6th Circuit, Biglaw, Clerkships, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Hotties, Securities and Exchange Commission, White-Collar Crime, William and Mary School of Law, Williams & Connolly

What Else Dewey Know About Zachary Warren?

For a while, interest in the Dewey drama seemed to be flagging (at least according to our traffic statistics). But lately it has revived, thanks to the recent criminal charges against the firm’s former leaders, plus the arrival on the scene of Zachary Warren — a total Dewey & LaBoeuf-Cake.

Interest in Zach Warren has been keen — and not just because of his good looks. His tale seems to resonate with Above the Law readers because, as Matt Kaiser recently noted, “he seems like one of us.” Although Above the Law’s readership is expanding, with more than a million unique visitors a month, it’s still fair to say that a young lawyer, recently graduated from a top law school, is within ATL’s demographic sweet spot.

Over the past few days, we’ve learned more about Zachary Warren. Dewey want to share this knowledge with you? Of course we do….

Here’s an interesting perspective on Zach Warren from one tipster (who hasn’t met him):

[T]here seem to be some parallels in the stories and actions in the case of Zachary Warren and Amanda Knox. Both grew up sheltered and were eager to please. Both ended up saying stuff under pressure that they would later regret. Both never saw themselves as the target of an investigation until it was too late. Both will be misunderstood and maligned unfairly by people who know nothing about them except for what they read in the press. Both will face a lifetime of negative consequences not because of anything they did, but for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and for being too naive.

And both are total hotties. But I suspect Zach Warren never did splits and a cartwheel after getting arrested — although if he did, I’d like to see the video footage. (For the record, Amanda Knox denies the infamous gymnastics.)

Here’s more about Zach Warren, from someone who knows him (although not well):

He’s really nice and charismatic. Thoughtful and very smart (even by clerk standards). A wonderfully sweet, kind, fun guy.

This is consistent with what Warren’s former boss, Judge J. Frederick Motz, told James Stewart of the New York Times: “Zach is a wonderful person, a decent, fine young man. I’m so sorry he’s being put through what’s happening.”

Finally, here’s an assessment from a third tipster, a family friend of the Warrens:

Your article was well done and fair for someone with so little personal knowledge of Zach. Our families have been close at times over the years, and there is not doubt that Zach is the real deal, a good person who would never knowingly participate in any fraudulent activity. Anyone who believes that a kid just out of college would have been allowed to participate in the financial planning of such a major law firm knows nothing about the business of law. The prosecutor has the power to charge and bring a calamity on a good family — a half-million dollars or more to defend through trial. One would hope that clear thinking and the fair and appropriate exercise of discretion will bring an early end to this nightmare for a family of dedicated public servants.

The cost of a good defense lawyer raises another interesting point that has emerged in our recent conversations with sources about Zachary Warren. Why did Zach Warren talk to law enforcement without a lawyer? Matt Kaiser floated some excellent theories yesterday, but we’ve also heard that Warren might have been concerned about money. The theory is that because Warren didn’t think he had done anything wrong and possessed significant knowledge about the legal system (as a lawyer himself), he didn’t think it necessary to drop a four- or five-figure sum on a retainer.

We’ve previously described Zachary Warren as being “well-to-do,” but let’s refine that a bit more. As a Sixth Circuit law clerk, Warren is probably earning between $60,000 and $70,000 (depending on the COLA for Memphis, which I’m guessing is low). He won’t start earning the big bucks until he joins Williams & Connolly (which has an above-market starting salary of $180,000 — and if he gets credit for his two clerkship years, he’d be looking at $210,000). If you focus on his current, reasonable but relatively modest salary as a law clerk, plus the possibility of debt from law school, Warren probably wasn’t eager to go out and hire a macher of the white-collar bar.

What about family money? After all, Zach’s parents, Judge Roger Warren (retired) and Professor Christie Warren of William & Mary Law School, were apparently wealthy enough to help Zach buy a home when he moved to D.C. for Georgetown Law.

Well, let’s not put too much stock in that. It was a relatively modest home, just $399,000, and it’s possible that the Warrens saw it as an investment, not just throwing around loose change. (It would have been a smart investment; D.C.’s real estate market has done well since September 2009.)

