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Joe D. Whitley

T: 404.223.2209
F: 404.238.9799
Washington, D.C.
T: 202.508.3436
F: 202.508.3402

Joe D. Whitley chairs the Firm's Government Enforcement and Investigations Group.

Featured Videos

Current Developments in U.S. Sanctions on Iran and Russia June 4, 2018
Campus Investigations: Protecting Legal Defenses While Uncovering the Truth August 17, 2017

Featured Experience

Represented numerous clients regarding bid rigging and kickback investigation by the Department of Justice.
Defended a U.S. publicly traded chemical company in a major environmental criminal investigation convincing the government that no criminal charges should be filed against the company.
Served as primary outside counsel for Homeland Security advice for major chemical company.

Professional Biography


Mr. Whitley represents clients nationally and internationally in white collar criminal matters and regulatory enforcement, corporate internal investigations, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and U.S. export controls and compliance. He also advises clients on corporate compliance, health care fraud and FDA-related matters.

Mr. Whitley has had a wide-ranging career in the Department of Justice (DOJ). During the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, he served as Acting Associate Attorney General, the third-ranking position at Main Justice. He was appointed by Presidents Reagan and Bush, respectively, to serve as the U.S. Attorney in the Middle and Northern Federal Districts of Georgia. Throughout his career, Mr. Whitley served under five U.S. Attorneys General and four Presidents in a number of key operational and policy positions. Earlier in his career, Mr. Whitley served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit in Columbus, Georgia. Mr. Whitley maintains strong professional relationships with the state and federal law enforcement community.

In 2003, Mr. Whitley was appointed by President George W. Bush as the first General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the highest ranking legal official at DHS. He held that position for two years working for DHS Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, before returning to private practice.

Mr. Whitley leads a team of lawyers in the Firm's Government Enforcement and Investigations practice group who conduct sensitive high level investigations for both public and private sector institutions. Mr. Whitley's practice focuses on corporate defense and representation of clients in complex civil and criminal enforcement matters brought by the DOJ, other federal agencies, State Attorneys General and local prosecutors. He has represented numerous individuals and corporations in major government investigations throughout the United States and internationally. Mr. Whitley is a frequent speaker on white collar, compliance and corporate governance issues.

Homeland Security Experience

  • General Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and responsible for providing legal advice to more than 180,000 employees of the Department.
  • Responsible for directing the creation of a single legal department from the legal departments of the 22 agencies that were combined in the formation of DHS.
  • Responsible for supervision of a total of 1,800 plus lawyers in agencies, directorates and offices, including attorneys in the following components, as these components were configured in 2006, of DHS:
    • U.S. Secret Service (USSS);
    • U.S. Coast Guard (USCG);
    • Transportation Security Administration (TSA);
    • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS);
    • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
    • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA);
    • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC);
    • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
    • The Directorates for Border and Transportation Security;
    • Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP);
    • Emergency Preparedness and Response and Science and Technology (PRST); and
    • The Offices for Privacy, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
  • Responsible for a budget in excess of $10 million in the front office of General Counsel.
  • Provided legal assistance to Secretary Tom Ridge and Secretary Michael Chertoff on key legal issues, such as:
    • Worked closely with General Counsel counterparts throughout the federal government at the White House, Departments of Justice; State, Treasury, Defense and other agencies to include the coordination of counterterrorism and federal law enforcement initiatives;
    • Responsible for responding to frequent Congressional inquiries, and the timely proposal and adoption of hundreds of regulations;
    • Provided guidance and input to staff attorneys representing the department in litigation on a variety of matters; and
    • Worked closely with the Office of the Inspector General in conducting reviews of various department programs and responding to issues raised by those reviews.

Private Sector Homeland Security Experience

  • Provides counsel to major corporations on public policy and legislative issues, such as:
    • Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) implementation;
    • SAFETY Act applications for certification and designation by DHS;
    • Disaster recovery and forward-looking mitigation strategies;
    • Cyber-security and critical infrastructure protection;
    • Immigration compliance;
    • Customs and trade compliance;
    • Laws and regulations affecting all segments of the transportation industry; and
    • Vulnerability assessments for members of the energy sector to include the broad spectrum of environmental regulations.
  • Assisted in Homeland Security consultation and internal investigations for major U.S. defense contracting company.
  • Assist companies with government procurement and contracting issues with DHS. 

