Monday, November 29, 1999

NEWSMAKER - Turnaround specialist tapped to take on MMS

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The former U.S. prosecutor tapped by the Obama administration to lead a crackdown on the oil and gas industry in the wake of the Gulf oil spill is no stranger to taking on troubled agencies.The Interior Department on Tuesday said Michael Bromwich, who in the 1980s helped prosecute Oliver North in the Iran Contra scandal, will oversee the restructuring of the scandal-prone Minerals Management Service, responsible for overseeing offshore oil and gas production. He investigated the FBI during the Clinton administration and later, as a lawyer, helped probe police departments in Washington and Houston.With no strong ties to the energy industry or its regulators, Bromwich is an outsider the Obama administration will trust to shake up MMS."His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry's watchdog, not its partner," U.S. President Barack Obama said in his primetime address to the nation Tuesday night.MMS has come under fire for not doing enough to prevent the rig disaster that is ravaging the Gulf coast. Internal investigations in past few years have revealed a cozy relationship between the government agency and the companies it is supposed to oversee.Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said last month MMS will be split into to three separate divisions overseeing revenue collection, energy leasing, and safety enforcement.Bromwich, a Harvard University graduate, will be tasked with carrying out these plans. His position will not require Senate confirmation.In the 1980s Bromwich served as a federal prosecutor, helping to convict Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal. He served as inspector general for the U.S. Justice Department from 1994 to 1999, according to Interior officials.As inspector general Bromwich challenged the FBI, conducting investigations that "embarrassed" the bureau on a number of occasions, said former deputy U.S. Attorney General Philip Heymann.Bromwich worked under Heymann in late 1970s when Heymann was head of criminal division at the Justice Department and they have remained in touch. Heymann called Bromwich an inspired choice to lead the reorganization of MMS."He'll be willing to take whatever steps necessary to turn that organization around," Heymann said. "He doesn't worry about hurting feelings along the way."After leaving the federal government, Bromwich utilized his expertise in cleaning up troubled organizations in his post as head of the internal investigations group at Fried Frank law firm.During his time in the private sector, Bromwich acted as an independent monitor of Washington D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department in 2002 and headed an investigation of the Houston, Texas police department crime lab.(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by David Gregorio)
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