Brian Hennigan

Irell & Manella

Specialty: White-collar crime defense

Law School: Northwestern, 1976

Brian Hennigan recognizes the trauma of being under investigation for a white-collar crime. "It is a big turning point in the lives of these people, and it is very important to see that their cases get resolved," he said.

The 47-year-old Hennigan has been with Irell & Manella since 1990, and his clients include all manner of individuals and companies that deal with the federal government from Northrop Grumman and Hughes Electronics to former Dodger Daryl Strawberry.

One of his highest-profile recent cases involved former Carolco Pictures President Peter Hoffman. In 1997, Hoffman was indicted on four felony counts of tax fraud, but Hennigan maintained that Hoffman was just guilty of structuring his tax returns so that he would not be overpaying the feds. The jury cleared Hoffman on two of the charges and failed to reach a verdict on the other two.

The government tried again, and last year, Hoffman pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge for which he was fined $5,000. The prosecution had hoped to get Hoffman to cooperate in their investigation of producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar, who are accused of defrauding the government out of more than $100 million in back taxes and penalties.

As with other white-collar crime specialists, Hennigan learned the tricks of the trade while working as a prosecutor in his case, as deputy chief of the U.S. Attorney's government fraud section.

The experience he built up as a federal prosecutor was crucial to his success in private practice. Most white-collar crime prosecutors and defenders know one another, and a lawyer's reputation tends to go a long way toward getting cases resolved.

"When you present your client's case to an investigator, you want to make sure that you don't over- or under-sell what you've got," Hennigan said. "You don't want to misrepresent the facts and the truth, because that will destroy you in the future."

Edvard Pettersson

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