Federal audit rebukes Blank Rome lawyer who worked with 9/11 victim fund

This story was updated on Aug. 24.

A Blank Rome lawyer who was responsible for distributing more than $7 billion to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks was sternly rebuked last week in an audit that found she awarded millions of dollars in federal contracts to her own law firms.

Deborah Greenspan was a partner at Dickstein Shapiro when she was appointed deputy special master for the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund in 2001 She was appointed again in 2011 when the fund was reauthorized by Congress. It was created to compensate first responders and others who suffered asthma, cancer, and other health ailments from working in the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York. The fund fielded more than 22,000 claims.

Greenspan, who is based in Washington, worked the part-time position without pay, reviewing many of the claims herself, as the fund’s second-in-command through November 2016. In February that year, Dickstein was folded into the Philadelphia-based Blank Rome.

Camera icon Blank Rome
Deborah Greenspan, now a Washington-based partner at Blank Rome, was deputy special master for the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

According to a report issued Aug. 17 by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, Greenspan approved 18 contracts, valued at more than $3.6 million, to Dickstein and Blank Rome “without sufficiently documenting the justification and rationale for non-competitively awarding them.”

Greenspan, according to the report, told investigators that the DOJ had not provided enough lawyers to develop policy and guidelines for the program and to handle the crushing caseload.

The audit states Greenspan should have recognized the apparent conflict of interest and “proactively excluded herself from negotiating these contracts because of the resulting financial benefit to her law firms where she remained a partner.”

Greenspan told investigators that her firms “did not make a profit” on the contracts. In a statement, a Blank Rome spokeswoman said the hourly rate for attorneys who worked on Fund matters was dictated by the DOJ and was about 20 percent of Blank Rome’s standard hourly rates.

But, the OIG report noted, the $3.6 million in revenue netted by the firms was “not insubstantial.”