Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
While there’s no ethical precept that prevents Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler from defending the industries he formerly targeted once he leaves office, it could hurt him if he seeks to make a political comeback, a political science professor noted. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Gansler to switch sides at term’s end

Attorney general will become a partner at D.C.’s BuckleySandler

Outgoing Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who helped secure more than $900 million for the state in a nationwide mortgage settlement with five lenders, will switch to defending financial institutions from state and federal regulators in his next job.

“I know what is right and what is wrong,” Gansler said Tuesday. “I will help companies ensure that they are in compliance with the laws to make sure there aren’t people like me going after them.”

Upon completion of his term on Jan. 5, Gansler will join the Washington-based civil-defense firm BuckleySandler LLP as a partner in its state and federal regulatory practice, working with clients primarily on complying with cybersecurity and privacy regulations, he and the firm said Tuesday. Gansler, 52, will also consult with financial institutions and help build the firm’s complex civil litigation practice, he said.

“These are businesses that engage in commerce and often need counsel in terms of how to get it right and need help in litigation,” Gansler said. “I am joining a firm that has reputable clients [who] need top-flight representation and I intend to provide that.”

Gansler said he chose to announce his next job while still attorney general as a courtesy to other law firms that might seek to hire him, as well as to the many people who have asked him — since he lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary in June to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown — what he plans to do after his term expires.

“I thought it was an appropriate time to say what I am going to do next,” Gansler said.

David H. Hamilton, managing partner of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP in Baltimore — an office the firm opened when former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. went back to practicing law — never discussed hiring Gansler.

“I don’t know why it didn’t happen, but it didn’t happen,” Hamilton said of the lack of discussion.

However, he praised BuckleySandler on its incoming partner.

“He joined a firm that is perfectly suited for what he brings to the table,” Hamilton added. “He is very well suited to work with clients who have regulatory concerns.”

Gansler, a career prosecutor before becoming attorney general, acknowledged he has limited experience as a civil litigator.

However, he said his more than 20 years’ experience arguing criminal cases before juries in both federal and state court qualify him to help build a complex-litigation practice.

“There are very few civil litigators that have the trial experience that I have,” Gansler said.

Bubble burst

The 2012 national mortgage settlement stemmed from alleged abuses that occurred after the housing bubble burst about five years earlier and foreclosures became rampant. These alleged abuses included employees at foreclosure processing companies signing papers that had not read or faking the signatures of authorized agents to speed the process.

The five lenders — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial — admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.

Gansler said he forged relationships with other state attorneys general and their offices during the settlement negotiations and his eight years as Maryland’s chief lawyer, including a one-year stint as president of the National Association of Attorneys General. Those relationships could help ensure his calls are answered when he reaches out on behalf of clients in regulatory disputes with the states, he said.

“That’s certainly something I will be able to bring to the table,” Gansler said. “Companies will hopefully hire me to help them find a reasonable resolution to potential issues.”

Andrew L. Sandler, BuckleySandler’s chairman and executive partner, said in a statement that “Doug’s first-hand insight into the current enforcement and regulatory landscape will be invaluable as we assist our clients in navigating the government enforcement challenges they confront on a daily basis.”

Political scientist Todd Eberly said Gansler’s next venture will violate no law or ethical taboo.

“There is nothing prohibiting someone from, when they leave office, going to work for the folks that they used to regulate,” said Eberly, a professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “Ethically, there is nothing that he’s violating there.”

However, Gansler could pay a political price if he chooses to run again for office.

A candidate would find it difficult to run as a “crusader for the people” when he or she has represented large regulated corporations, Eberly said.

“It really comes down to whether it has an impact on him if he tries to make a political comeback,” he added.

Still AG

BuckleySandler has more than 150 lawyers among its offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and London, and focuses on advising and defending clients in regulatory enforcement matters, according to the firm’s website.

Gansler, a 1989 University of Virginia School of Law graduate, clerked for Maryland Court of Appeals Judge John F. McAuliffe before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington from 1992 to 1998. That year, Gansler won election as Montgomery County state’s attorney, a position he held until his election in 2006 to be attorney general. He was re-elected in 2010.

Gansler chose not to run for re-election in 2014, opting instead to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

On Tuesday, Gansler said he will not let up in his remaining weeks as attorney general.

“Every day we’re doing the people’s work and we’ll continue to do the people’s work,” Gansler said.

Daily Record reporter Bryan P. Sears contributed to this article.