17:40, September 14 355 0 law.com

2017-09-14 17:40:04
Miami-Based Akerman Linked to the Scandal Around Trump's FEMA Nominee

05/12/14– Miami– New sign at Akerman LLP

Miami-based Akerman reportedly participated in a lobbying work that caught federal investigators’ attention and fueled speculation of alleged unethical behavior by President Donald Trump’s nominee for a top job at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Am Law 100 firm was featured in a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, which had been investigating Daniel A. Craig, former director of FEMA’s recovery division and Trump’s pick to help run the agency again.

Its name appeared in an NBC investigative report about a still-unreleased joint OIG and FBI investigation from 2011 into Craig, who withdrew from consideration for the FEMA job this week after the news story broke.

The OIG confirmed Thursday it had conducted an investigation into allegations of misconduct, but such findings are generally not public because of privacy rules to protect the identities of people named in the reports. But the agency’s public affairs office said it was working to redact its report on Craig and plans to post the document on the reading room page of its website.

Fresh attention to the old report put the spotlight on Akerman, which has steadily risen in the Am Law rankings of the nation’s largest firms, reporting $348.8 million in gross revenue for 2016.

“Daniel Craig has not been associated with our firm for nearly a decade,” Akerman said in a statement.

But the firm’s old relationship with the high-powered lobbyist could come back to haunt it as Craig draws national attention for withdrawing from the president’s offer to hold the second highest post at FEMA.

Craig joined Akerman and headed its disaster preparedness and recovery task force group after leaving FEMA. He served as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist for the law firm’s crisis management practice until 2008. While there, he and the firm worked for a client that landed more than $1 billion in FEMA contracts for a client after Hurricane Katrina, according to the NBC report. His activities with Akerman raised red flags and fueled an ethics investigation that covered allegations that Craig falsified expense reports and time cards as a FEMA employee, and later broke federal law when he lobbied FEMA officials as an Akerman consultant.

According to the NBC report, investigators examined whether Craig improperly used his FEMA connections years ago to solicit multimillion-dollar federal contracts as an Akerman lobbyist. They found insufficient evidence to bring charges. But the incident and allegations of unethical behavior were enough to cost Akerman at least one major client, Baton Rouge-based Fortune 500 construction and engineering company The Shaw Group, which Craig represented.

Craig reportedly started to solicit business from FEMA on behalf The Shaw Group only months after leaving the agency—a violation of federal law that requires former senior public officials to wait at least one year before lobbying their former agencies, according to the NBC report. He allegedly met with two FEMA officials—one of whom reportedly recorded the conversation for the FBI—on behalf of The Shaw Group, which changed hands in 2013 in a deal with publicly traded Chicago Bridge and Iron.

CB&I spokeswoman Gentry Brann declined to comment on Craig’s work for Shaw, which she said predated the company’s acquisition.

“That’s unrelated to Chicago Bridge and Iron,” Brann said.