Covington & Burling

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Covington & Burling LLP
Covington & Burling LLP
HeadquartersOne CityCenter
850 Tenth Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001, United States
No. of offices13 total (8 international)
No. of attorneys1,055 (2017)[1]
Major practice areasGeneral practice
Date founded1919; 101 years ago (1919)
FounderJ. Harry Covington and Edward B. Burling
Company typeLimited liability partnership

Covington & Burling LLP is an international law firm with offices in Beijing, Brussels, Frankfurt, Dubai, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, and Washington, DC. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the firm advises clients on significant transactional, litigation, regulatory, and public policy matters.[2] Covington is recognized among the best public policy firms in the U.S. and Europe by Chambers, Legal 500, and The National Law Journal.[3] According to's 2021 rankings, Covington & Burling is ranked as the #1 law firm in Washington, D.C.[4] The firm is frequently recognized for its pro bono service, including ten times being ranked the number one pro bono practice in the U.S. by The American Lawyer.[5]


Judge J. Harry Covington and Edward B. Burling founded Covington & Burling in Washington, DC, on January 1, 1919.[6][7][8]

In 1988, Covington opened a London office, followed by a Brussels office in 1990. In 1999, Covington merged with a 60-lawyer New York firm called Howard, Smith & Levin and also opened its first West Coast office in San Francisco.[9] In 2008, Covington entered into a strategic alliance with Institution Quraysh for Law & Policy (iQ), a Qatar-based transnational law firm and think-tank, for the joint provision of legal and consulting services in the Middle East.[10] As of mid-2009, both firms share the same London office premises.[citation needed]


State of California[edit]

The State of California has hired Covington & Burling attorney and former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder to fight the Trump administration.[11][12]

Commonwealth of Australia[edit]

According to press reports and filings with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Covington & Burling assisted the government of Australia in pursuing the legislation to create a new visa category reserved exclusively for nationals of Australia following the enactment of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement.[13] The Covington team included Stuart Eizenstat, Martin Gold, Roderick DeArment, David Marchick, Elizabeth Letchworth, Les Carnegie, and Brian Smith.[13] On November 20, 2012, the LegalTimes reported that the Embassy of South Korea had hired Covington & Burling to advise on a similar visa for Korea. Covington of counsel Brian Smith and senior international policy adviser Alan Larson reportedly led the matter, assisted by senior counsel Martin Gold and associate Jonathan Wakely.[14]

Creekstone Farms Quality Beef[edit]

In April 2004, the Washington DC newspaper The Hill reported: "Creekstone Farms Quality Beef, which has been battling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get permission to test its cattle for mad cow disease, has hired Covington & Burling to help make its case."[15]

At the time, Creekstone was one of two U.S. beef producers who were seeking to resume exports to Japan, South Korea and other countries by testing every head of cattle they processed for mad cow disease.


In 2003, Halliburton hired the firm to lobby Washington[clarification needed] on behalf of its KBR Government Operations division, the same division being pummeled by the media, the Pentagon and Congress for its handling of Iraq contracts. Covington & Burling was paid $520,000 to handle "inquiries concerning company's construction and service contracts in Iraq," the firm said in a filing.

According to the filing, Covington & Burling listed the following people as lobbyists for Halliburton/KBR: Roderick A. DeArment, who was chief of staff to now-retired Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS); Martin B. Gold, former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN); Stuart E. Eizenstat, U.S. ambassador to the European Union during the Clinton administration; Alan A. Pemberton, coordinator of the firm's government contracts practice; David M. Marchick, who served in various posts in the Clinton administration; Jack L. Schenendorf; Peter Flanagan; Jennifer Plitsch; Benjamin J. Razi; and Allegra Lane.

Halliburton's lobbying expenses are disclosed in documents submitted under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, which requires congressional and executive branch lobbyists to disclose their lobbying activities twice per year. Each year the information is disclosed at the Senate Office of Public Records.

