Joe Whitley is the Chair of the firm's White Collar Defense, Investigations and Regulatory Enforcement practice. He 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. 

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

Representative Experience

Any result the lawyer or law firm may have achieved on behalf of clients in other matters does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. 

  • Represented numerous clients regarding bid rigging and kickback investigation by the Department of Justice.
  • Defended a 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 FCA case – U.S. ex rel. Worner v. Urocor, Inc.
  • Represented a public school system in an internal investigation of land purchase practices.
  • Defended a metal manufacturer against alleged violations of The Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA).
  • Defended a municipal waste water utility in a Clean Water Act (CWA) investigation.
  • Defended a Middle East-based company against allegations of criminal and civil wrongdoing regarding U.S. government procurement.
  • Defended a former NBA athlete in a grand jury investigation and criminal RICO matter regarding allegations of money laundering.
  • Represented corporate employees in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation.
  • Represented a corporate employee in a criminal antitrust market allocation conspiracy investigation.
  • Represented a major food manufacturer regarding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violations in an FDA and Department of Justice criminal investigation of salmonella poisoning.
  • Represented several individuals in Presidential pardon matters.
  • Represented a client in a grand jury investigation handled by the Antitrust Division of DOJ regarding the antitrust and FCPA conduct of one of the world's leading tire and rubber companies.
  • Defended a chiropractor in a criminal investigation of billing practices to Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Represented a major insurance carrier in a criminal grand jury investigation of commissions reporting practices and disclosure to customers.
  • Represented the City of Boulder, Colorado – Wolf v. Ramsey
  • Assisted one of the most renowned suppliers of corporate eLearning and eTraining content within German-speaking countries with Web-based training support on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
  • Advised a major university on business continuity issues and assisted with FEMA coordination to ensure full recovery following Hurricane Katrina.
  • Advised a poultry company targeted in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid for immigration violations.
  • Worked with a number of public companies to structure and conduct internal investigations.
  • Representation of numerous health care practices and individuals, as well as hospital systems, in connection with state and federal investigations concerning allegations of health care fraud, including compounding pharmacy matters, false claims matters, kickbacks, and other business practices.
  • Represented two corporate principals in an obstruction prosecution in connection with Berry Amendment violations.
  • Represented a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor charged with Espionage Act violations.
  • Represented scientist in a federal criminal prosecution investigated by the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (DHS ICE HSI), Department of Commerce (BIS), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and prosecuted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) resulting in a declination to prosecute and dismissal of charges.
  • Served as lead counsel in a government investigation into the alleged sale of adulterated health products in violation of federal law.
  • Served as Special Master in a case arising from the City of Atlanta Police Department’s raid on a night club.  As Special Master, helped settle disputes between the parties and enforced the city's compliance with court-mandated changes in, among other things, search and seizure training.
  • Represented an individual in criminal and tax matters related to the seizure of a large sum of cash by the United States Customs and Border Patrol at an international airport.

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;

Professional & Civic Engagement

  • Advisory Board Member, The National Security Institute at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School
  • Member, American Bar Association
    • Past President, Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section (2014 – 2015)
      • Chairman, Nominating Committee (2015)
      • Liaison to Standing Committee on Law and National Security (SCOLNS) (2015 – 2021)
      • Chair (2013 – 2014)
      • Chair-Elect (2012 – 2013)
      • Vice Chair (2011 – 2012)
    • Co-Chairman, Homeland Security, Terrorism & Treatment of Enemy Combatants Committee (HSTTEC)
    • Former Council Member
    • Former Member, Board of Governors Cybersecurity Legal Task Force
    • Member, Criminal Justice Section
      • Former Council Member
    • Member, Litigation Section, Antitrust Litigation Committee
  • Founder and Chair, Homeland Security Law Institute, sponsored by the ABA Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section (2006 – Present)
  • Founding Member, The Pennington Society, Atlanta Police Foundation
  • Adjunct Professor, George Washington University Law School, Homeland Security Law, 2006
  • Adjunct Professor, American University (AU), Washington College of Law, Homeland Security Law, 2005
  • Adjunct Professor, University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), 2020
  • Senior Fellow, McCrary Institute at Auburn University
  • Board Member, Federal Bar Association, Atlanta Chapter, Advisory Board
  • Co-Chair, Georgia State Bar Health Care Fraud Institute, December 2007 – Present
  • Member, Georgia State Bar Association
  • Member, District of Columbia Bar Association
  • Member, Federal Bar Association
  • Member, National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys 
  • Member, Atlanta Lawyers Club
  • Member, American Health Law Association

Honors & Awards

  • Chambers USA Ranked Lawyer, Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations, Georgia (2013 - Present)
  • Named the Best Lawyers® "Lawyer of the Year" in Administrative/Regulatory Law - Atlanta (2016, 2019, 2021, 2023) 
  • Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America (BL Rankings), Administrative/Regulatory Law (2010 - Present), White Collar Criminal Defense (2013 - 2015, 2018 - Present), Corporate Compliance Law (2017 - Present), Litigation: Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy) (2020 - Present), Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions - Defendants (2021 - Present) 
  • Recognized in Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers (Thompson Reuters) (2012-2024)
  • Recognized in Georgia Super Lawyers (Thompson Reuters) (2010-2024)

