Robert G. Morvillo ’63 was a New York City white-collar criminal defense lawyer who represented celebrities, politicians, businesspeople, and companies. He passed away on December 24, 2011, at the age of 73.
Morvillo was widely admired by clients and fellow jurists as a preeminent tactician. The New York Times referred to him as a preeminent figure in the city’s criminal-defense bar. His client list included major companies like Merrill Lynch and the Hess Corporation, and his most famous client in recent years was media mogul Martha Stewart.
Morvillo was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Rockville Center, Long Island. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Colgate University, and, after graduating from Columbia Law School, he clerked for Judge William B. Herlands at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Morvillo then served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he eventually led the securities-fraud unit and the criminal division. During his tenure as a federal prosecutor, Morvillo worked on several high-profile cases, including the conviction of Clifford Irving on charges of authoring a fraudulent biography of businessman Howard Hughes.
In 1973, Morvillo left his post to join two fellow colleagues at a boutique firm that became a predecessor to Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, the New York City firm where he practiced as a partner until his death. During the next several decades, Morvillo represented a string of prominent executives implicated in fraud and corruption cases. These clients included former AIG chief executive Maurice R. Greenberg and John A. Zaccaro, a real estate developer and the husband of former Democratic vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro.
“Win or lose, he was always thinking three steps ahead of anyone else in the room,” Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said of Morvillo, The New York Times reported.
Lawrence Iason, his partner at Morvillo Abramowitz, told the New York Law Journal that Morvillo also displayed remarkable skill in protecting his clients from criminal prosecution in the first place. “So much of his best work was for clients you never heard of because they were never charged,” Iason told the legal newspaper.
Morvillo is survived by his wife, Catherine; sons Christopher, Gregory, Scott, and Robert; 10 grandchildren; and his brother, Richard.