Former FBI Director Freeh thrust back into spotlight as Penn State investigator

Story highlights

  • Freeh says he will take the Penn State investigation "wherever it may lead"
  • He was appointed by trustees to investigate legal and ethical issues in the case
  • Freeh was FBI director from 1993 until 2001
  • He was promised "complete independence" in the Penn State probe

Spotlights are shining brightly on Louis Freeh's law firm as the former FBI director opens his investigation into how Penn State University officials handled child sex abuse allegations against a former football coach.

Freeh's widely recognized reputation among acquaintances and former colleagues as an unwavering "Boy Scout" and a "straight arrow" in his FBI and legal career appears to be serving him well now that he leads the firm that bears his name. Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan, which features three former federal judges as named partners, is immediately recognizable to lawyers and political insiders.

Freeh was a judge in New York before taking the helm of the FBI in 1993, while Stanley Sporkin and Eugene Sullivan served for years on the federal bench in Washington.

In announcing the appointment for the internal Penn State probe, Kenneth Frazier, chairman of the special committee of the board of trustees, introduced Freeh as "a man of complete integrity, independence and objectivity."

Freeh was promised "complete independence," and he promised he would "take the investigation wherever it may lead."

This week, his office declined to provide any information about the status of the investigation, only that Freeh personally is "fully engaged" in the probe.

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A spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said Wednesday there had been no difficulties between the state law enforcement officials working the criminal investigation and investigators for the Freeh team, which is examining ethical and legal issues and recommending action to assure no repeat of the scandal.

    In 2007, Freeh founded Freeh Group International Solutions, a consulting firm affiliated with the law practice. Headquarters is in Wilmington, Delaware, with offices in New York and Washington.

    Friends say despite his professional successes, Freeh, 61, and the father of six boys, has remained close to his Italian-American New Jersey roots, where success came early. He achieved Eagle Scout rank at age 13.

    To top it off, Freeh was granted Italian citizenship two years ago for his years of work with authorities there to crush organized crime.

    But Freeh's road has not been without bumps and bruises. His term as FBI director began in 1993 with the difficult admission that his FBI sharpshooters conducted a "seriously flawed" operation at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in which the wife of a suspect was killed while holding a baby in a doorway.

    Freeh later locked horns with President Bill Clinton over the FBI's determined pursuit of allegations the president had an intimate relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

    In his final months, Freeh endured the embarrassment of 25-year FBI veteran Robert Hanssen being arrested as a Russian spy.

    While Freeh's integrity remained intact, his management of the FBI was criticized. Freeh voluntarily left the FBI in June 2001, two years before his term would have expired.

    Freeh was quick to capitalize on his name. He was appointed to corporate boards including the board of directors for Bristol Myers Squibb, where, according to Forbes, he received compensation last year of $235,000.

    When the Freeh Group opened its doors, it wasn't long before the firm had a blockbuster client, former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Freeh forcefully defended Prince Bandar against claims of bribery in an arms deal with a British firm.

    Freeh was named as compliance monitor to the German carmaker Daimler, which reached a settlement with the Justice Department on bribery-related charges.

    Then the international federation for soccer, FIFA, hired Freeh's firm to gather evidence following allegations two officials offered bribes to voters during the organization's election campaign for its governing body.

    As the firm grew in prominence, officials of the SAT testing organization approached Freeh. Following the arrest of seven New York teenagers accused of cheating on the SAT, the College Board announced in October it had hired Freeh's firm to review testing security and recommend changes on standardized testing procedures.

    Last week, Freeh was selected to be the trustee for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case of MF Global. The company and creditors said they agreed one person should take charge of recovering assets. That would be Freeh.

    And now, atop the overflowing holiday season platter -- add Penn State.

    By any measure, it is quite a legal feast.