Thought Leadership


  • Author, “Fine Tuning the Guidelines—Again,” Federal Sentencing Reporter, December 1, 2022
  • Co-Author, "The Distinction Between and Response to Human Trafficking and Smuggling," Council on National Security and Immigration, November 2022
  • Co-Author, “DOJ Signals Expanded Use of Independent Monitors for Corporate Criminal Enforcement,” Corporate Compliance Insights, June 8, 2022
  • Author, “The Firmest Pillar: The Argument for an Independent Investigation Into the Supreme Court Leak,” National Law Journal, June 9, 2022
  • Co-Author, "Reassessing the Overexpansion of RICO in White Collar Cases," The White Collar Crime Committee Newsletter, ABA Criminal Justice Section, Winter/Spring 2022
  • Co-Author, "How to Handle Congressional Queries on COVID-19 Relief," Law360, June 17, 2020
  • Co-Author, "A Prisoner's Dilemma: COVID-19 and Motions for Compassionate Release," Westlaw, May 28, 2020
  • Co-Author, "Feds Crack Down on Hoarding of Scarce Materials and Price Gouging Due to COVID-19," Daily Business Review, April 7, 2020
  • Co-Author, "Department of Justice, States, SEC Pursue COVID-19 Enforcement Actions," Daily Business Review, April 2, 2020
  • Co-Author, "Winter 2019 U.S.-China Cybersecurity Update," Global Trade, November 2019
  • Co-Author, "Foreign Investment Restrictions Update: New CFIUS Implementing Regulations Proposed by Treasury," Global Trade, October 2019
  • Co-Author, "Economic Espionage and the U.S.-China Trade War," Global Trade, July 2019
  • Co-Author, "INSIGHT: What Lawyers Can Learn About Lawyers from the Mueller Report," Bloomberg Law, May 2019
  • Opinion, "Senate Should Confirm Jeffrey Rosen as Deputy Attorney General," Fox News, April 2019
  • Co-Author, "INSIGHT: The Looming Litigation Buried in the Mueller Report," Bloomberg Law, March 2019
  • Author, "George H.W. Bush Appeared on a 1976 Sunday Talk Show. It Changed a Georgia Lawyer's Life," Daily Report, December 2018
  • Co-Author, "Manafort Plea Reminds Us Of Whitewater," Law360, September 2018
  • Co-Author, "Cybersecurity Public Private Partnerships: Challenges and Opportunities," Law Journal Newsletters' Cybersecurity Law & Strategy, February 2017


  • Moderator, "General Counsel Roundtable on Health Care Fraud and the False Claims Act Liability," Health Care Fraud Seminar hosted by the Georgia State Bar, December 7, 2023
  • Panelist, "Exploring Cross-Border Privilege Issues," Womble Bond Dickinson CLE, October 26, 2023
  • Co-Host, "White Collar Talks with Nina and Joe," The JustPod, September 27, 2023
  • Co-Host, "White Collar Talks: Scott Schools," The JustPod, August 16, 2023
  • Co-Presenter, "Maintaining Business Continuity in Disasters: GEMA and FEMA," ACC Georgia Chapter Meeting, August 8, 2023
  • Panelist, Federal Bar Association’s Third Annual Government Investigations Seminar, May 22, 2023
  • Moderator, Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP’s First Annual Health Care Fraud Symposium, March 14, 2023
  • Co-Presenter, “Immigration Compliance in the Real World,” The Association of Corporate Counsel, Compliance and Ethics Network Monthly Membership Meeting, March 15, 2022
  • "American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section's Annual Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute," September 2021
  • "The Evolving Foreign Trade Risks Under the Process Established for the Operation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)," Mackrell International, August 2021
  • "Evolving Foreign Trade Risks Under CFIUS: What Lies Ahead?," Celesq/West LegalEdCenter Webcast, February 2021
  • "January 6th: A Review of Criminal Liability," The JustPod, January 2021
  • "A Virtual Conversation with Joe D. Whitley," The Young Lawyers Division Litigation Committee of the State Bar of Georgia, December 2020
  • "Courting Trouble? How IoT Attracts Litigation and Liability," ABA IoT 2020 Virtual National Institute, September 2020
  • "Congress Cares (Act): Expect Oversight Investigations," Celesq® Webcast, July 2, 2020
  • Panelist – "Watching the Terror Watchlist," International & National Security Law Practice Group Teleforum, The Federalist Society, April 17, 2020
  • 34th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime, March 2020
  • Georgia State Bar White Collar Crime, January 2020
  • "The American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section's Eighth Annual London White Collar Crime Institute," October 2019
  • "Through the Looking Glass: A Glimpse at International Criminal Enforcement in 2019," American Bar Association (Criminal Justice Section) Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute, Braselton, Georgia, September 2019
  • Panel Moderator, "Protecting Critical Infrastructure," 13th Annual Homeland Security Law Institute, Arlington, Virginia, May 2019

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