Ronak D. Desai is Of Counsel in the Investigations and White Collar Defense practice based in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office and co-leader of the firm’s Congressional Investigations practice.
A seasoned international investigations, enforcement defense, and compliance attorney, Mr. Desai has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. He advises clients on a broad range of complex investigative, compliance, crisis management, and public policy matters.
Mr. Desai has been recognized for his track record delivering for clients. The National Law Journal named him one of its "Rising Stars" for his work in the white collar, Congressional investigations, and India arenas. The award recognizes the region’s 40 most promising lawyers age 40 and younger who have wielded influence in their practice areas in the D.C. area and beyond. He was also recognized by the American Bar Association as one of its top "40 under 40" attorneys, which recognizes individuals with a broad range of high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and legal and community service. The ABA noted Mr. Desai’s "superb reputation as an outstanding lawyer" and "inspirational character within the community" as factors underlying the recognition.
He is a frequent author, speaker, and commentator on topics related to South Asia and Congress. He is a regular contributor to Forbes and Bloomberg Law, and a host of publications in the Asia-Pacific. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The National Law Journal, The Hill, Foreign Policy, The Huffington Post, and has been cited by The Congressional Research Service.
As co-leader of the Congressional Investigations practice, Mr. Desai deploys his extensive government and private sector experience to help clients navigate the unique legal, political, reputational, and media risks generated by Congressional scrutiny.
Prior to joining Paul Hastings, Mr. Desai served as investigative counsel to a high-profile Select Committee on Capitol Hill. His other Congressional experience includes time with the Senate Foreign Relations and the House Judiciary Committees.
In the private sector, Mr. Desai provides clients with expertise regarding Congress’ investigations and oversight function, deep familiarity and relationships with Members and staff from both sides of the aisle, best practices regarding responding to document requests and subpoenas, and preparing for public and private Congressional testimony.
Mr. Desai has successfully represented companies and individuals in front of a host of Congressional committees and offices, including the House Judiciary Committee, House Financial Services Committee, House Oversight and Reform Committee, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the House and Senate Ethics Committee, and several select and special committees and commissions.
India and the Subcontinent
A recognized expert on India and the Subcontinent, Mr. Desai draws upon his deep understanding of the region to help U.S. and other multinational clients navigate the unique legal and policy challenges arising in the course of their cross-border operations. He also counsels Indian companies conducting business abroad, including in the United States.
Mr. Desai serves as pro bono General Counsel and Independent Board Director to the Partnership for a Secure America, a DC-based foreign policy think tank that seeks to promote bipartisanship on Capitol Hill through its flagship Congressional Partnership Program. In 2016, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Mr. Desai to her Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). He was recently confirmed by the DC City Council for a second term. He also serves as Member of the Board of the South Asian Symphony Foundation, is an Asia 21 Young Leader, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
- On the Rise 40 under 40 – The American Bar Association – recognizes individuals with a broad range of high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and legal and community service. (2021)
- Rising Star – The National Law Journal – recognizes DC's "40 under 40" who "have wielded influence in their practice areas in the D.C. area and beyond." (2020)
- Rising Star – The South Asian Bar Association of DC – recognizes "a talented individual within…the community, who…has been practicing for fewer than 10 years, and has achieved prominence and distinction in their respective field while demonstrating a strong commitment… to the South Asian community." (2019)
- Harvard Law School, J.D. (magna cum laude), Dean Scholar's Prize
- Harvard Kennedy School, M.P.P.
- The Johns Hopkins University, B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, University-wide and Departmental honors
- Represented high-profile client in front of multiple Congressional committees simultaneously.
