Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs Joseph Benkert Joins Morrison & Foerster

Mr. Benkert, who oversaw 400+ CFIUS matters while serving as a senior official at the Department of Defense, further strengthens the firm’s growing National Security Group

10/24/2018

Joseph A. Benkert

National Security, CFIUS, Sanctions + Export Controls

Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 24, 2018) – Morrison & Foerster, a leading global law firm, is pleased to announce that Joseph Benkert has joined the firm in Washington, D.C., as a Senior Advisor in its National Security Group.  Mr. Benkert served as a leading civilian official in the Department of Defense (DoD) from 2003-2009 under both the Bush and Obama administrations, including as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs after being nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate.  His coming to Morrison & Foerster highlights the firm’s continued commitment to providing clients with practical and strategic advice in the midst of unprecedented regulatory and compliance scrutiny of national security issues.

Mr. Benkert was most recently a Vice President of The Cohen Group, a global consultancy group led by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen.  Among other things, Mr. Benkert regularly worked with Morrison & Foerster over the last five years to help advise clients on transactional matters that were subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).  As a result of joining Morrison & Foerster, he will now advise a wide range of the firm’s clients on CFIUS and national security-related matters, complementing the firm’s already strong capabilities in this area. 

While at the DoD, Mr. Benkert led the department’s involvement in numerous complex matters before CFIUS.  He oversaw more than 400 CFIUS cases and represented DoD in CFIUS deliberations determining whether a foreign investment in a U.S. company or its operations represented a national security risk.  Mr. Benkert’s responsibilities at DoD also included managing technology security policy, the reform of export control processes, several sensitive nonproliferation projects, and a broad range of other defense-related issues. He continues to serve as an advisor on DoD’s Threat Reduction Advisory Committee.

“After working with Joe and seeing the value that he delivered to our clients in navigating highly complex cross-border deals in front of CFIUS, we are delighted to officially welcome him to our team,” said Nick Spiliotes, co-head of the firm’s National Security Group.  “Joe’s extensive experience in CFIUS matters, as well as in export controls, will be invaluable at a time when foreign-led investments in the U.S. are under increased scrutiny.  Our clients will benefit greatly from having access to both Joe, who was the CFIUS lead at the DoD, and John Carlin, who was the CFIUS lead at the Department of Justice.” 

Mr. Benkert’s coming to Morrison & Foerster further strengthens the firm’s growing National Security Group.  In July, Morrison & Foerster announced that John E. Smith, former director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, who was centrally involved in all aspects of developing, implementing, and enforcing U.S. government sanctions laws over the last decade, had joined as a co-head of the group.  Other key additions to the National Security Group since the start of last year include Mr. Carlin, also a co-head and former Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, who among other things, advises major foreign investment companies on their CFIUS strategy, Robert S. Litt, former General Counsel for the Director of National Intelligence, and David A. Newman, who served as the Associate White House Counsel and on the Staff of the National Security Council.

“Our National Security Group is focused on counseling businesses on a broad range of challenging regulatory and compliance matters including CFIUS review, export control restrictions, sanctions and embargoes, and classified activities,” said Mr. Carlin.  “Joe is one of the world’s leading consultants and a top former defense official, and his addition further enhances our unparalleled ability to help our clients effectively navigate these issues.”

Prior to working at the DoD, Mr. Benkert was a career Navy officer with extensive experience both in operational command and in national security policy formulation and implementation.  Mr. Benkert was the Executive Director of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel, an advisory group for the Navy’s senior uniformed leader, and served in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy both as a senior military assistant and as the Director of European Policy.  His commands included a frigate, a guided missile cruiser, two destroyer squadrons, and operational groups.  Mr. Benkert received his Master in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School and his Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Naval Academy. 

“I decided to join MoFo because of its rapidly expanding national security group, highly impressive roster of global clients, and a strong Washington team including a significant number of former U.S. government officials,” said Mr. Benkert.  “I look forward to working with colleagues at MoFo in advising our clients on their critical national security matters as they pertain to CFIUS, export controls, and other key issues at this important time.”

In addition to the former government officials who have joined Morrison & Foerster’s National Security Group, the firm has added a number of other former senior federal and state prosecutors and regulators in the Washington, D.C. area over recent years.  Over just the last few months, the firm announced that Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax had joined as a partner in its Commercial Litigation, Trials, and Investigations + White Collar Defense groups, and that Lisa Phelan, former Chief of the National Criminal Enforcement and Washington Criminal I Sections of the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, had joined as a partner in its Global Antitrust Law Practice

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