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Joe D. Whitley


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

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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's practice also includes representation of clients before the Antitrust Division of the DOJ together with State Attorneys General and the Federal Trade Commission. He has represented clients in criminal antitrust cases to include price fixing and market allocation matters, and he has participated in compliance training programs for clients to include sessions devoted to dealing with worldwide dawn raids.

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.
  • Representation of numerous health care practices and individuals, as well as hospital systems, in connection with state and federal investigations concerning allegations of health care fraud, including compounding pharmacy matters, false claims matters, kickbacks, and other business practices.

  • Represented two corporate principals in an obstruction prosecution in connection with Berry Amendment violations.

  • Represented a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor charged with Espionage Act violations.

  • Represented scientist in a federal criminal prosecution investigated by the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (DHS ICE HSI), Department of Commerce (BIS), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and prosecuted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) resulting in a declination to prosecute and dismissal of charges.

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 – 2020); Corporate Compliance Law (2017 – 2020); Litigation - Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy) 
    • "Top 100 Lawyers in Georgia" since 2011
  • Named the Best Lawyers' 2019 and 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
  • Founding Member, The Pennington Society, Atlanta Police Foundation
  • 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)
  • Senior Fellow, McCrary Institute at Auburn University
  • 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)
  • Non-Resident Fellow (NRF), The Center for International Trade & Security (CITS), University of Georgia
  • 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
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's 'work and touch with clients and prosecutors is outstanding,' says one source. Whitley works on complex white-collar criminal matters for a range of clients. He is adept at handling internal investigations, FCPA work and a wide variety of regulatory enforcement matters.

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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