Alexander J. WillscherPartner
Alex Willscher is the Deputy Managing Partner of Sullivan & Cromwell’s Criminal Defense and Investigations Group. A distinguished former prosecutor with two decades of experience, Mr. Willscher has advised the world’s biggest financial institutions in navigating high-stakes regulatory investigations. He represents companies and individuals under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. Treasury, the New York State Department of Financial Services, and state, local and non-U.S. prosecutors’ offices.
Mr. Willscher’s versatile work includes a wide range of white-collar and securities matters, including accounting fraud, market manipulation, insider trading, FCPA violations, bank and lending fraud, asset forfeiture, violations of economic sanctions, and international money laundering offenses. He has extensive experience representing clients in cross-border litigation and enforcement investigations. Mr. Willscher has tried 10 criminal jury cases in federal court.
Recognized as a leader in the field, Mr. Willscher has been described by Chambers USA as an advocate who “knows how to be tenacious without being offensive” and with “a ton of experience in the field.” He is lauded for his “white-collar practice, which includes significant expertise in cross-border matters such as UK proceeding[s].”
Mr. Willscher served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 2004 through 2010, working in the office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Unit and Public Corruption Unit.
He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and for J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
SELECTED REPRESENTATIONSMarket-Manipulation & Trading Practices
- Persuaded DOJ not to bring criminal charges against Barclays relating to allegations that bank employees—including one whom DOJ has charged criminally—used confidential merger information to front-run trades and enable the bank to profit at a client’s expense. In a major policy shift, this matter marked the first time that DOJ had been willing to extend its declination program for companies outside of the FCPA context.
- Major financial institution in SEC investigation of firm’s trading practices and Volcker Rule compliance.
- Major financial institution in regulatory settlement relating to bank’s electronic trading platform.
- Barclays in the investigation and resolution with the CFTC of matters relating to the ISDAFIX benchmark rate.
- Multiple major financial institutions in investigations relating to money laundering and potential BSA/AML violations, including in connection with the FIFA scandal, the Panama Papers, and the Russian and Azerbaijani Laundromats.
- Mashreq Bank in the October 2018 consent order with the New York Department of Financial Services in connection with examinations and an investigation by the DFS into its AML program in its New York branch’s U.S. dollar clearing operations.
- Multiple individual bank employees in money laundering investigations.
- HSBC Holdings plc in the investigation and resolution with the DOJ, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control related to OFAC sanctions and anti-money laundering compliance.
- Barclays plc in the investigation and resolution with the DOJ and other regulators relating to a criminal conspiracy to manipulate the price of currency exchanged in the global FX Spot Market.
- Lead-counsel to the Royal Bank of Canada in lawsuit accusing major banks of rigging the roughly $9 trillion government agency bond market.
- Major financial institution in DOJ investigation into possible conspiracy to manipulate of the U.S. Treasuries market.
- Audit Committee of REIT in investigation of allegations that company executives were smoothing income items to achieve consistent non-GAAP financial measures.
- Achieved SEC declination in investigation of allegations of improper earnings management at Fortune 500 company.
- Audit Committee of bank in connection with allegations of misstatements to outside auditors.
- The chief risk officer of a hedge fund in DOJ/SEC actions involving charges of accounting fraud and trading improprieties.
- Achieved SEC declination in investigation of revenue recognition practices at major technology company.
- Senior executive of a healthcare company in matter involving allegations of channel stuffing and account irregularities.
- Secured a declination for the chairman of the board of a healthcare company in a joint DOJ/SEC insider trading investigation.
- Two large hedge funds in connection with criminal insider trading charges against former employees.
- Hedge fund in connection with use of expert networks.
- A major international oil company in DOJ and SEC investigations of possible FCPA violations.
- Executive of a major conglomerate in DOJ and SEC investigations of potential FCPA issues.
- Cryptocurrency exchange in DOJ investigation.
Securities and complex commercial litigation
- Credit Agricole in lawsuit alleging violations of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
- HSBC Holdings plc in obtaining dismissal of a shareholder derivative lawsuit arising out of HSBC’s 2012 resolutions with DOJ and other agencies.
- Porsche in obtaining the dismissal of federal securities claims seeking more than $2.5 billion arising out of Porsche’s takeover bid for Volkswagen. In August 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed this decision. Additionally, in 2012, represented Porsche in obtaining the dismissal, on appeal, of parallel claims brought in New York State Court.
- The Boeing Company in obtaining the dismissal of a putative securities fraud class action related to delays in the first flight of the company’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
- HSBC Bank USA in successfully obtaining the dismissal of an action seeking over $2.7 billion plus interest in sanctions against HSBC, in connection with a default judgment that plaintiffs had obtained against the government of Iran.
- HSBC Bank USA in successfully wining dismissal with prejudice of a putative class action seeking $5 billion in damages on behalf of persons whose personal property allegedly had been stolen, converted to cash, and eventually deposited in accounts at HSBC.
From 2004 through 2010, Mr. Willscher served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he handled a wide variety of criminal investigations and prosecutions. From 2008 through 2010, Mr. Willscher was a member of that office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force, where he investigated and prosecuted complex white collar cases involving securities fraud, insider trading, market manipulation, Ponzi schemes, accounting fraud, investment adviser fraud, bribery, and mail and wire fraud. From 2006 through 2008, Mr. Willscher was a member of the office’s Public Corruption Unit, where he investigated and prosecuted corruption at the United Nations and in federal, state, and local government, as well as violations of federal campaign-finance laws.
Rankings and Recognitions
- Chambers USA – Recognized in the area of White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (2017-2019)
- The Legal 500 United States – Recommended in Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense (2017)
- Euromoney’s Benchmark: America’s Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys – Recognized as a Future Star (2016-2020)
- Global Investigations Review Top 40 Under 40 (2014)
- New York Super Lawyers (2013-2018)
- Member, Criminal Justice Act Panel, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
- The Federal Bar Council
- The Supreme Court Historical Society