Seward & Kissel Appoints Russell Johnston Co-Head of Litigation Group and Michael Watling Co-Head of Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group

September 20, 2023

Seward & Kissel announced that partner Russell Johnston, former senior counsel in the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Department of Enforcement (FINRA), has been named co-head of the firm’s Litigation Group, serving alongside existing co-head Bruce Paulsen. The Firm has also named partner Michael Watling, a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice and former senior litigation counsel at FINRA, co-head of the firm’s Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group, joining partner Jaimie Nawaday in that role.

The duo, who served together at FINRA for seven years before entering private practice, joined Seward & Kissel in November 2022.

“Russell and Michael are trusted, steadfast leaders, admired not only by their clients but by members of our firm,” said Seward & Kissel managing partner Jim Cofer. “We are delighted to welcome them into these leadership positions.”

At Seward & Kissel, Johnston advises corporations and individuals on an array of investigations and enforcement matters, with a focus on trading and markets, sales practice issues, and financial crime compliance. Watling represents clients in civil and criminal matters and internal investigations covering accounting, tax, and securities issues and broadly advises investment management and broker-dealer clients on transactional and regulatory matters including conducting due diligence and applying for control changes and other regulatory approvals. They both regularly appear before the DOJ, SEC, CFTC, FINRA, NYSE, and other federal and state regulators.

Johnston, during his time at FINRA, acted as the lead attorney on high-profile enforcement actions involving securities fraud, market manipulation, anti-money laundering violations, and sales practice supervision. Earlier in his career, 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.

Paulsen, co-head of Seward & Kissel’s Litigation Group, noted: “Russell has been at the forefront of significant, complex, and highly sensitive matters. I’m thrilled to have him join me as we grow and advance our Litigation Group.”

“Michael is an accomplished lawyer with substantial experience as a first-chair government attorney, and he has quickly become someone our clients turn to and respect,” added Nawaday, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York who joined as co-head of the firm’s Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group in May 2022. “He is the ideal partner to help strategically build out this practice.”