Diverse Partner Spotlight: John Smith

John Smith is co-head of Morrison & Foerster’s National Security practice, and a member of the Global Risk + Crisis Management Group and Investigations + White Collar Defense Group. Prior to joining the firm in July 2018, John served as Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), where he played a central role in developing, implementing, and enforcing U.S. government sanctions requirements. His inherent knowledge of economic sanctions, enforcement, and national security brings unmatched value to his clients and to the firm.

  • In two to three sentences, describe your practice. My practice focuses on economic sanctions, such as the U.S. sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea. Our sanctions team advises global financial institutions and corporations on the complex rules surrounding U.S., UN, EU, and other sanctions thereby helping our clients understand what they may and may not legally do and the legal and reputational risks associated with certain commercial activities or lines of business. We also assist individuals and companies when they are the focus of U.S. or other government investigations or enforcement activity with respect to sanctions compliance.
  • Why did you choose to make MoFo your professional home? I chose MoFo for a handful of reasons. One, I admire the global scope of the firm, which mirrors my view of the global impact of U.S. economic sanctions. Secondly, the firm has a proven track record of successfully integrating former government officials like me into its practice areas. MoFo also boasts excellent practice areas — such as anti-money laundering (AML) and investigations — that complement my own. I genuinely like the people here (as everyone knows, there is no one nicer than Nick Spiliotes!) and last, but certainly not least, it maintains a well-known and demonstrable commitment to diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion that I admire and want to support.
  • How do clients benefit from having diverse teams of lawyers working for them? Despite today’s political rhetoric, I strongly believe that diversity — of culture, background, religion, nationality, age, language, marital status, and sexual orientation, among others — makes us stronger, as a firm, a nation, and a world community. I bring a certain unique experience to the firm based on my U.S. government career, but also in my experience as a gay man from a blue collar family in the Midwest. And I believe our diversity in experiences makes the firm better able to communicate with and serve our clients.