Joe D. Whitley - Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC

Joe D. Whitley

Listed in Best Lawyers since 2001
Phone: 404-589-3415

Joe D. Whitley chairs the Atlanta White Collar Criminal Defense Practice. He represents clients nationally and internationally in a variety of matters, including white collar criminal matters and regulatory enforcement, corporate internal investigations, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and U.S. export controls and compliance as well as corporate compliance, health care fraud and FDA-related matters.

Joe has had a wide-ranging career in the Department of Justice. In the George H.W. Bush administration, Joe served as the Acting Associate Attorney General, the third-ranking position at Main Justice in the Department of Justice. He was appointed by Presidents Reagan and Bush, respectively, to serve as the United States Attorney in the Middle (Macon) and Northern (Atlanta) Federal Districts of Georgia. Throughout his career, Joe served under five United States 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.

In 2003, Joe was appointed by President George W. Bush as the first General Counsel of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the highest ranking legal official in DHS. He held that position for two years working for Secretary Tom Ridge and Secretary Michael Chertoff, before his departure and return to private practice.

Corporate defense and representation of clients in complex civil and criminal enforcement matters brought by the Department of Justice, other federal agencies, State Attorneys General and local prosecutors is the focus of Joe Whitley’s practice. Joe has represented numerous individuals and corporations in major government investigations throughout the United States and internationally. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer on white collar, compliance and corporate governance issues.

Joe has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America from 2001-2014. He was selected by Super Lawyers magazine, and Georgia Super Lawyers from 2010-2013 and listed as one of the "Top 100 Lawyers in Georgia" from 2011-2014. Joe is also listed as one of "Georgia's Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend magazine, 2008-2014. He was selected by Super Lawyers magazine for Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers in 2012-2013.

University of GeorgiaBA 1972University of Georgia School of J.D. 1975
Federalist Society, International & National Security Law Practice Group, Executive CommitteeNational Association of Former U.S. Attorneys (NAFUSA)Federal Bar AssociationDistrict of Columbia Bar AssociationCriminal Justice SectionAmerican Bar AssociationGeorgia State Bar AssociationFederal Bar Association, Atlanta Chapter, Advisory Board

Case History

Other Court Admissions
  • 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
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia


Areas of Concentration
  • White collar criminal defense
  • Internal investigations
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)
  • Health care fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Environmental crime
  • Criminal antitrust
  • Financial institution fraud
  • Public corruption and campaign finance
  • Commercial bribery
  • Defense procurement fraud
  • Bankruptcy fraud
  • Computer and Internet fraud
  • Criminal tax
  • Regulatory enforcement matters
  • Export control matters
  • Defense and homeland security
  • Legislation and public policy
White Collar Defense
  • Representation of numerous clients regarding bid rigging and kickback investigation by the Department of Justice.
  • Representation of 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 False Claims Act (FCA) case - U.S. ex rel. Worner v. Urocor, Inc., 15 No. 3 Andrews Gov’t Cont. Litig. Rep. 12 Andrews Government Contract Litigation Reporter, August 2, 2001.
  • Representation of public school system in an internal investigation of land purchase practices.
  • Representation of metal manufacturer for alleged violations of The Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA).
  • Representation of municipal waste water utility in Clean Water Act (CWA) investigation.
  • Representation of Middle Eastern-based company regarding alleged criminal and civil wrongdoing regarding U.S. government procurement.
Part 2

  • Representation of former NBA athlete in a grand jury investigation and criminal RICO matter regarding allegations of money laundering.
  • Representation of corporate employees in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation.
  • Representation of corporate employee in a criminal antitrust market allocation conspiracy investigation.
  • Representation of global marketing and technology client providing comprehensive, end-to-end gaming solutions to the multibillion-dollar lottery and pari-mutuel racing industries.
  • Representation of major food manufacturer regarding FDA violations in an FDA criminal grand jury investigation of salmonella poisoning.
  • Representation of Italian-based, multinational catering and retail company providing general legal advice on business conduct/due diligence, assisting in an internal investigation, and acting as lead counsel for company to identify and coordinate counsel for individuals in federal grand jury investigation.
  • Representation of several individuals in Presidential pardon matters.
  • Representation of client in a grand jury investigation handled by the Antitrust Division of DOJ regarding the antitrust & FCPA conduct of one of the world’s leading tire and rubber companies.
  • Representation of chiropractor in grand jury investigation of billing practices to Medicare and Medicaid.
Part 3
  • Represented major insurance carrier in criminal grand jury investigation of commissions reporting practices and disclosure to customers.
  • Represented City of Boulder, CO - Wolf v. Ramsey, 253 F.Supp.2d 1323, 2003 WL 1821525, 61 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1715, N.D.Ga. March 31, 2003 (No. CIV.A.1:00-CV-1187-J).
  • Assisted one of the most renowned suppliers of corporate eLearning and eTraining content within German-speaking countries with Web-based training support on FCPA.
  • Following Hurricane Katrina, represented a major university in business continuity issues and coordination with FEMA to insure full recovery.
  • Representation of poultry company targeted in an ICE raid for immigration violations.
  • Worked with a number of public companies to structure and conduct internal investigations.
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 the Department.
  • 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.
Part 2
  • 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.
  • 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.
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.
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

Client Comments

"Greenberg Traurig and Joe Whitley are an unparalleled pair. Joe's experience, coupled with the resources and other members of Greenberg Traurig to draw from, gives my firm an advantage that cannot be overcome by our competitors."

-Michael W. Olvey
The Sam Group, LLC

"Mr. Joe Whitley has an outstanding staff and provides truly outstanding service. He is highly professional, prompt, and pleasant. What more could you ask for!"

"Joe Whitley provides thorough, intelligent, and understandable advice. He has outstanding negotiation skills and proved himself trustworthy and resilient. What impressed me was how he immersed himself in the project and how quickly he gained both a macro and micro perspective. I have the utmost respect for Joe and highly recommend him."

-Richard Schalter
Self-Employed

"It is reassuring in our international environment to have the confidence and counsel of Joe's wisdom."

Office Location

Monarch Plaza, Suite 1600
3414 Peachtree Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30326
United States


Lawyer of the Year Awards

2016 Lawyer of the Year in Administrative / Regulatory Law of the Atlanta Metro Area
Joe D. Whitley has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2016!

Practice Areas

Administrative / Regulatory Law
Corporate Compliance Law