Press Release

Former OFAC Director John E. Smith Joins Morrison & Foerster From Treasury Department

Top sanctions enforcement official further expands and enhances firm’s global enforcement, investigations, and regulatory counseling practices

23 Jul 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 23, 2018) – Morrison & Foerster, a leading global law firm, is pleased to announce that John E. Smith has joined the firm in Washington, D.C., as a co-head of its National Security Practice, and a partner in its Global Risk + Crisis Management Group and Investigations + White Collar Group. Mr. Smith will also spend substantial time in the firm’s European and Tokyo offices.  After serving 11 years as a top official in the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), including the past three years as OFAC Director, Mr. Smith brings to Morrison & Foerster unmatched experience in economic sanctions, enforcement, and national security.

Over the last decade, Mr. Smith was centrally involved in all aspects of developing, implementing, and enforcing U.S. government sanctions laws.  As OFAC Director, he oversaw every OFAC enforcement case against global financial institutions and corporations.  Mr. Smith played a pivotal role as OFAC moved to the center of the U.S. response to the world’s most complex and challenging national security and foreign policy crises, working closely with other governments and multilateral agencies, as well as the private sector.   

“John will be an invaluable resource to senior leaders of our clients in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Latin America on the complexities and escalating risk of U.S. and multilateral economic sanctions.  They will benefit from his unique perspective on how to navigate significant civil and criminal enforcement actions by U.S. and other government prosecutors and regulators,” said Larren Nashelsky, chair of Morrison & Foerster.  “John’s joining us also further expands our elite group of litigators in Washington, D.C. and around the firm to meet the increasingly complex and expanding investigation, defense, and regulatory needs of our clients, including the new frontiers of sanctions enforcement in the digital economy.”

Among other things during his time at OFAC, Mr. Smith:

  • Supervised the investigation, preparation, strategy, and settlement of dozens of major enforcement cases for hundreds of millions of dollars involving apparent sanctions and export control violations by global financial institutions and corporations;
  • Led the development and imposition of some of the most significant sanctions ever involving Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria, supporters of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferators, malicious cyber actors, transnational criminal organizations, and narcotics traffickers; and
  • Acted for a period as the Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI), overseeing economic sanctions, illicit finance, and anti-money laundering (AML) efforts by OFAC and other TFI components, including the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

“John has leading expertise on U.S. sanctions, AML, and export controls cases and policies.  We are delighted that John has come to MoFo and that our clients will gain from his insights with respect to sanctions advice and counseling, compliance, and investigations and enforcement, in the United States and globally,” said Nick Spiliotes, co-chair of the firm’s National Security Practice. 

While at OFAC, Mr. Smith and his team worked closely with Morrison & Foerster partner John Carlin, the former Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Security Division, to prosecute major sanctions and export controls matters, including significant civil and criminal penalties against major global actors and noteworthy cases against malicious cyber actors.  With Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlin, the firm has the two most experienced enforcement officials covering both the civil and criminal sides of the U.S. government’s sanctions and export controls investigations and enforcement actions.

“The U.S. government’s new sanctions enforcement, with its intensified focus on Russia, Iran, China and North Korea, is having an unprecedented impact on U.S. and global financial institutions and operating companies,” said Mr. Carlin, co-chair of the firm’s National Security Practice.  “I know from my experience working with John in government that there is no one who is better positioned to help companies navigate the new sanctions environment.”


Mr. Smith added: “MoFo is renowned as a great place to work and has an impressive platform that includes a rapidly growing national security practice, industry-leading enforcement and white collar capabilities, and a roster of major financial institution and global operating company clients.  I look forward to working with my talented new colleagues, including other lawyers who have joined MoFo from the U.S. government in recent years and the firm’s deep bench of white collar litigators, to advise and assist clients on complex sanctions, AML, and export controls matters.” 

Prior to his 11-year tenure at OFAC, Mr. Smith served for five years at the DOJ.  He becomes the latest member of a highly experienced and effective team of former senior federal and state prosecutors and regulators at Morrison & Foerster.  Earlier this month, the firm announced that Lisa Phelan, former Chief of the National Criminal Enforcement and Washington Criminal I Sections of the Antitrust Division at the DOJ, had become a partner in its Global Antitrust Law Practice and Investigations + White Collar Group.  Other senior U.S. government officials who have come to Morrison & Foerster in Washington D.C. in recent years to further build regulatory, compliance, and investigations practices include John Carlin, Bob Litt and David Newman to grow the firm’s Global Risk & Crisis Management Group and National Security Practice, and Chuck Duross and James Koukios to expand the firm’s FCPA and Anti-Corruption Practice.



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