Michael Watling and Russell Johnston Join Seward & Kissel’s Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group

November 1, 2022

New York—November 1, 2022—Seward & Kissel LLP announced today that Michael Watling, a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice, and Russell Johnston, a former senior counsel in the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Department of Enforcement, have joined the firm in New York as partners in the Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group. Watling and Johnston served together at FINRA for seven years before entering private practice in 2018.

“Building out our Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group is a strategic commitment of the firm,” said Seward & Kissel managing partner Jim Cofer. “That commitment started with the arrival of Jaimie Nawaday as co-head of the group earlier this year, and continues with the addition of these two world-class lawyers.”

Watling spent more than 15 years overseeing market behavior as a prosecutor in the Justice Department and as senior litigation counsel in the Enforcement Department of FINRA. At the DOJ, Watling oversaw dozens of white-collar investigations and regularly acted as lead trial counsel in complex, high-priority matters. During the Obama administration, he served as deputy associate counsel in the Office of the White House Counsel, advising the president and then-Vice President Joe Biden on tax issues and other matters.

Johnston acted as the lead attorney on high-profile enforcement actions involving securities fraud, market manipulation, anti-money laundering violations, and sales practice supervision during his time at FINRA. He also broke new ground on fintech issues, leading FINRA’s first enforcement action involving the use of blockchain technology, and served as the first and primary counsel to FINRA’s funding portal examination program.

“Our Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations practice has taken another large step forward with the addition of Michael and Russell,” said Michael G. Considine, co-head of Seward & Kissel’s Litigation Group and Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group. “Michael’s experience as a first-chair government lawyer with exposure to securities and tax issues ranging from market manipulation to fraud issues will serve our clients well.”

“Additionally, Russell’s background as an enforcement lawyer handling cutting-edge issues positions him well to guide financial institutions and senior executives through a digital era with quickly evolving ground rules. He will be a tremendous asset to our clients,” added Jaimie Nawaday, co-head of the Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group.

In private practice, Watling represents clients in civil and criminal matters and internal investigations covering accounting, tax, and securities issues and regularly conducts due diligence for wealth management-related mergers and acquisitions. Johnston regularly advises corporations and individuals on an array of securities and commodities enforcement matters, with a focus on trading and markets and sales practice concerns. Watling and Johnston regularly appear before the DOJ, SEC, CFTC, FINRA, NYSE, and other federal and state regulators.

Watling and Johnston come to Seward & Kissel from King & Spalding LLP, where they were both partners focusing on securities enforcement and government investigatory matters. Watling received his J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law and his B.A. from the University of Washington. Johnston received his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and his B.B.A. from Villanova University.