Katie Thomson is chair of the firm’s Transportation Industry Group and is focused on meeting the increasingly sophisticated needs of our transportation and technology clients, which range from regulatory, enforcement, and compliance matters to litigation, government contracts, and cybersecurity issues. Before joining MoFo, Katie played a pivotal role in shaping national transportation law and policy as general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and as chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As the only individual to have held both of those positions, Katie is uniquely qualified to advise transportation clients that are innovating and leading the transition to more sophisticated, technology-based, and integrated transportation systems and networks.
In particular, Katie provides practical and strategic counsel to clients regarding regulations that are at the intersection of transportation and technology, like those related to autonomous vehicles and drones. She also advises clients on internal and governmental investigations, compliance issues, civil and criminal litigation, and regulatory advocacy. Additionally, she has extensive environmental law experience and advises transportation clients on issues relating to the Clean Air Act, climate change, and sustainability. Katie’s clients value her “tenacity, unflappable nature, and sound judgment.”
From May 2013 to July 2016, Katie held the position of general counsel at the DOT, where she worked on developing the regulatory frameworks for autonomous vehicles, vehicle emissions, and unmanned aircraft. She had overall responsibility for the DOT’s twelve subordinate agencies, including the FAA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Katie was involved in numerous high-profile policy decisions at the DOT, including setting standards for vehicle safety and recalls; improving the safety of crude oil transportation; advancing U.S. aviation priorities overseas; moving regulatory priorities forward for autonomous vehicles; crafting new emissions standards for vehicle fleets, railroads, and shipping; instituting an international carbon dioxide standard for commercial aircraft; responding to the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme; and establishing pipeline safety and hazardous materials transport regulation.
Throughout her time at the DOT, Katie was the point person on interagency initiatives coordinated by the White House. She advised senior leadership on how to respond to crises and emergency situations, including the Asiana Airlines airplane crash in San Francisco and the DOT’s decision to temporarily ground the Boeing Dreamliner.
During her tenure as chief counsel of the FAA (January 2012 to May 2014), Katie helped shape regulation and policy on the integration of commercial unmanned aircraft (drones) in the U.S. airspace, including managing privacy and cybersecurity issues, and advancing the FAA’s overall safety priorities in the wake of controversies involving air traffic controllers and other high-profile FAA regulatory and enforcement matters. Among her accomplishments at the FAA, Katie settled the largest air carrier enforcement matter in FAA history and provided legal advice regarding the Boeing 787 Dreamliner lithium ion battery matter, including the development and implementation of airworthiness directives to improve the safety of the aircraft.
From April 2009 to January 2012, Katie served as principal advisor to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on energy, climate, and environmental matters. During that time, she worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House, and a diverse group of stakeholders on the development and implementation of historic joint fuel economy/greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty cars and trucks and commercial trucks. Katie was also integral to the negotiation, development, and implementation of a new long-haul, cross-border trucking program with Mexico that would bring the United States into compliance with its NAFTA obligations.
Before joining the government in 2009, Katie was in private practice for 19 years in Washington, D.C., advising clients on civil and criminal litigation matters, compliance issues, and regulatory advocacy, with a particular focus on energy generation and hazardous materials transportation issues.
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