A few years ago, Thomas Curran, a partner at construction law firm Peckar & Abramson, perceived an increasingly aggressive regulatory environment for his clients and the patchwork of federal, state and local authorities regulating them. That set off a firm-wide effort to bridge the sometimes-clashing interests of regulators and the regulated.
The result was the Construction Industry Compliance and Integrity Institute, a partnership with the Building Trades Employers' Association, a longtime client of the firm that represents New York City's trade union contractors and construction managers. A two-day forum in October sought to educate the construction industry on ever-changing, complex compliance requirements while helping law enforcement and elected officials understand how those regulations affect the industry. Since last fall, the association and Peckar & Abramson have held shortened versions of the event for clients and small groups across the city. A second forum will be held later this year.
Curran, 48, said his experiences in public service and private practice highlighted differences in how, for example, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission treats firms it oversees, and how regulators approach the construction industry.
Before coming to Peckar & Abramson, Curran served as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan under Robert Morgenthau, prosecuting securities fraud and complex white-collar criminal cases. He now advises public and private companies on regulatory compliance, white-collar criminal defense and internal integrity reviews.
Q: You have worked as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Does each call on the same set of skills? Was it difficult to make the transition to the private sector?
A: On criminal matters, whether as a prosecutor or as a defense lawyer, I was fortunate to be trained by some truly excellent people to be mindful that I am first and foremost an officer of the court. As such, my progression from private practice to prosecutor and back to private practice has not been difficult.
As an officer of the court my primary duty is to our system of justice. Having performed as both a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer in furtherance (hopefully) of the system has enabled me to be better in both roles, I believe. Having been a prosecutor provides me with a perspective of how a criminal investigation proceeds, how a target of an investigation (and the conduct in question) is viewed and whether and how a criminal case may ultimately be built and charged. This perspective enables me to better counsel clients involved in the criminal process.
Q: You recently were appointed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to a task force on the state's white-collar crime laws. Is there a need to change those laws?
A: It is a great honor to have been named to the New York State White-Collar Crime Task Force by District Attorney Vance. The task force consists of criminal justice professionals, including prosecutors, defense lawyers and academics, and it is a privilege to serve with such a talented group of people.
The task force is evaluating both the substantive and procedural law and statutes in an effort to make them more efficient and fairfor the prosecution and the individuals and companies that may be exposed to the criminal justice system. Any endeavor designed to make the criminal justice system more efficient and fair is important and I feel there is always a need to strive for that.