A partner from Williams & Connolly has been tapped by News Corp. to serve as the company’s group general counsel. The partner, Gerson Zweifach, has experience in litigation, first amendment, media and patent law. He will hold the position of senior executive vice president of News Corp.
Zweifach is taking over for Janet Nova, who served as the interim general counsel for the previous six months. He will report directly to Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch.
Zweifach said that it was a tough decision to leave the firm that he worked at for close to 30 years.
“I’m part of the furniture here. It’s family,” he said of the firm. He also said that he is exited for the “unique opportunity to play an important role in this global media company at a critical time in their history.”
The biggest obstacle he will encounter is the investigation of the phone-hacking scandal by News Corp. He said that it is important for him to find out how and where the activities involved occurred and how they unfolded. He also said that he will put policies and procedures in effect to prevent this from ever happening again.
Zweifach will still work closely with his former firm, which represents News Corp.
Zweifach will be at the top of a team of attorneys that have been hired since the scandal broke back in the summer months. The legal team that has been working with News Corp. includes Joel Klein, the former head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division and Viet Dinh, from Bancroft.
The three attorneys will soon face the task of responding to criminal investigations in the United Kingdom and the United States. Lawsuits have been filed in both countries against News Corp. as well.
Zweifach developed a reputation as a seasoned attorney who handled crises for clients in and out of court while working at Williams & Connolly.
Zweifach defended former chief of the New York Stock Exchange Richard Grasso in one high-profile case. There was a lawsuit filed against Grasso by former New York State attorney general Eliot Spitzer. The suit was dismissed by the New York State Court of Appeals in 2008.
“He understands the intricacies of business situations and helps a client make good judgments outside the context of pure litigation,” Robert Barnett, a senior partner at Williams & Connolly, said. “Because of the work he’s done here, he has an extremely good understanding of how corporations work and the challenges they face, economic, regulatory, investigatory, litigation and public relations. He’s a counselor in the traditional sense, not just a litigator.”
“We worked on a lot of high profile cases where media attention is not unusual,” Steven Farina, a partner at Williams & Connolly, said. “The attention to that case was quite intense and the litigation with the AG’s office was hard fought. We are sorry to lose him, but I think he’ll be an extraordinary general counsel. If I needed a lawyer, he would be the first person I would hire.”
Rupert Murdoch added, “We are fortunate to have such a renowned attorney join our Company as we navigate the rapidly changing media landscape.”