KAREN POPP is the global co-leader of the firm’s White Collar: Government Litigation and Investigations group. Karen’s practice focuses on high-stakes matters with legal, political, and public relations components, such as global internal investigations, defense against U.S. Department of Justice and SEC Enforcement investigations, Congressional investigations, OIG and State Attorney General actions, corporate compliance, and litigation. In the last year, Chambers Global and Chambers USA recognized Karen as a leader in the fields of White Collar and FCPA, National Law Journal named her a Crisis Leadership Trailblazer, Global Investigations Review named her a “Top 30 FCPA Practitioner in the U.S.A.,” Euromoney Expert Guides 2021 edition of the “Best of the Best USA,” named her a “Top 30 White Collar Crime” practitioner, and Benchmark Litigation named her a National White Collar Defense Star. Karen previously served as Associate White House Counsel to President Clinton, a lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, and an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York. She began her career on Wall Street.
Karen represents clients across a host of industries and often in crisis management situations. Her clients range from major corporations to prominent business, political, and sports figures, including a U.S. Presidential Cabinet Member, a Corporate CEO and a General Counsel, senior FBI official, an NFL team senior officer, and a Big Ten football coach. She has been retained to conduct confidential internal investigations in more than 70 countries, defend corporations and individuals in government investigations, and advise corporate boards and management relating to alleged FCPA and OFAC violations, securities and financial fraud, accounting irregularities, environmental crimes, kickbacks, tax fraud, qui tams, misuse of corporate assets, false claims, antitrust, corruption, fraud, whistleblower, “Me Too,” racial, gender, inequality, other misconduct claims and post-Dobbs related issues.
Her recent experience includes:
- Successfully obtained prosecutorial declinations for companies in significant criminal investigations.
- Represented numerous companies and individuals in connection with FCPA investigations before the Department of Justice and SEC. These large-scale investigations span dozens of countries across the globe.
- Successfully led a major international internal investigation into significant consumer fraud allegations against a major U.S. corporation.
- Successfully represented Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer related to an investigation into allegations arising from athletic department issues.
- Represented two major corporations and an executive in the auto industry in environmental and antitrust related investigations.
- Conducted global independent internal investigations into FCPA allegations at Key Energy and Statoil.
- Conducted internal investigations and advised corporate boards relating to claims of “Me Too,” racial, gender, inequality, and other misconduct by board members and senior officers.
- Represented Duke Energy in Clean Water Act prosecutions by DOJ over the company’s North Carolina coal ash ponds and oil spill into the Ohio River and in the antitrust resolution regarding Osprey Energy.
- Represented Laureate Education, Inc., one of the world’s largest higher education institutions, in connection with a qui tam action. After an extensive internal investigation and considerable engagement with the U.S. Department of Justice, successfully convinced DOJ to decline to intervene in the qui tam action and the relators subsequently dismissed the case.
- Assisted the investigation of the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation related to the inclusion of the organizations’ president, Alphonso David, in the New York Attorney General’s report of the investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
- Represented a senior officer at the National Football League (NFL) Washington Football Team, in an NFL investigation into the organization’s culture, policies, and allegations of workplace misconduct, including allegations of sexual harassment from 15 female former employees.
- Represented companies in State Attorney General investigations involving alleged false claims and qui tams.
- Successfully represented a U.S. presidential cabinet member in DOJ and congressional investigations.
- Karen is a member of the Sidley Austin Post-Dobbs Task Force and advises on issues arising from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Health.
Karen also assists clients in designing and enhancing corporate compliance and ethics programs, and currently serves as outside counsel to several corporate compliance departments. She has conducted global compliance and risk assessments for numerous U.S. and non-U.S. companies. Karen helps companies to respond to internal allegations of wrongdoing, conducts training for boards of directors, management, compliance departments and other company personnel, and conducts compliance due diligence regarding corporate acquisitions and joint ventures.
Repeatedly recognized for her work, The Legal 500 US notes that, “The ‘highly experienced and knowledgeable’ Karen Popp provides ‘expert and practical advice.’” Global Investigation Review named Karen as one of the “Top 100 Women in Investigations” in the world. Washingtonian magazine has named Karen to the Lifetime Achievement honor roll of “Top Lawyers Hall of Fame,” and repeatedly includes Karen in Washingtonian’s roster of “Top Lawyers in Washington” for Criminal Defense — White Collar. She has been recognized yearly by The Best Lawyers in America in Criminal Defense: White-Collar and Commercial Litigation and has been repeatedly named by Super Lawyers magazine as one of the Top 100 lawyers in Washington, a recognition based on a vote of peers. Karen is also listed in Who’s Who Legal: Thought Leaders in Investigations, Who’s Who Legal: Business Crime Defense and Who’s Who Legal: Investigations. Karen was selected in 2015 as one of the “Ethisphere Attorneys Who Matter” for making a significant difference in the ethics and compliance fields through the private practice of law. She has been named for several years to Benchmark Litigation’s “Top 250 Women in Litigation” list, a publication honoring the achievements of female lawyers in litigation practices in the United States, including most recently in 2022. Karen also was recognized by Benchmark Litigation as a Washington, D.C. “Litigation Star” (2022–2023). Super Lawyers magazine has repeatedly named her one of the “Top 50 Women Lawyers in Washington, D.C.” The recipient of the “First Annual Transformative Leadership Award” given by InsideCounsel Magazine in 2010, Karen also was the 2006 recipient of the “Star of the Bar” award by the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. She received the “Thurgood Marshall Award” given by the New York City Bar Association and was the first recipient of the “Laurie A. Miller Leadership Award” for the Advancement of Women in White Collar Defense. Karen also received the first-ever “GIR Award” for Services to Diversity. Karen has received two honorary doctorate degrees – a Doctor of Public Service from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Doctor of Laws from Converse University.
Before joining Sidley, Karen served as Associate White House Counsel to the President of the United States, where she advised President Clinton and the White House staff on congressional and grand jury investigations and domestic policy issues. She worked with senior administration officials at various federal agencies and congressional members and staffs on the administration’s policy initiatives.
Prior to joining the White House, Karen served in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice where she advised Attorney General Janet Reno and the Department, the White House and other agencies of the executive branch on a wide range of legal matters. Before moving to Washington, D.C., Karen was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, where she prosecuted RICO and other charges involving fraud, bribery, extortion, tax evasion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and perjury.
Karen was a commercial litigator in New York City for five years before joining the government. While on Wall Street, she represented corporations and investment banking firms in a wide range of litigation matters, including securities fraud and hostile corporate takeovers.
Karen graduated cum laude from the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she served as an editor on the North Carolina Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif. Upon graduation from law school, Karen clerked for the Honorable Sam J. Ervin III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. She received her undergraduate degree and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she graduated cum laude, and thereafter studied law at Oxford University before attending UNC School of Law.
A frequent speaker at national conferences and before various other groups, Karen has provided legal commentary on CNN, Fox News, and NPR, and served as a consultant on the television show The West Wing.