- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The criminal defense lawyer nominated by President Obama to be the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey is declining to identify more than half of his private clients on government forms designed to help the public guard against potential conflicts of interests.

Paul J. Fishman, nominated to serve as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, is citing the privacy interests of the clients - an exemption that is permitted under federal ethics laws, but that leaves prosecutors on an honor system to police their own conflicts, ethics watchdogs say.

Mr. Fishman provided the names of 29 clients on the government disclosure form, including a convicted former New Jersey municipal official, a health care company and the former girlfriend of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

But he withheld the names of “approximately 37 confidential clients,[“] saying they cannot be named because they are involved in grand jury or other secret investigations.

“If this person is going to be able to exercise the law enforcement powers of the U.S. government, you want to make sure he doesn’t have any conflicts,” said Gregory Ogden, a law professor at Pepperdine University who has taught ethics.

“To some extent, you have to trust the guy’s ethical integrity and experience and balance that against the possible concern that he might not be as vigorous with people he’s represented.”

A person who answered the telephone at Mr. Fishman’s New York office at the Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP law firm said Mr. Fishman was not commenting publicly while his nomination is under consideration. White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said that if confirmed, Mr. Fishman won’t be involved in cases involving any of his former clients.

“Upon confirmation, as is standard practice for U.S. attorneys who previously worked in the private sector, Mr. Fishman will implement a screening mechanism that removes himself from matters that may be pending in the U.S. Attorney’s Office involving his former clients, including confidential clients,” Mr. LaBolt said.

Mr. Fishman reported more than $2.3 million in “law partnership income” since the start of 2008 on his ethics form. Although more than half of his client list remains secret, Mr. Fishman’s public list reveals involvement in several high-profile and politically sensitive cases prosecuted by the same office that he is seeking to run.

Mr. Fishman’s clients included:

• Thomas A. Greenwald, a former Far Hills, N.J., council member who pleaded guilty to laundering about $700,000 in loan-sharking and gambling proceeds;

• Alfred S. Teo Sr., a businessman who pleaded guilty in 2006 to insider trading and was sentenced to more than two years in prison in 2007;

• Richard Stadtmauer, the brother-in-law of convicted New Jersey developer Charles Kushner. Stadtmauer was sentenced to more than three years in prison earlier this year in a tax-fraud case.

In addition, Mr. Fishman represented Biomet Inc., a health care company that agreed to federal monitoring to avoid criminal prosecution in a kickback probe headed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.

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