Politics & Government

Treasurer Bill Lockyer has signed on with an Irvine law firm

With a year left in his term, California’s top fiscal official has taken a second job.

Boston-based Brown Rudnick LLP announced that state Treasurer Bill Lockyer will be “of counsel” in the firm’s recently opened Irvine office, where he will be part of the government law and strategies team. Lockyer’s hiring comes six months after the Democrat, who has held state elective office continually since winning a 1973 special election for Assembly, announced that he will retire from state service after his current term as treasurer.

In an interview Tuesday, Lockyer said he is looking forward to the Brown Rudnick work but emphasized that his treasurer’s duties come first.

“They understand that my primary responsibility is that I’m treasurer,” Lockyer, 72, said of his Brown Rudnick colleagues. He described the job “as sort of a toe in the water for someone who’s been in the public sector since I was in my early 20s. This is a transition so there is less of a cliff effect in a year.”

Lockyer is paid $139,189 annually as treasurer, following a raise of almost $7,000 earlier this month. His office declined to disclose his pay rate at Brown Rudnick; his earnings will be disclosed on his annual statement of economic interest, spokesman Tom Dresslar said.

The treasurer’s office oversees management of the state’s assets, its banking, and financial matters such as bond sales and other borrowing. Lockyer also sits on dozens of boards and commissions related to those roles.

Lockyer, though, said he is confident that his new job will not pose any conflict-of-interest problems. Brown Rudnick has no clients that do business with the treasurer’s office, he said, and has only a modest presence on the West Coast, one of the reasons Lockyer said he was attracted to the firm.

“I have a personal screen against any conflict,” he said, noting that the firm has its own safeguards. He added that he does not know how often he will work in Irvine. His wife, Nadia, and son live in Long Beach; the couple also have a home in the Bay Area.

Full-time lawmakers can have other sources of income, which must be disclosed annually. There have been many lawmakers over they years who have bolstered their legislative pay with outside legal work.

Lockyer, though, is the only statewide elected official in memory who has had outside legal clients. The Brown Rudnick position extends a practice that began in 1989, when Lockyer began working part time for the Hayward law firm of Furtado, Jaspovice and Simons. The of-counsel job ended in 1998, when Lockyer became attorney general, because state rules limit outside employment for the state’s top legal officer. Lockyer rejoined Furtado, Jaspovice and Simons when he became treasurer in 2007 and it continued until earlier this year.

The relationships sometimes end abruptly. Last month, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg quit his of-counsel job with a Los Angeles law firm after learning that its clients included the son of a medical firm executive who is a figure in an ongoing political corruption investigation. A Steinberg spokesman, Mark Hedlund, said then that the Democratic leader was brought on to establish a private-sector mediation practice, but Steinberg’s schedule had prevented him from spending much time on the project.

Bob Stern, who co-wrote the 1974 Political Reform Act that included provisions dealing with politicians’ outside work, said he is surprised that Lockyer has accepted the part-time job because of the potential for problems.

“He’ll have to be very careful and I’m sure he will be,” Stern said.

Brown Rudnick clients include Fortune 500 corporations, real-estate investment firms, hedge funds, and people working on international business issues. It recently defended Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in an insider-trading case filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Lockyer said he does yet know which Brown Rudnick clients he will work with. Ron Rus, the head of the Brown Rudnick’s Irvine office, said Lockyer’s experience “will be of enormous importance” to the firm’s clients.

“Bill will become an integral part of our strategic plan to grow our Orange County office, and to diversify the depth and range of legal services offered to our clients,” Rus said in a statement.