Philip Morris & Tobacco Institute[edit]

Covington & Burling represented tobacco interests for decades, instrumental in the founding of, and serving as counsel to, the Tobacco Institute, established in 1958.[16] The institute attacked scientific studies, although more by casting doubt on them rather than by rebutting them directly. It also lobbied Congress, although initially at a low level.[17] The institute also served as corporate affairs consultants to the Philip Morris group of companies, according to a 1993 internal budget review document which indicated the firm was paid $280,000 to "serve as general counsel to the Consumer Products Company Tort Coalition, agree the legal objectives with member company litigators, draft legislation and amendments, prepare lobby papers and testimony for legislative committees and administer the coalition's budget."[18]

The Department of Justice (DOJ) brought suit against multiple Tobacco companies and trade associations under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and after a lengthy trial, on August 17, 2006, the Judge issued a 1,683 page opinion (449 F.Supp.2d 1, D.D.C. 2006) finding the tobacco companies liable.[19] The court found "As set forth in these Final Proposed Findings of Fact, substantial evidence establishes that Defendants have engaged in and executed – and continue to engage in and execute – a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO." The court issued a harsh rebuke: "over the course of more than 50 years, Defendants lied, misrepresented, and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as 'replacement smokers,' about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke, they suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, they distorted the truth about low tar and light cigarettes so as to discourage smokers from quitting, and they abused the legal system in order to achieve their goal – to make money with little, if any, regard for individual illness and suffering, soaring health costs, or the integrity of the legal system."[20]

But the Court also directly addressed the law firm Covington & Burling specifically: "Covington & Burling was counsel for the Tobacco Institute and was also described as counsel for the 'industry'. ... An attorney from Covington & Burling attended every meeting of the Committee ... also cleared press releases issued by the Tobacco Institute. ... Covington & Burling, became the guiding strategists for the Enterprise and were deeply involved in implementation of those strategies once adopted."[21] Along with two other firms, which helped create the Tobacco Institute in 1958, and served the industry for the next 50 years came this condemnation:

"Finally, a word must be said about the role of lawyers in this fifty-year history of deceiving smokers, potential smokers, and the American public about the hazards of smoking and second-hand smoke, and the addictiveness of nicotine. At every stage, lawyers played an absolutely central role in the creation and perpetuation of the Enterprise and the implementation of its fraudulent schemes. They devised and coordinated both national and international strategy; they directed scientists as to what research they should and should not undertake; they vetted scientific research papers and reports as well as public relations materials to ensure that the interests of the Enterprise would be protected; they identified 'friendly' scientific witnesses, subsidized them with grants from the Center for Tobacco Research and the Center for Indoor Air Research, paid them enormous fees, and often hid the relationship between those witnesses and the industry; and they devised and carried out document destruction policies and took shelter behind baseless assertions of the attorney-client privilege. What a sad and disquieting chapter in the history of an honorable and often courageous profession."[22]

The defendants filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. On May 22, 2009, the three-judge panel unanimously upheld Judge Kessler's decision finding the tobacco companies liable. The court upheld most of the ordered remedies, but denied additional remedies sought by public health interveners and the Department of Justice (566 F.3d 1095, 2009).[23]

During the $280 billion U.S. federal lawsuit against big tobacco, Covington & Burling partner John Rupp, a former lawyer with the industry-funded Tobacco Institute, testified that "the industry sought out scientists and paid them to make an 'objective appraisal' of whether secondhand smoke was harmful to non-smokers, a move they hoped would dispel the 'extreme views' of some anti-smoking activists." He "said the scientists, who came from prestigious institutions such as Georgetown University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, did not consider themselves to be working 'on behalf' of cigarette makers even though they were being paid by the industry." Rupp said, "We were paying them to share their views in forums where they would be usefully presented," [24]

Chiquita International Brands[edit]

Partner Eric Holder in 2007 defended Chiquita International Brands against lawsuits brought by relatives of people slain by terrorists and paramilitia belonging to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which Chiquita paid for protection.[25][26] Holder had previously helped Chiquita negotiate a felony plea bargain, accepted by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, in a criminal prosecution by the federal government for one count of supporting a designated terrorist organization. The plea involved a fine of US$25 million, also entailing 5 years probation. Chiquita became the first major U.S. corporation to be convicted of financing terrorism. After the settlement, U.S. Assistant Attorney Jonathan Malis said the $1.7 million in payments "fueled violence" and "paid for weapons and ammunition to kill innocent people." Holder stressed that Chiquita had asked the Department of Justice in 2003 if the payments should be stopped.[27]