- Represented C-suite executives in front of the DOJ and SEC in connection with FCPA investigations
- Designed compliance program for extractive minerals client in high-risk jurisdictions
- Government Service – United States Congress
- Served as counsel to all the Committee's public hearings
- Conduct scores of witness interviews of senior State Department and Executive Branch officials
- Provided counsel to Committee members
Engagement & Publications
- Panelist and Moderator, "What the U.S. Elections Mean for India and Cross-Border Business," Harvard University, Webinar, October 28, 2020
- Keynote Speaker, "What You Need to Know about Conducting Business in India," Risk Assistance + Network Exchange Intelligence Corporation, Webinar, February 25, 2020
- Keynote Speaker with US Ambassador to India, Rich Verma, "The US-India Partnership: Challenges and Opportunities," Partnership for a Secure America, Washington DC, February 13, 2020
- Moderator, "Two Trailblazers in the Law: Judge Sri Srinivasan and Vanita Gupta," South Asian Bar Association, Washington DC, October 1, 2019
- Moderator, "Artificial Intelligence and National Security: Offensive Capabilities, Defensive Challenges, and Operational Difficulties," with Drs. Reginald Brothers and Jason Matheny, Partnership for a Secure America, Washington DC, July 25, 2019
- Panelist, "Dealing with US Sanctions: An Indian Perspective," Webinar, Nishith Desai Associates, July 30, 2019
- Speaker, "Congressional Oversight & Investigations," South Asian Bar Association, Washington DC, September 26, 2018
- Panelist and Moderator with Ambassador Thomas Pickering (ret.), "Corruption and Sanctions in Iran and Russia," Partnership for a Secure America, Washington DC, August 20, 2018
- Moderator, "Dispute Resolution and FCPA in India and the US: Challenges and Recent Developments," Legal Era Conclave, New York, NY, May 25, 2018
- Keynote Speaker, "US-India Strategic and Commercial Ties under President Trump," Worcester World Affairs Council, Boston, MA, May 19, 2018
- Panelist, "Asia Responds to Trump in Asia," Harvard University Asia Center, Cambridge, MA, November 30, 2017
- Panelist, "The Role of Developed Economies in Strengthening the Rule of Law Abroad," IPAG, New York, NY, October 10, 2017
- Moderator, "Critical Moments & Critical Decisions: Conducting & Defending Congressional & Internal Investigations," South Asian Bar Association Annual Conference, Houston, TX, May 14, 2016
- Panelist, "India & the United States Cross Border Investment: Counseling in Reform Environments," ABA and Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) Annual US-India Legal Conference, New Delhi, India, February 18, 2016
- Keynote Speaker, "Recent Developments in India’s Foreign Direct Investment Policy and other Important Sectors," US-India Business Council, Washington DC, May 2, 2015
- Keynote Speaker with Consul General of India, "The Future of US-India Relations: Can the Private Sector Lead the Way?" Columbia Business School, April 4, 2015
Representative Thought Leadership
- Author, "Did Corruption Cause the Covid-19 Outbreak?" Legal Era Magazine, February 2, 2021
- Author, "Why India is Facing U.S. Sanctions," Forbes, February 1, 2021
- Author, "SCOTUS’ Mazars Ruling Leaves Many Legal Questions Unanswered," The National Law Journal, December 29, 2020
- Co-Authored with T. Giunta, "Beam Suntory FCPA Settlement Highlights Corruption Risks in India," Bloomberg Law, December 21, 2020
- Author, "Universities Face Federal Crackdown on Academics with China Ties," Bloomberg Law, November 27, 2020
- Author, "Conducting Anti-Corruption Investigations During the Pandemic," Bloomberg Law, May 18, 2020
- Author, "Cybercrime in India Surges Amidst Coronavirus Lockdown," Forbes, May 14, 2020
- Author, "Is India Failing to Make Progress in its Campaign Against Corruption?" Forbes, March 3, 2020
- Author, "Iran Sanctions Prompt Surge in U.S. and Venezuelan Oil Exports to India," Forbes, August 11, 2019
- Author, "Will Prime Minister Modi’s Second Term Usher in Real Economic Reform?" Forbes, June 25, 2019
- Author, "India’s Data Localization Remains a Key Challenge for Foreign Companies," Forbes, April 30, 2019
- Author, "Cognizant Settlement Spotlights FCPA Enforcement, Corruption Risk in India," Bloomberg Law, March 7, 2019
- Author, "U.S. Oil Sanctions on Venezuela Could be an Energy Windfall for India and China," Forbes, January 31, 2019
- Author, "Anticorruption Enforcement in Asia Shows the FCPA Remains Strong Under Trump," Forbes, July 31, 2018
- Author, "The FCPA is Here to Stay," ABA Litigation Journal, June 1, 2018
- Author, "With U.S. Withdrawal from the Iran Deal, Expect India-Iran Oil Trade to Take a Hit," Forbes, June 11, 2018
- Author, "Compliance with U.S. Anticorruption Laws in Emerging," ABA Litigation Journal, January 1, 2017