Prosecution Experience

  • Assistant District Attorney
  • U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia
  • U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia
  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General Criminal Division
  • Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General
  • Acting Associate Attorney General
Representative Matters
  • White Collar Defense

  • Represented numerous clients regarding bid rigging and kickback investigation by the Department of Justice.
  • Defended a U.S. publicly traded chemical company in a major environmental criminal investigation convincing the government that no criminal charges should be filed against the company.
  • Served as primary outside counsel for Homeland Security advice for major chemical company.
  • Representation of health care providers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies/labs, etc. in qui tam Civil False Claims Act (FCA) investigations.
  • Representation of Urocor in FCA case – U.S. ex rel. Worner v. Urocor, Inc.

  • Represented a public school system in an internal investigation of land purchase practices.
  • Defended a metal manufacturer against alleged violations of The Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA).
  • Defended a municipal waste water utility in a Clean Water Act (CWA) investigation.
  • Defended a Middle East-based company against allegations of criminal and civil wrongdoing regarding U.S. government procurement.
  • Defended a former NBA athlete in a grand jury investigation and criminal RICO matter regarding allegations of money laundering.
  • Represented corporate employees in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation.
  • Represented a corporate employee in a criminal antitrust market allocation conspiracy investigation.
  • Represented a major food manufacturer regarding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violations in an FDA and Department of Justice criminal investigation of salmonella poisoning.
  • Represented several individuals in Presidential pardon matters.
  • Represented a client in a grand jury investigation handled by the Antitrust Division of DOJ regarding the antitrust and FCPA conduct of one of the world's leading tire and rubber companies
  • Defended a chiropractor in a criminal investigation of billing practices to Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Represented a major insurance carrier in a criminal grand jury investigation of commissions reporting practices and disclosure to customers.
  • Represented the City of Boulder, Colorado – Wolf v. Ramsey

