James M. Cole, a corporate defense lawyer who served as an independent monitor of American International Group Inc., is being vetted by the Obama administration for the No. 2 job at the Justice Department, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Cole, a partner at Bryan Cave LLP in Washington and a former Justice Department prosecutor, would replace former Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, who left office earlier this year. If nominated by President Barack Obama, Cole would need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Cole was an official with the Justice Department for 13 years before entering private practice, according to his law firm’s Web site. He served as deputy chief of the department’s public integrity section, which handles corruption cases involving public officials. Cole’s law practice includes advising companies on securities, regulatory and criminal law matters.
The person who confirmed Cole was being vetted wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. Cole declined to comment, as did Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman.
Cole was hired as part of a 2004 agreement with the government to monitor AIG’s regulatory compliance, financial reporting, whistle-blower protection and employee retention policies. He submitted confidential reports to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Prosecutors accused the company of violating accounting standards. AIG, a New York-based insurer, didn’t admit wrongdoing and agreed to pay $126 million in fines as part of a deal to avoid prosecution.
AIG was bailed out by the U.S. government in 2008. Cole’s assignment didn’t include probing the issues that led to the company’s near collapse, including credit-default swaps, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. The Journal also reported last year that Cole and his firm were paid about $20 million for their AIG oversight work.
Ogden returned to the law firm WilmerHale in Washington where he previously worked. Ogden and Attorney General Eric Holder “had a different view of the job” of deputy attorney general, said Jamie Gorelick, a partner at WilmerHale who is friends with Holder and Ogden, in an interview last year.
Cole’s vetting was reported earlier by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, citing unnamed people with knowledge of the matter.