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Will Chertoff Grab The AG Seat? The Guy Who Killed Arthur Anderson Has Critics On Wall Street

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Chief among the names being thrown around as the next Attorney General is Michael Chertoff. And when we say the name Chertoff is being thrown around, we mean that Chertoff’s associates seem to be engaged in shock and awe carpet-bombing of the media and White House to get the job for their man.
Sometimes referred to as “The First Attorney of New Jersey” (a title which, we’re assured, is meant as a compliment), the current Secretary of Homeland Security has spent most of his career as a government lawyer. After graduating Harvard law school (where he served on the prestigious law review), he began his career as a law clerk for Justice Brennan, became an assistant US Attorney and was appointed by the first President Bush to serve as US attorney in New Jersey.
At thirty-six, he was one of the youngest ever to get such an appointment. “ Kid Prosecutor,” a partner at a prominent corporate law firm once called him. He served as the Senate Republican majority’s chief counsel during the Whitewater hearings. He became the head of the Justice Department’s criminal prosecution arm and then was appointed by to the Third Circuit as a federal appeals judge by the current President Bush. Between government stints, however, he worked a partner at Latham & Watkins, where he won a number of high-profile cases for the defense. This guy’s resume has over-achiever written all over it. If you line up the letters according to your decoder ring it spells “Supreme Court Justice.”
But when the Bush administration considered appointing Chertoff to run the SEC, Wall Street acted quickly to shoot him down. Lobbyists with Wall Street firms stressed that his record as a successful and aggressive prosecutor gave him little experience in dealing with business issues, and behind closed doors they whispered that he might have developed a one-sided view of corporate America and Wall Street as being rife with criminality and fraud. Eventually the Bush administration settled on Chris Cox, a former Congressman and Latham & Watkins partner who was viewed as more sympathetic to Wall Street.
Some on Wall Street believe that the same criticisms might be applicable if Chertoff were appointed Attorney General. His controversial decision to prosecute Arthur Anderson for its role in Enron’s destruction strikes many as a bad sign.
“The best we can hope for is that he’ll concentrate on terror issues,” one Wall Street lawyer said. “He’s a born prosecutor and no friend of Wall Street or business in general.”