The Real Deal New York

Who is Barbara Jones, special master in the Michael Cohen investigation?

The former federal judge will review seized records for issues of attorney-client privilege
By Will Parker | April 26, 2018 02:40PM

Michael Cohen, Barbara Jones and the Loews Regency Hotel (Credit: Getty Images and the Loews Regency Hotel)

Though federal prosecutors said it wasn’t necessary, Judge Kimba Wood selected a “special master” to review records seized in connection with the ongoing investigation of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Her name is Barbara Jones and her job will be to review the seized records to determine if letting investigators use them would violate attorney-client privilege, namely the privilege of the President of the United States.

Cohen’s attorneys as well as prosecutors recently submitted their own recommendations for special master. Jones was not one of them. Jones is best known as a white-collar crime and organized crime specialist. After a 17-year judgeship with the Southern District of New York, she moved to private practice five years ago. In 2005, she put WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers in prison on charges related to a fraudulent $11 billion accounting scheme.

Cohen is an attorney, but his role at the Trump Organization has been more of a dealmaker position, helping to strike relationships with developers for licensed Trump projects across the globe, including in Georgia and Russia. We don’t know the entirety of what Cohen is being investigated for, but know it includes suspected bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to reports in the Washington Post. A $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election campaign is also under the microscope.

Though Jones won’t be directly involved in the investigation per se, she saw her fair share of real estate-related cases involving allegations of fraud or troubled debt during her time as a federal judge. She presided over part of the Security and Exchange Commission’s case against Fabrice Tourré, the Goldman Sachs trader who gleefully sold collateralized debt obligations that he knew were packed with failing mortgages (Jones left for private practice while the case was still ongoing.)

Jones ruled in civil cases brought by major real estate developers, too. In 2009 she dismissed a $1.4 billion suit brought by developer Sheldon Solow against insurer Conseco, in which Solow accused Conseco of bid-rigging when the firm and Trump sold the GM Building to Harry Macklowe in 2003.

In 2012, she dismissed a suit brought by Bank of America against troubled developer Kent Swig who had lost a fortune in the financial crisis, after Swig defaulted on $17.6 million in loans tied to his Upper East Side apartment.

Jones also had a hand in the flurry of real estate litigation that came in wake of the attacks of September 11th. In a 2008 ruling, she ruled the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wasn’t entitled to collect insurance payouts for most of the World Trade Center site because it had leased the buildings to developer Larry Silverstein two months before they were destroyed.

Cohen and Jones did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.