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Leo Tsao

Lecturer on Law

Fall 2023

Leo Tsao
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Leo Tsao is a partner at Paul Hastings LLP, where he is a member of the Investigations and White Collar Defense and Fintech & Payments practice groups. Professor Tsao’s practice focuses on internal corporate investigations, defense of criminal and regulatory enforcement actions, and compliance counseling. He represents individual and corporate clients in criminal and regulatory matters relating to a wide range of white-collar offenses, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”).

Prior to joining Paul Hastings, Professor Tsao spent 15 years at the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), where he held a number of senior positions, including Principal Deputy Chief of the DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (“MLARS”) and Chief of MLARS’s Bank Integrity Unit. At MLARS, he was responsible for overseeing the DOJ’s enforcement program against financial institutions for BSA, IEEPA, money laundering, and similar violations, including criminal charges, deferred prosecution agreements, and non-prosecution agreements involving financial institutions. In particular, Professor Tsao helped to lead the DOJ’s enforcement efforts with respect to crimes involving cryptocurrency and Fintech companies, and was involved in drafting the DOJ’s Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework. Professor Tsao has worked in close coordination with many domestic regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Professor Tsao was also responsible for helping to oversee the DOJ’s national Asset Forfeiture Program.

Before MLARS, Professor Tsao spent three years as an Assistant Deputy Chief in the Fraud Section’s FCPA Unit, where he led or supervised more than 50 FCPA investigations and resolutions across numerous industries. Professor Tsao also spent eight years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. While at the DOJ, Professor Tsao helped to develop enforcement policies on corporate investigations, compliance, monitorships, charging decisions, and resolutions. Professor Tsao has also served as lead trial counsel in 10 criminal trials and has argued and/or briefed numerous criminal appeals. Professor Tsao twice earned the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service.

Professor Tsao graduated magna cum laude from Cornell Law School, and clerked for the Honorable Robert Boochever on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is also the co-author of a legal text, Corporate Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions, published by Aspen.


  • B.A. Biology and Economics Rutgers University, 1992
  • J.D. Cornell Law School, 1998