Law360 Names Fry Wernick a 2021 Compliance MVP
Vinson & Elkins partner Ephraim “Fry” Wernick has been named one of Law360’s 2021 Compliance MVPs for his recent work on transformational compliance representations.
In a profile appearing in Law360, Wernick describes his biggest accomplishment and one of his proudest moments over the past year—his lead role in the representation of MoneyGram International, Inc. in obtaining a dismissal of criminal charges after the company successfully completed a deferred prosecution agreement and corporate monitorship. Among other things, Wernick was able to renegotiate more favorable financial terms and reporting conditions for the Company after it had already entered into a DPA with the government, which helped pave the way for a successful termination of the DPA and reduced costs in the monitorship.
“I knew that [renegotiating the terms of the DPA] was going to be an uphill lift,” Wernick said. “But I also knew that we had a righteous case, and I benefited from a company that had really turned things around and was firmly committed to compliance.”
Among other notable cases highlighted by Law360, Wernick was hired by social media company Parler after it was largely blamed for enabling incitement of the attacks on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, leading to its de-platforming by several big tech giants and to an investigation and referral to the FBI for criminal prosecution by the U.S. House Oversight Committee. Vinson & Elkins responded to the Committee citing that, among other things, Parler specifically warned the FBI about the potential attacks on January 6th. The positive media stemming from Vinson & Elkins’ revelation to Congress led to Parler being restored to Apple’s App Store in May 2021, paving its return to financial growth.
Wernick also represented a major university system and multiple educational institutions in connection with multiple investigations by Congress, the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Department of Education concerning COVID-19 origin theories, foreign research collaboration and alleged violations of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.
Asked what led him to become a compliance attorney, Wernick notes that the September 11 attacks occurred while he was in law school, fostering in him the desire to use his law degree to serve his country. He went on to become a federal prosecutor and Assistant Chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Fraud Section where he supervised cases involving international corruption and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
“Having the opportunity to see how important compliance was in terms of the decision-making by the government has been critical to understanding how best to help companies now that I’m on the defense side,” he said.
Wernick has experience in a broad range of white collar enforcement and trials, as well as advising publicly traded and privately held companies on transactional risk, particularly concerning business transactions in emerging markets, and helping companies develop effective compliance programs. He often represents companies and individuals before DOJ, the SEC and multiple other government agencies.
“What we’re trying to do is correct the record, and we do that by teaming up with our clients to make sure that the right message is heard,” he said.
Law360’s MVP awards honor lawyers who have distinguished themselves from their peers by securing hard-earned successes in high-stakes litigation, complex global matters and record-breaking deals. Winners were selected by a committee of Law360 editors, who reviewed more than 900 nominations.
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