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Hon. Joe D. Whitley

Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP


Joe Whitley represents clients nationally and internationally in a variety of white collar matters including corporate internal investigations, regulatory enforcement, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and export controls compliance, corporate compliance, health care fraud and FDA-related matters, securities fraud, criminal antitrust, financial institution fraud, public corruption and campaign finance, and commercial bribery.

In addition to his years of private practice experience, Joe has served in several high-level roles with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 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 also appointed by Presidents Reagan and Bush, respectively, to serve as the U.S. Attorney in the Middle (Macon) and Northern (Atlanta) Districts of Georgia. Throughout his career, Joe served under five U.S. Attorneys General and four Presidents in a number of key operational and policy positions. Earlier in his career, he served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit in Columbus, Georgia. Joe maintains strong professional relationships with the state and federal law enforcement community.

In 2003, Joe was appointed by President George W. Bush as the first General Counsel for the 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. 

Joe's white collar 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 US and internationally. 

Joe’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 including price fixing and market allocation matters, and he has participated in compliance training programs for clients including sessions devoted to dealing with worldwide dawn raids.

He is a frequent speaker on white collar, compliance, corporate governance and DHS-related 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 and coordinating 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+ lawyers in agencies, directories, and offices, including attorneys in the following components of DHS (as configured in 2006):
    • 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);
    • Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP); 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

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

Prosecution Experience

  • U.S. Attorney for the Northern (Atlanta) District of Georgia
  • Acting Associate Attorney General
  • Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General
  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General Criminal Division
  • U.S. Attorney for the Middle (Macon) District of Georgia
  • Assistant District Attorney Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit