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William E. Lawler, III

William E. Lawler, III Partner, Government Investigations & White Collar Criminal Defense

Bill is the co-head of Vinson & Elkins Government Investigations and White Collar Practice Group. He represents corporations, organizations, government entities and individuals in high stakes, high profile matters in federal and state courts and before regulatory agencies and Congress. 

Bill’s focus is on government enforcement actions, and his clients’ response to and interactions with them. The specific subject of the actions can vary—as different administrations in the U.S. and jurisdictions abroad prioritize different types of enforcement—but include the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), criminal antitrust, healthcare fraud, public corruption, campaign finance, and other white collar crime issues.

Bill also represents and advises a broad range of clients, including corporate boards, audit committees and management, on business and operational issues such as acquisitions, financings, risk evaluation and mitigation, and internal investigations. 

Bill has tried more than 70 jury cases to verdict, has had 15 appellate arguments and has conducted hundreds of grand jury and motions proceedings. He has had matters in 37 U.S. states and more than 30 countries. Bill’s experience gives him insight into the nuances and developments in enforcement approaches and actions around the globe. He has been recognized by Chambers USA repeatedly for his White Collar Defense and FCPA practices, and a number of other “best lawyer” ranking publications over the years. While a prosecutor, Bill received the Department of Justice’s Attorney General’s Award and the United States Attorney’s Award. 

Experience Highlights

  • Represented two U.S. companies in a coordinated DOJ and SEC FCPA investigation of the energy industry in West Africa and succeeded in having cases closed without the government taking any action against the clients
  • Represented an international freight forwarding company in an antitrust investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and foreign authorities, involving allegations of price-fixing and market manipulation among freight forwarders in connection with surcharges levied on customers for international ocean and air freight services; assisted client in negotiating a favorable resolution
  • Represented a Congressman in a criminal investigation of federal lobbying practices and allegations of corruption, bribery, and improper influence
  • Represent an European energy services company in FCPA/UKBA/anticorruption investigation involving Italy, Canada, Mexico, and the United States
  • Represented a foreign corporation in a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of criminal international antitrust violations, including price-fixing and global market allocation in the maritime construction industry. Client was not charged and ancillary civil litigation was resolved favorably

Representative Experience

  • Represent executives of a multibillion dollar Mexican development company in FCPA/anti-corruption investigation
  • Represent an individual in a federal corruption investigation of the District of Columbia 2010 Mayoral election
  • Trial representation of individual against the SEC in case of first impression regarding application of the Antibribery Provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act  
  • Represented a defendant in the largest federal campaign finance fraud case ever brought against an individual
  • Represented a New Jersey governor in an investigation of political corruption and a threatened civil lawsuit
  • Represented a former head of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team in litigation, and congressional and special counsel investigations, relating to Waco/Branch Davidian and Ruby Ridge/Randy Weaver matters

Contact Details


T +1.202.639.6676
F +1.202.879.8876
2200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 500 West
Washington, DC 20037
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William's Practices

  • Georgetown Law, J.D. cum laude, 1985
  • University of Notre Dame, B.A., English and Government cum laude, 1982
  • Admitted to practice: Maryland; District of Columbia; U.S. District Courts for District of Columbia, Southern District of Texas, Eastern District of New York; U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia, Second and Fifth Circuits
    • Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, 1989–1996

      • Chambers Global, FCPA (USA), 2016−2019
      • Chambers USA, Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations (District of Columbia), 2014–2019; FCPA (Nationwide), 2015−2019
      • Legal 500 U.S., White-Collar Criminal Defense, 2015−2019
      • The Best Lawyers in America® (Woodward/White, Inc.), White-Collar Criminal Defense Law, 2008–2020
      • Selected to Top 100: Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers List, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2018
      • Euromoney’s Benchmark Litigation, "Local Litigation Star" in District of Columbia, 2012–2013, 2016–2018
      • Selected to the Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2007–2017, 2019
      • Who's Who Legal (Law Business Research Ltd.), Business Crime Defence, 2016 and 2017; Investigations, 2016 and 2017
      • American Lawyer Media, Washington DC & Baltimore’s Top Rated Lawyers, 2012
      • International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers (Law Business Research Ltd), Business Crime, 2009
      • Recipient of the Vinson & Elkins “Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year,” 1999
        • President: Bar Association of the District of Columbia, 2002–2003; Chair: Young Lawyers Section, 1994– 1995; Board of Directors: 1993–present
        • Member: American Bar Association House of Delegates, 1992­1993, 2001–2004
        • Vice Chair: White Collar Committee, International Association of Defense Counsel, 2011 to present