Xe Services (formerly Blackwater Worldwide)[edit]

In April 2010, The Hill newspaper reported that Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, hired Covington & Burling to lobby on "government contracts," according to a lobbying disclosure filing. According to the Hill, "[t]his is the first lobbying contract Blackwater has had since early 2009, when it terminated contracts with several different firms." The lobbying report listed the following Covington personnel engaged by Xe: Stuart Eizenstat,[28] a former Treasury deputy secretary during the Clinton administration; Brian Smith,[29] an ex-Clinton White House aide; former Congressman Michael Barnes[30] (D-Md.); Martin Gold,[31] a former floor adviser to ex-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.); and William Wichterman,[32] a former White House aide in the George W. Bush administration.

David Samson[edit]

David Samson serves as the Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and is a partner and founding member of the law firm Wolff & Samson. In January 2014, it was revealed that Samson was the direct supervisor of Bill Baroni, who resigned from the PANYNJ in December, 2013 for his role in creating a traffic hazard in Fort Lee, New Jersey.[33] This fueled speculation that Samson was involved in the scandal known as Bridgegate. Official e-mails sent from Samson to other Port Authority officials sharply criticized Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Joseph Foye's order to re-open the two closed toll lanes on the George Washington Bridge, accusing the latter of "stirring up trouble."[33] Samson has been summoned to appear before the New Jersey Legislature on the matter[34] and has engaged the firm as part of his legal team.[35]

Pro bono[edit]

Covington's pro bono work focuses on providing legal services to economically disadvantaged individuals and families in local communities. Attorneys at the firm participate in a six-month rotation program and work at each of three DC-based legal service organizations: Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the Children's Law Center[36] and Bread for the City.[37]

Covington's pro bono work includes representation in such landmark cases as Buckley v. Valeo, Griffin v. Illinois,[38] and Korematsu v. United States. However, the firm's pro bono program encompasses a range of areas, including freedom of expression and religion; civil rights and civil liberties; gay rights; family law; education; landlord/tenant; homelessness; employment; criminal and court-appointed cases; police misconduct; environmental law; fairness in government procurements and grants; intellectual property; non-profit incorporation and tax.

The firm's recent pro bono matters include:

  • Primary pro bono counsel for TeachAIDS, a nonprofit which has developed a new method for global HIV/AIDS prevention education

Representation of Guantanamo Bay inmates[edit]

Attorneys at Covington & Burling have been Guantanamo Bay attorneys for Ahmed al-Ghailani[40] fifteen Yemenis, one Pakistani, and one Algerian being held at Guantanamo Bay. The firm obtained favorable rulings that detainees have rights under the Fifth Amendment and the Geneva Conventions.[41] The court ruled in March 2005 that the government could not transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to foreign custody without first giving the prisoners a chance to challenge the move in court.

According to The American Lawyer's annual pro bono survey, Covington lawyers spent 3,022 hours on Guantánamo litigation in 2007, "the firm's largest pro bono project that year". Lawyers from the firm who have become administration officials have been advised by ethics officials to recuse themselves in matters involving detainees represented by their former firms, but not from policy issues where they were not personally and substantially involved. Lanny Breuer is one of those who has had to recuse from some matters since leaving the firm for a government position. Covington also co-authored one of three petitioners' briefs filed in Boumediene v. Bush, "and was responsible for several detainee victories" in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. "At least one high-ranking appointee played a key role in advancing detainees' rights," but they did not participate in litigation over the Guantanamo Bay prison itself.[42]

Pro bono accolades[edit]

  • The American Lawyer "Pro Bono Report", ranked No. 1 in its annual Pro Bono Survey (2006).
  • The American Lawyer "Pro Bono Report", ranked No. 1 seven out of the last 12 years.
  • DC Bar Association, Thurgood Marshall Award for commitment to excellence in the fields of civil rights and individual liberties (2006).[43]
  • Human Rights Campaign, "Ally for Justice" award for providing outstanding legal guidance to the HRC (2006).
  • Law360, Pro Bono Firm of the Year, ranked No. 1 (2015).[44]

Notable current and former attorneys[edit]


