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May 04, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Sandra Moser, Principal Deputy Chief, Fraud Section, U.S. Department of Justice

  Name: Sandra Moser
  Job Title: Principal Deputy Chief, Fraud Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
  Drinker Biddle practice and years: Litigation Group, 2002-2004
  Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, A.B. 1998; Northwestern University School of Law, J.D. 2002
  Hobbies, Family, Civic Activities: Spending time with friends and family, including her two children, ages 1 and 2

Sandra Moser loves the fact that she has one client to fight for every day.

“It’s been the pride of my career to represent the people of the United States in all sorts of matters,” she said.

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Department of Justice, Sandra currently serves as the Principal Deputy Chief of the Fraud Section in Washington, D.C. As the Section’s second in command, she oversees more than 150 lawyers across three litigating units — the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Unit, the Health Care Fraud Unit and the Securities & Financial Fraud Unit — as well as administrative staff and attorneys working in the Strategy, Policy & Training Unit.

A change in direction

Sandra double majored in Journalism and Women’s Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, preparing for a broadcast journalism career after graduation. But, she realized it could be a long time before she would be judged based on intellect or work ethic as the feedback she received on her audition tapes tended to focus less on ability and more on appearance. Having always had an interest in the law and recognizing that many of the same skills that make a good journalist make a great lawyer, Sandra took the LSAT and gave herself a year to move to a new city and contemplate whether law school was the right choice. She moved to Chicago, where she worked in public relations and business development for internet start-up Cars.com before deciding to attend Northwestern University School of Law.

Sandra was a summer associate at Drinker Biddle as a 1L and, following a clerkship with the late U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, she returned to practice with the firm as a litigation associate in the Philadelphia office in 2003.  Working in the white-collar practice provided her the opportunity to observe and learn from former federal prosecutors, including Mike Holston. Sandra was part of a Drinker Biddle team that represented dozens of City of Philadelphia employees in the federal corruption investigation that followed the discovery of a bug in Mayor Street’s office in the Fall of 2003.

“I was extremely lucky in that, despite my relative inexperience, I was given some great opportunities to work on some major federal corruption investigations that were being initiated out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office at that time,” she said. “The opportunity to be taken seriously by my Drinker colleagues and adversaries in the prosecutor’s office, to be given real substantive work that mattered, representing people and responding to subpoenas in what was a high-profile investigation, was a highlight for me.”

The DOJ Fraud Section

Sandra left the firm to clerk for the Honorable Marjorie O. Rendell of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004 and soon thereafter moved to Manhattan to return to government service as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Newark, New Jersey. She served in that office for six years, where she worked in several units, including the Special Prosecutions Division, which focused on prosecuting corrupt politicians. In 2012, she accepted an offer to do a “detail” to the Fraud Section in Washington D.C., where she spearheaded investigations into complex financial matters such as manipulation of the LIBOR and foreign exchange markets, among other matters.  Sandra has been there ever since.

Though Sandra currently helps oversee all three of the Fraud Section’s litigating units, she has a particular concentration on the FCPA unit. All of the Section’s units are busy, Sandra said, as reflected by the fact that in any given week their efforts often make headlines in national and international publications as they work with partners at home and overseas to fight corruption and bring to light other complex schemes to defraud. In 2016, the Fraud Section charged 300 individuals, convicted 201 individuals and obtained 15 corporate resolutions. The Section also collected $1.51 billion in corporate U.S. criminal fines, penalties and forfeiture, and total resolution amounts payable to U.S. and foreign authorities of $7.8 billion.

“The productivity of our attorneys, the quality of the prosecutions that we’re bringing and the significance in terms of the eyes of the world, all of that is what I’m most proud of,” she said. “It’s really astounding when you look at the group of lawyers that we have here on just these few floors of this one building in D.C. and consider what comes out of here. In the first few months of 2017 alone, we have reached resolutions in the billions of dollars with corporate offenders, as well as charged dozens of individuals with FCPA, health care fraud and other financial fraud offenses. You would think that we have a thousand people here dedicated to pursuing justice when you look at the results.”

Although a change in presidential administrations can create uncertainty for some in Washington D.C., Sandra said that, for her, at the end of the day the fundamental mission of the DOJ to pursue justice on behalf of the American people never changes. One of the things that keeps her job fascinating and fulfilling is the complexity of cases and consistently having to learn new industries, new practices and work with new people from all walks of life. In many ways, it’s similar to private practice, Sandra said, because you never know who is going to walk through the door or what kinds of problems clients will bring you, but it is your job to become an expert and tackle them.

Practicing at Drinker Biddle was a formative experience, Sandra said, and one which put her on the path to where she is today. When applying to law school, she wrote in her admissions essay about her expectation that she would become a family law attorney. After only two semesters of law school and one summer with Drinker Biddle, she felt her path had to include significant time serving as a federal prosecutor. Because of this, she focused on building her resume and experience toward that goal, which included internships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and frequent nagging of former Drinker colleagues for advice regarding how to reach her goal. The opportunity Drinker Biddle afforded to work on cases and be trusted to have good enough judgment to engage on important matters was extremely meaningful, Sandra said, but emphasized that the most important skill for any lawyer, especially a young one, is recognizing and admitting what you don’t know (which, when you are young, is pretty much everything) and asking for advice and mentorship.

“I think that’s a challenge for many people and one of the most important lessons for any person — to have the humility, judgment and insight to know that the time it takes to knock on someone’s door to have a learning and a teachable moment is well worth it, rather than thinking you know what’s right or know what you’re doing and just being in over your head,” she said. “My time at the firm helped me walk both of those lines.”

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