  • Assisted one of the most renowned suppliers of corporate eLearning and eTraining content within German-speaking countries with Web-based training support on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
  • Advised a major university on business continuity issues and assisted with FEMA coordination to insure full recovery following Hurricane Katrina.
  • Advised a poultry company targeted in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid for immigration violations.
  • Worked with a number of public companies to structure and conduct internal investigations.
Professional Honors & Activities
  • Member, American Bar Association
    • Immediate Past President, Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section (2014 – 2015)
      • Chairman, Nominating Committee (2015 – present)
      • Liaison to Standing Committee on Law and National Security (2015 – 2016)
      • Chair (2013 – 2014)
      • Chair-Elect (2012 – 2013)
      • Vice Chair (2011 – 2012)
    • Chair, Fundraising Committee
    • Co-chairman, Homeland Security and National Defense Committee
    • Council Member
    • Member, Board of Governors Cybersecurity Legal Task Force
    • Member, Criminal Justice Section
      • Committee on International Criminal Law
      • Sentencing Committee
      • Former Council Member
    • Frequent Speaker, Sponsored Events
    • Member, Litigation Section, Antitrust Litigation Committee
  • After tenure at the Department of Homeland Security, founded and co-chaired the annual Homeland Security Law Institute, sponsored by the ABA Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section; Currently serves as chair of the Institute
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Administrative/Regulatory Law since 2001; White Collar Criminal Defense (2013 – 2015, 2018); Corporate Compliance Law (2017, 2018) 
    • "Top 100 Lawyers in Georgia" since 2011
  • Named the Best Lawyers' 2016 Atlanta Administrative/Regulatory Law "Lawyer of the Year"
  • Listed in Chambers USA: America's Leading Business Lawyers since 2013
  • Listed in Washington DC & Baltimore's Legal Leader, "Top Rated Lawyers" (2013)
  • Listed in Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers since 2012
  • Listed in Georgia Super Lawyers since 2010
  • Listed among the top 100 lawyers in Georgia by Georgia Super Lawyers (2015 – 2018) 
  • Listed in Georgia Trend magazine "Legal Elite" since 2008
  • Member of interdisciplinary group charged with making recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding the use of geospatial information, Final report submitted to DHS (Fall 2005)
  • AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Co-chair, advisory board for the Judge Alfred P. Murrah Center for Homeland Security Law and Policy, Oklahoma City University School of Law
  • Adjunct Professor, George Washington University Law School (GW), Homeland Security Law (2006)
  • Adjunct Professor, American University (AU), Washington College of Law, Homeland Security Law (2005)
  • Board Member, Federal Bar Association, Atlanta Chapter, Advisory Board
  • Member, Georgia State Bar Association
  • Member, District of Columbia Bar Association
  • Member, Federal Bar Association
  • Member, National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys (NAFUSA)
  • Member, Federalist Society, International & National Security Law Practice Group, Executive Committee
  • Recipient, Volunteer of the Year, Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section Admissions
  • Hon. Deputy Chief, Atlanta Police Department (APD)
  • Board Member, Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), Board of Directors
  • Elected, The Fellow of the American Bar Foundation (ABF)
  • Former Board Member, National Association of Former United States Attorneys (NAFUSA)
  • Co-chair of the Advisory Board, Judge Alfred P. Murrah Center for Homeland Security Law and Policy at Oklahoma City University School of Law
  • Chosen by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to serve as Chief Counsel to the Judicial Committee to investigate whether cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia were assigned improperly
  • Served as a member of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board that was responsible for structuring the 2000 U.S. Census. The issue was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, which accepted the approach recommended by the Board
  • Member of the team chosen to assist the Enron Corporation Examiner during bankruptcy proceedings and coordinate all criminal aspects of the case with the U.S. Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies
  • Former Member, Dow Chemical, Independent Advisory Panel to the Board
  • Participated in a special purpose advisory committee to review a number of issues related to homeland security and chemical plant security
  • Board of Visitors Advisory Board Member, University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA)
  • Board Member, Washington Legal Foundation (WLF), Legal Policy Advisory Board
Speaking Engagements
  • "National Institute on Health Care Fraud" (May 2018)
  • "Federal Bar Association's Current Issues in Government Investigations" (April 2018)
  • "The 32nd Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime" (February 2018)
  • "Georgia ICLE Health Care Fraud Institute" (December 2017)
  • Program Chair – "Health Care Fraud Institute," State Bar of Georgia - Institute of Continuing Legal Education (December 2017)
  • "Baker Donelson Compliance Symposium" (November 2017)
  • "Cybercon 2017" (October 2017)
  • "The Role of Lawyers in Cybersecurity," Homeland Security Law Institute, George Washington University, Washington D.C. (September 2017)
  • "The State of Homeland Security and the Rule of Law," National Security Program and the National Security Law Association, George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C. (September 2017)
  • "ABA Criminal Justice Section's Southeast White Collar Crime Institute" (September 2017)
  • Panelist – "2017 NACUA Annual Conference" (June 2017)
  • "Cybercon 2016" (September 2016)
  • "ABA Criminal Justice Section's Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute" (September 2016)
  • Panelist – "ABA's 30th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime" (March 2016)
  • "Georgia ICLE Criminal Practice Seminar" (February 2016)
  • "Nuts & Bolts of Criminal Practice," Georgia ICLE Criminal Practice Seminar (February 2016)
  • Panelist – "ABA Criminal Justice Section Global White Collar Crime Institute" (November 2015)
  • Panelist – "Plenary Session II – Cybersecurity," CJS International White Collar Crime Institute hosted by the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, London, United Kingdom (October 2015)
  • Panel Moderator – "ABA CJS Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute" (September 2015)
  • Panelist – "Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): Doing Business Internationally," 10th Annual ABA Homeland Security Law Institute (August 2015)
  • Panelist – "10th Annual ABA Homeland Security Law Institute" (August 2015)
  • Moderator – "Cybersecurity: A U.S. and Israeli National Security Perspective," Securing Your Future: Staying Ahead of Developments in Cybersecurity and its Impact on Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, Logistics, Health Care and Energy, Atlanta, Georgia (August 2015)
  • "Cybersecurity Forum with Israel and the American South," Atlanta, Georgia (August 2015)
  • Moderator – "ABA's 25th Annual Institute on Health Care Fraud" (May 2015)
  • Co-chair/Speaker – American Bar Association (ABA) Regional Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute, Atlanta, Georgia (January 2014)
  • Co-chair/Speaker – Georgia Bar ICLE Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Seminar, Atlanta, Georgia (2010-2013)
  • "Infrastructure to Support Your Investigation," American Conference Institute (ACI) 30th International Conference on the FCPA, Washington, D.C. (November 2013)
  • Co-chair/Speaker – Georgia Bar ICLE Annual Southeastern Health Care Fraud Institute, Atlanta, Georgia (2003-present)
  • "The Globalization of Enforcement Actions and International Investigations," 2nd Annual International White Collar Crime, London, UK (October 2013)
  • "Navigating Corporate Internal Investigations," American Corporate Counsel (ACC) Meeting (October 2013)
  • "You've Discovered and Investigated an FCPA Violation, Now What? Determining your Threshold for Voluntarily Disclosing and What to Do When Corruption Allegations Become Public Post – Disclosure," ACI FCPA Boot Camp, San Francisco, California (October 2013)
  • Chair/Speaker – ABA Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section Annual Homeland Security Law Institute (HSLI), Washington, D.C. (2005-present)
  • "Is There a Pathway to Citizenship?: Surveying the Current Status of Federal and State Immigration Reform," Georgia Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society (September 2013)
  • "Trends in FCPA and Anti – Bribery Enforcement," ABA 8th Annual Homeland Security Law Institute, Washington, D.C. (June 2013)
  • "Export Controls," GA ICLE FCPA Seminar (June 2013)
  • "Trial Practice Demonstration – U.S. v. Patel (W.D. La.)," American Bar Association's 23rd Annual National Institute on Health Care Fraud, Miami, Florida (May 2013)
  • "Federal Agents are in the Lobby: Preparing for & Responding to the Search of a Corporate Client," Georgia Bar ICLE White Collar Crime Institute (March 2013)
  • "Government Enforcement – Federal and State Health Care Fraud Initiatives," Georgia Bar ICLE Health Care Fraud Institute, Atlanta, Georgia (December 2012)
  • "Trial Practice Demonstration – State of Texas v. Khaled Jabboury," American Bar Association, 22nd Annual National Institute on Health Care Fraud (December 2012)
  • Co-chair/Speaker – Georgia Bar ICLE Corporate Internal Investigations Seminar, Atlanta, Georgia (January 2012)
  • "The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Defending the FCPA Case," Georgia Bar ICLE White Collar Crime Institute (January 2012)
  • "In-House Counsel in the Crosshairs? Personal Liability for Corporate Violations," Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia, Corporate Counsel Institute, Atlanta, Georgia (December 2011)
  • "Careers in National Security," ABA Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice Section Brown Bag Conference & Webinar, Washington, D.C. (October 2011)
  • "Trial Practice Demonstration – U.S. v. Fallah, et al (S.D. Texas)," The 21st Annual ABA National Institute on Health Care Fraud, Miami Beach, Florida (May 2011)
  • "Economic Sanctions and Export Controls," American Bar Association, 25th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime, San Diego, California (March 2011)
Press Releases
In the News


  • University of Georgia School of Law, J.D.
  • University of Georgia, B.A.


  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the Middle and Northern Districts of Georgia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
  • District of Columbia Court of Appeals
  • District of Columbia Superior Court
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Court of Appeals
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals

Joe Whitley of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC has expertise on internal investigations and the full range of white-collar criminal issues. He has notable experience advising on FCPA cases.

Joe Whitley of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC 'understands how the system works' and 'can interpret the nuances of a case,' observers note. His work in white-collar litigation and regulatory enforcement involves FCPA matters, internal investigations and export controls. 

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