Skip to content

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Ron Tenpas Joins Vinson & Elkins


Ronald J. Tenpas, former Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, has joined Vinson & Elkins as a partner.

Based in Washington, D.C., Tenpas focuses his practice on government enforcement matters, especially environmental litigation and counseling under environmental laws, representing clients in civil and criminal investigations related to alleged environmental violations, import and customs matters and issues related to natural resource laws. He also represents companies and trade associations in advocacy on proposed regulations and in subsequent litigation challenging new regulatory provisions.

“Ron is one of the top lawyers in the country, whose reputation and high-level government and private practice experience will add tremendous value to our growing environmental litigation practice,” said V&E Chairman Mark Kelly. “He also adds to our bench of former federal prosecutors and enhances V&E’s reputation as one of the leading white collar criminal defense firms in the nation. We are pleased to welcome him to the firm as our newest partner.”

Tenpas comes to V&E from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which he joined in 2009 following a 12-year career with the Justice Department, culminating in his 2007 nomination as AAG by President George W. Bush. Upon his confirmation, Tenpas managed a 700-person division that included 400 lawyers, and oversaw civil and criminal litigation arising under more than 150 environmental and natural resources laws.

He also advised Cabinet and White House officials on policy and litigation risks associated with the environmental laws. The division’s major client agencies were the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Interior. Tenpas oversaw litigation in which regulated entities challenged new regulatory commands, and matters in which the government sought to enforce environmental requirements arising under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA (Superfund), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Pipeline Safety Act and other statutes.

“Ron is an outstanding attorney whose extensive experience and dedication to excellence will immediately benefit the firm and our clients,” said V&E Environmental and Natural Resources Practice Group leader Larry Nettles. “We are thrilled with his decision to join V&E and look forward to his future contributions.”

Before his appointment as AAG, Tenpas served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General (2005-2007) and as the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Illinois (2003-2005), including appointment to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. Before that, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Maryland (1999-2003) and the Middle District of Florida (1997-1999). In these positions, he investigated and tried white collar matters related to healthcare fraud and public corruption.

He has testified five times before Congress on multiple topics, including environmental enforcement, healthcare fraud, insider trading and identity theft. He chaired the Justice Department’s healthcare fraud coordinating committee, served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys and served as executive director of the 17-agency Identity Theft Task Force.

After receiving his J.D. from the University of Virginia in 1990, Tenpas served as law clerk to Judge Louis H. Pollak of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1990-1991), Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court (1991-1992), and Judge Howard Holtzman of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands (1992-1993). As an undergraduate, Tenpas earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1985, after which he received a Rhodes Scholarship to attend the University of Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics and economics, graduating in 1987.

“V&E’s strength in the marketplace, its commitment to client service and its high-caliber lawyers were a combination I was eager to be a part of,” said Tenpas. “I am excited to join the firm with all of the great possibilities it offers for me and for its clients.”

V&E’s Environmental and Natural Resources practice is among the best in the United States, receiving national recognition in Chambers USA (2018) and Legal 500 U.S. (2018). The firm counsels a wide array of clients on state and federal environmental laws and represents them in complex environmental litigation as well as administrative, civil and criminal enforcement matters in state and federal courts and regulatory agencies.

About Vinson & Elkins
For more than 100 years, Vinson & Elkins has provided deep experience in handling transactions, investments, projects, and disputes worldwide. The firm is a trusted adviser to clients in the most important industrial and digital industries. Learn more by visiting or follow us on Twitter @VinsonandElkins or connect with us on LinkedIn.

For more information, please speak with our media contacts.