Joan McPhee has more than two decades of experience representing companies and individuals in white collar criminal investigations and trials, as well as complex civil litigation and administrative enforcement matters. One of the nation’s preeminent white collar practitioners, Joan has been lauded for her handling of high-profile and high-stakes matters. She represents clients across a range of industries.
She was lead trial counsel for Kurt Mix, a drilling engineer, in a two-count felony obstruction of justice case related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mr. Mix was indicted in May 2012 and went to trial in December 2013 in federal court in the Eastern District of Louisiana. In November 2015, in response to a defense submission and three weeks before a scheduled re-trial, the Department of Justice dismissed all obstruction of justice charges against Mr. Mix.
Based in the firm’s 350-lawyer New York office, Joan is a leader of Ropes & Gray’s Sexual Misconduct & Workplace Harassment practice, and also the firm’s independent investigations group, which draws on the experience and know-how of former federal prosecutors to conduct thorough inquiries with the highest level of integrity.
She has handled numerous internal investigations across a range of matters, and recently co-led a 10-month independent investigation commissioned by the United States Olympic Committee into the abuse of elite and Olympic gymnasts by Larry Nassar. The investigation culminated in a detailed December 2018 public report addressing “who knew what when” and what was and was not done in response, as well as contributing cultural conditions and underlying factors in the decades-long abuse.
Throughout her career, Joan has been dedicated to public service—in government, in community organizations and in leadership roles on diversity and inclusion initiatives in the legal profession.
She has held numerous leadership positions at Ropes & Gray, serving for 10 years as a member of the firm’s governing policy committee, and for many years as head of the firm’s government enforcement practice. In addition, Joan co-chairs the firm's diversity committee. She also has served in a leadership role with the firm’s pro bono committee and participates in the Women’s Forum. She maintains an active pro bono practice, and she has spearheaded the firm’s partnerships with the Innocence Project and Lawyers Without Borders. Her work with Lawyers Without Borders has included traveling to Tanzania to train local justice officials on investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes.
Prior to joining Ropes & Gray, Joan served as an Assistant United States Attorney and Deputy Chief of the Appeals Unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. During her tenure as a federal prosecutor, in addition to conducting numerous investigations, Joan tried approximately a dozen cases involving a wide range of criminal conduct, including obstruction of justice, financial fraud, sexual exploitation of minors, racketeering and organized crime.
Publications & Presentations
- “Report of the Independent Investigation: The Constellation of Factors Underlying Larry Nassar’s Abuse of Athletes” (December 10, 2018)
- “Women in the Courtroom: A View from the Jury Box,” 30th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime (March 3, 2016)
- Quoted, “U.S. Bid to Prosecute BP Staff in Gulf Oil Spill Falls Flat,” The Wall Street Journal (February 26, 2016)
- Co-author, “DOJ's prosecutorial zeal led to Deepwater debacle,” The Houston Chronicle (January 5, 2015)
- "What Every Private Equity Professional Should Know About the Expanded Scope of Global Anticorruption Enforcement,” The Journal of Private Equity, Vol. 13, No. 4: pp. 73–85, Fall 2010
- “Corporate Prosecutions: The Survival Dilemma,”The National Law Journal, (January 21, 2008)
- “The Criminalization of Truthful, Non-Misleading Off-Label Promotion: Constitutional, Legal and Policy Concerns,” ABA Health Care Fraud Conference, May 2006
- “Deferred Prosecution Agreements: Ray of Hope or Guilty Plea By Another Name,” Inside Litigation, Winter 2006
- “Corporate Criminal Liability and Punishment in the 21st Century: Departures from Constitutional and Criminal Norms and Anomalies in Practice,” White Collar Crime, 2005
- “Willfulness Under the Federal Securities Laws and Intent-Based Defenses to Federal Securities Prosecutions,” White Collar Crime, 2001