compliance program. Joining other commenters interviewed by the Anti-Corruption Report, Allen noted the importance of culture and incentives in preventing misconduct: “All the time and money companies spend designing controls, writing policies and auditing transactions is wasted if, at the end of the day, the only things that matter are revenue and profit. . . . Businesses should incentivize their personnel to protect the company’s reputation and look past short-term revenue.” Allen further added, “the certainty of rewards for revenue production provides powerful motivation to look the other way while, conversely, the relatively lower probability of detection in large organizations might not sufficiently dissuade misconduct.”
We are grateful to Crowell & Moring for urging Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment in response to Wednesday’s assault on the United States Congress and the President’s role inciting that effort to subvert the peaceful transition of power. Given the procedural challenges involved and the short timeframe, we do not anticipate Vice President Pence will actually do so, and we appreciate all the logistical hurdles that may preclude removing President Trump from power before noon on January 20. But our firm nonetheless joined eighteen others in signing the letter so that we may add our voices to the chorus of condemnation. We applaud Crowell for their swift work and courage leading the effort.
Gary A. Rubin has joined WTAII PLLC as a member of the firm. Mr. Rubin has more than twenty years of experience representing individuals and companies in corporate investigations and government enforcement proceedings involving anti-corruption, money laundering, antitrust, commodities, and securities laws. Mr. Rubin also litigates civil matters in state and federal courts.
Prior to joining WTAII, Mr. Rubin spent seventeen years at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP where he worked with WTAII’s co-founders Warren T. Allen II and Ray D. McKenzie. Most recently, Mr. Rubin served as an outside consultant for the in-house litigation group of a global financial services company, where he advised on government investigations and class action litigation related to ERISA and securities laws.
Co-Founder Ray D. McKenzie has been admitted to the Edward Bennett Williams American Inn of Court, an invitation-only professional organization devoted to white collar practice. As one of the few Inns of Court specializing in white collar criminal prosecution and defense, the Edward Bennett Williams Inn of Court’s membership includes members of the federal and local judiciary in the District of Columbia, U.S. Department of Justice officials, and some of the most established defense attorneys in Washington, D.C. The American Inn of Court is designed to improve the skills, professionalism, and ethics of the bench and the bar. McKenzie is a former federal prosecutor, having served the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division where, in 2018, he was awarded the U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Prosecution of Fraud.
Co-Founder Ray D. McKenzie spoke with Law360 regarding the $150 million fine recently imposed on Deutsche Bank AG by the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) for alleged failures in its anti-money-laundering compliance program. DFS’s allegations focused on Deutsche Bank’s relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and two correspondent banks, Danske Bank Estonia and FBME Bank. McKenzie opined that the fine imposed on Deutsche Bank serves as a warning to other financial institutions that they should have compliance programs in place that recognize the risk of dealing with particular clients and should take appropriate corrective action when those programs identify red flags.
WTAII PLLC co-founder and former Assistant United States Attorney Ray D. McKenzie shared a few thoughts with Law360 about the initial prosecutions being brought in connection with the federal Paycheck Protection Program and investigations that may be on the horizon for financial institutions. Thousands of financial institutions have participated in the program, which was designed to help qualifying businesses avoid layoffs by providing loans that are forgivable under certain conditions. Several weeks after billions of dollars were disbursed by financial institutions participating in the program, federal and state authorities issued subpoenas to several major banks. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Justice brought an initial set of charges against individual applicants who allegedly committed fraud or provided false statements in their PPP loan applications. Drawing upon his experience as a federal prosecutor, McKenzie suggested that financial institutions likely are not the targets of current investigations for which the subpoenas were issued. He cautioned, however, that financial institutions could face scrutiny if investigations suggest systemic failures with the diligence required under applicable laws.
We had planned a post celebrating our one-year launch anniversary; but the unnecessary death of George Floyd in Minneapolis compels us to instead speak out for justice. Both the firm’s founders served in law enforcement, and we appreciate that most people who serve do so honorably with the best intentions. As lawyers, we are also mindful that the justice process must play out for the rule of law to prevail. But police misconduct and biases destroy the trust our justice system requires. It is incumbent on everyone to speak out—loudly—against the abuse of authority. We grieve for Mr. Floyd and too many others to name. We hope firms with bigger voices than ours will join us in calling for accountability.
Ray D. McKenzie and Warren T. Allen II