We’ve done some poking around online, and it seems the best description of the Warrens would be upper middle class, but not rich. In 2012-2013, Professor Warren earned $76,200, according to a database of Virginia state employee salaries. As for retired Judge Warren, in 2012 he earned $67,400, as a special consultant to the California Judicial Council. He has had better years; in 2010, for example, he earned $123,125 from the National Center for State Courts, an organization he used to lead (go here, click on the Form 990 for 2010). But even in their best years, the Warrens were probably not breaking the $250,000 barrier. And I tend to agree with Elie Mystal on this: earning $250,000 is nice, but it doesn’t make you rich.

Given his finances and his parents’ finances, one can understand why Zach Warren might not have wanted to hire a lawyer until it was 100 percent clear that doing so was absolutely necessary. And in further defense of Warren, how much could a lawyer have helped?

I dealt with many excellent defense lawyers when I worked as a prosecutor, but there’s only so much a defense lawyer can do if the prosecution holds a tough line. I previously wondered whether Zachary Warren was given the opportunity to cooperate with the Manhattan DA’s office on the Dewey investigation in exchange for more lenient treatment for himself, like the Dewey secret seven. What we’ve been hearing lately is that there were some vague and preliminary discussions between Zachary Warren and Cyrus Vance’s office about a negotiated resolution, but they didn’t get very far because the kind of plea the DA’s office required would have wiped out Warren’s professional future.

We don’t know all their identities, but most of the Dewey secret seven seem to be finance folks. They can plead guilty, even to a felony, and still find work somewhere — maybe not in the securities industry or in public accounting, but somewhere. Zachary Warren, however, is a lawyer, barred in D.C. and California. A guilty plea carries bigger consequences for him, as noted by Steven Harper:

[A] plea deal poses special problems that don’t affect non-lawyers. Reportedly, Warren passed the bar last July. Among other things, a guilty plea could end forever his ability to practice law. That would be a tough way to close out an investment of five years (law school plus two clerkships) and $150,000 in tuition.

So, in fairness to Zachary Warren, not bringing a lawyer with him to that fateful interview might have been a case of “harmless error.” It probably couldn’t have saved him from indictment, since it seems that the Manhattan DA’s office has a hard-on for him — in the non-sexual sense — and wants to see him go down.

Why might this be the case? Some folks we’ve communicated with, noting that the Warren prosecution is being handled by a state DA’s office rather than a U.S. attorney’s office, have wondered whether Zachary Warren’s professional pedigree — Stanford, Georgetown Law, two federal clerkships — might have engendered resentment of him on the part of the assistant district attorneys working on the case.

I’m generally a sucker for tales of status anxiety (affiliate link), but I’m skeptical of this theory. The Manhattan DA’s office is, as Kaiser noted, arguably the most well-regarded state prosecutor’s office in the country. It isn’t some rinky-dink local prosecutor’s shop; its prestigious prosecutors often go on to U.S. attorney’s offices (or, heck, the U.S. Supreme Court). The main ADA on the Dewey case, Peirce Moser, isn’t some random, inexperienced Touro Law grad; he’s a seasoned prosecutor and a graduate of UVA Law. (Yes, both Touro and UVA are in our March Madness contest for America’s worst law school — but it looks like Touro is making it to the next round and UVA is not.)

Two other random tidbits about Zachary Warren. First, we hear that he’s straight, single, and “a real sweetheart” (so start your engines, ladies). Second, some have looked with suspicion on how quickly he got promoted to his $100,000 job as a client relations manager at Dewey, wondering if perhaps he got fast-tracked because the powers-that-be sensed he might be corruptible. But we’ve heard a different explanation: he got a “battlefield promotion” a few months after arriving at Dewey, because his predecessor in the post quit. (As you may recall, Dewey was a place with a lot of turnover.)

Yes, our coverage to date has been fairly pro-Zach. For a less sympathetic take, see, e.g., Death Throes of Innocence (or, for that matter, the reader comments on some of our prior posts). In addition, we’ve heard rumors that in the coming weeks the DA’s office will show more of its hand — in ways that could materially affect our perception of Zach Warren. We reserve the right to change our opinion of him after additional facts emerge.

So we’ll keep you posted. If you have information to share about Warren, including comments on or corrections to what we’ve previously written, please email or text us (646-820-8477). Thanks.

History, Class, and White-Collar Crime [Death Throes of Innocence]

Earlier: Why Did Zachary Warren Talk To Law Enforcement?
What Dewey Know About Zachary Warren, Defendant No. 4 In The Criminal Case?
Dewey Finally Have Criminal Charges Against Ex-Leaders Of This Failed Firm?

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