  1. ^ Law Firm Chaos (March 2009). "Reaction to Financial Crisis". Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  2. ^ About. Covington Retrieved November 2020. Check date values in: |access-date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Covington & Burling Retrieved November 16, 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "2021 Vault Rankings". Vault. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  5. ^ "Pro Bono". Covington & Burling. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  6. ^ "Edward Burling Jr., 94, Senior Partner at a Top Law Firm". The New York Times. December 3, 2002.
  7. ^ Center, Southern Poverty Law (2020-07-17). "Federal Lawsuit Seeks Damages for Traumatized Migrant Families Torn Apart by Trump Separation Policy". YubaNet. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  8. ^ "Украина против России: услуги американских юристов уже обошлись в $28,3 млн". ukranews_com (in Russian). 2020-07-17. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "Covington Joins Forces With Qatar-Based Consulting Firm". November 17, 2008.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "Covington & Burling LLP | News | Covington Helps Australia Secure Unprecedented Visa Legislation". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  14. ^ "Covington Assisting South Korea on Visa Issue – The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times". 2012-11-20. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  15. ^ [2][permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Brandt, Allan M. (2007). The Cigarette Century: the Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America. New York Public Library: Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. pp. Numerous: Information appears 8-plus pages. ISBN 978-0-465-07047-3.
  17. ^ Kluger, Richard (1997). Ashes to Ashes: American's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris. New York Public Library: Vintage Books. pp. Numerous – Countless statements of this fact throughout entirety of publication. ISBN 978-0-375-70036-1.
  18. ^ Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: CORPORATE AFFAIRS CORPORATE COST REVIEW (wqq02a00)
  19. ^ "Full Text Case: United States of America v Philip Morris, 449 F.Supp.2d 1 (D.D.C. 2006)" (PDF).
  20. ^ "United States of America v Philip Morris USA Inc., et. al" (PDF). Department of Justice Case Library. 449 F.Supp.2d 1, D.D.C. 2006: Court Decision: Section VII, A, page 1500. August 17, 2006.
  21. ^ "United States of America v Philip Morris USA Inc. et. al" (PDF). Department of Justice Case Library. 449 F.Supp.2d 1, D.D.C 2006: Decision: Page 97 (Paragraphs #179 & #180). August 17, 2006.
  22. ^ "United States of America v Philip Morris USA, Inc. et. al" (PDF). Department of Justice Case Library. 449 F.Supp.2d 1, D.D.C. 2006: Court Decision: Introduction, Page 4. August 17, 2006.
  23. ^ "U.S. Court of Appeals Decision".
  24. ^ Health AM, October 28, 2004. (Revised June 14, 2011, by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  25. ^ "Marc Rich pardon may haunt Holder". Archived from the original on April 4, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2008.
  26. ^ Johnson, Carrie (November 19, 2008). "Holder is top pick for attorney general". Denver Post.
  27. ^ "Routine Maintenance". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  28. ^ "Covington & Burling LLP | Professionals | Stuart E. Eizenstat". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  29. ^ "Covington & Burling LLP | Professionals | Brian D. Smith". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  30. ^ "Covington & Burling LLP | Professionals". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  31. ^ "Covington & Burling LLP | Professionals". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  32. ^ "Covington & Burling LLP | Professionals | Bill Wichterman". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  33. ^ a b "Chris Christie bridge scandal: Documents show Port Authority chairman blasting executive director". 2014-01-10. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  34. ^ Josh Eidelson (2014-01-16). "Breaking: N.J. Senate will subpoena David Samson and Regina Egea in Bridge-gate probe". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  35. ^ "Bridge scandal: Port Authority chairman beefs up legal team". 2014-01-24. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ "Griffin V. Illinois | Findlaw". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  39. ^ Gary Emerling (2008-01-05). "Fenty arms self with new lawyer to defend gun ban". Washington Times.
  40. ^ Covington & Burling partner takes on defense of Guantanamo death penalty case May 29, 2008 The AmLaw Daily
  41. ^ "Public Service Activities 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  42. ^ Joe Palazzolo, Some Justice Department Lawyers Have Gitmo Conflicts March 02, 2009 Legal Times
  43. ^ [3]
  44. ^

External links[edit]