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Enron prosecutor on Joe Nacchio team
Sean Berkowitz has role defending former Qwest CEO
By Keith Coffman, Special To Rocky
Rocky Mountain News
Thursday, July 24, 2008

The lawyer who prosecuted former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling is now on the other side of the white-collar crime legal fence -- defending former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio from civil fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sean M. Berkowitz is named in court filings as a Nacchio defense attorney in the SEC case, which accuses Nacchio and several other former Qwest executives of misleading investors about the regional telephone carrier's revenues and growth projections between 1999 and 2001.

Berkowitz could not be reached for comment, and Nacchio's lead attorney in the criminal case, Herbert Stern, said by telephone from his New Jersey office that he wouldn't comment on Berkowitz's role while the case is pending.

Nacchio, 59, was convicted in April 2007 in Denver federal court on 19 counts of insider trading and sentenced to six years in prison, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction this year.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has asked for a full review of that ruling by the entire 12-judge circuit.  That decision is pending, as is a decision on whether Nacchio will be retried criminally.

Berkowitz directed the Enron Task Force, a team of federal prosecutors formed to prosecute wrongdoing by the Houston-based energy company that collapsed in 2002.  Berkowitz and his team won convictions of Skilling and Lay on a host of security fraud, conspiracy and insider trading charges in a highly publicized trial in 2006.

Lay died at a home he owned in Aspen before his sentencing, and his conviction was vacated.  Skilling is serving a 24-year sentence at a federal prison in Minnesota and is appealing his conviction and sentence.

Berkowitz left the Department of Justice shortly after the Skilling and Lay trial to join the Chicago office of the international law firm of Latham & Watkins.

Nacchio's lead appellate attorney, Maureen Mahoney, also works at Latham & Watkins in its Washington, D.C., office.

Another member of the Enron prosecution team, Cliff Stricklin, who also was the lead prosecutor in the criminal case against Nacchio, told the Rocky Mountain News that Berkowitz is a good friend and a good lawyer.

"But a skilled lawyer doesn't matter as much as the quality of the facts in a case," said Stricklin, who likewise left the government to join the law firm of Holland & Hart in Denver.

No trial date will be set for the SEC civil case until all legal matters surrounding Nacchio's criminal case are resolved.