John J. Sullivan is a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington DC office and co-chair of the firm’s National Security practice. Over thirty years in private practice and in public service at the highest levels of the United States government, John has advised a broad array of clients on high-stakes matters around the world. He has held senior positions at the Justice, Defense, and Commerce Departments, advising the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Counsel to the President on the most sensitive legal and policy issues. He also has served as a senior adviser to four presidential campaigns.
Since originally joining Mayer Brown in 1993, John has focused his practice on the growing intersection of global trade/investment and US national security and foreign policies. He advises CEOs, general counsels, and other senior executives on US sanctions and export controls, international trade disputes and regulation, and foreign investment in the United States, the Middle East, Russia, and other countries. His clients include major oil and gas companies, consulting, accounting, and financial services firms, petrochemical companies, and manufacturers. He has represented these clients before executive departments and agencies of the US and foreign governments, as well as in litigation in the United States, where he has filed briefs and presented oral argument in courts across the country. His recent client matters include:
- Advising a global consulting firm on its operations in Russia and its compliance with US economic sanctions and export controls.
- Advising a multinational chemical company on re-establishing commercial operations in Iran in compliance with US law.
- Advising a professional services firm on entering the Cuban market in the wake of the changes in the US embargo.
- Advising a multinational manufacturing company on security policies and risk issues in countries with a high threat of terrorism, violence, and political instability.
- Representing a consortium of international oil and gas companies in negotiations with the Iraqi Government over a major oil project in southern Iraq.
In recognition of his extensive experience in the Middle East, John currently serves by appointment of the Obama Administration as Chairman of the US-Iraq Business Dialogue, an advisory committee on economic relations between the two countries.
John’s prior career in public service culminated in his nomination by the President to be US Deputy Secretary of Commerce in 2007. After unanimous confirmation by the Senate, John served as the chief operating officer of the Department’s 13 bureaus and 38,000 employees. He also served by appointment of the President on the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. As Deputy Secretary, John co-chaired the transparency component of the Bush Administration’s Strategic Economic Dialogue with China and was the senior Commerce representative with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson in Beijing in December 2008. He led trade missions with dozens of major US companies for greater access to foreign markets; participated by appointment of the President as a senior member of the US delegation to the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem in May 2008; and, as co-chair of the US delegation, moderated the discussions between business leaders and senior members of the Iraqi government at the Iraq Business Dialogue in Baghdad in November 2008. John also was the senior Commerce official participating in national security reviews by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Before serving as Deputy Secretary, John was the General Counsel of the Commerce Department following his nomination by the President and unanimous confirmation by the Senate. As chief legal officer, he oversaw the work of more than 400 lawyers in all aspects of the Department’s trade advocacy and litigation, export control policy and enforcement, and national security reviews by CFIUS. He also chaired the US-China Legal Exchange.
John began his service in the Bush Administration in February, 2004 at the Department of Defense, where Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld appointed him Deputy General Counsel. He was responsible for all of the Department’s litigation worldwide and provided counsel on major criminal and civil investigations, acquisitions, congressional oversight, and development of legal policy. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was awarded the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Exceptional Public Service.
John was a partner in Mayer Brown’s Supreme Court & Appellate practice prior to joining the Defense Department. He joined the firm after serving in 1992 as Deputy General Counsel of President George H. W. Bush’s re-election campaign.
Before working for President Bush, John served at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel in 1990-1991, where he was Counselor to Assistant Attorney General J. Michael Luttig, advised senior officials on legal issues arising out of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and provided legal advice to the FBI, CIA, Treasury Department, and White House Counsel’s Office.
John was a law clerk for Associate Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States, and for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the US Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit. He received his law degree in 1985 from Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Teaching Fellow, and Book Reviews Editor of the Columbia Law Review; and his bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1981 from Brown University.