Roberto Pisano

Studio Legale Pisano

Via Cino del Duca no. 5
20122, Milan, Italy

WWL says:

Roberto Pisano is widely heralded by peers as “among the best of the best” for complex corruption proceedings and tax fraud disputes.


Mr Pisano has a history of representing prominent individuals and entities in high-profile criminal proceedings, including three cases of tax fraud against the former Italian prime minister, various cases of corruption involving international corporations and their officers, extradition (including the recent FIFA investigation) and foreign appeals against assets’ freezing, advising and representing foreign governments and conducting internal investigations for foreign multinationals. He was co-chair of the business crime committee of the IBA in 2007- 2008 and vice chair of the ECBA in 2008-2009.

What attracted you to a career in business crime defence?

It is a highly sophisticated sector, where the traditional principles of criminal law have to interact with the dynamism and need of efficiency of the financial and international world. In that scenario, especially representation at trial requires a stimulating, peculiar mixture of technical expertise and personality.

When handling business crime cases, what makes Studio Legale Pisano stand out from competitors in the market?

Since about the last 20 years, we have a culture and practice of working daily in teams with Italian and foreign counsel, experts, in-house lawyers, etc. White-collar practice is never a matter of a single man. This is especially true in our times, where almost every case is highly complex and transnational. Having said that, there is no way to defend properly and successfully in white-collar cases, without studying personally and in-depth every single detail of the case.

What has been the most memorable matter that you’ve worked on in your time practising law?

Three cases of international tax fraud against the former Italian prime minister, in which I represented his main co-defendant, a US movie producer accused of being his hidden partner. The cases involved searche and seizure in the US (overturned) and Hong Kong (challenged), extensive freezing of funds in Switzerland (overturned in the criminal proceedings), etc. We won two cases and lost the third, with the whole country following the trials, because as a result the prime minister lost his Senate seat. We trust to win before the European Court of Human Rights, where the case is currently pending.

Cross-border white-collar crime enforcement is expanding rapidly and aggressively in the current climate. Has this affected your practice in any way?

Yes absolutely. Most of my practice concerns multiple investigations in various states (the US, the UK, Germany, France, plus the Middle East, Far East, etc.), especially for corruption and tax fraud allegations involving international corporations, their managers and foreign consultants. With the consequent need to coordinate with foreign counsel all steps of the activity of defence, including the challenges to the various freezing orders and letters of request to foreign authorities, frequently issued in these scenarios. There are no high-profile investigations and prosecutions in recent times, which do not include extensive cooperation and exchange of evidence with foreign authorities, and freezing orders in foreign jurisdictions.

An increasing number of countries are getting more active in investigating allegations of corporate misconduct. To what extent have stricter compliance programmes and a focus on corporate governance around the world impacted your practice?

There is no doubt that laws on corporate criminal liability in the various states, especially in the last two decades, have significantly impacted criminal law practice. In Italy, for instance, as of 2001 prosecutions can be brought against corporate entities, also foreign ones, in relation to a wide range of crimes committed by their managers or employees, in the interest or for the benefit of the corporation. In that context, where corporations and multinational groups become the targets of criminal investigations, compliance programmes have a crucial role for excluding or mitigating corporate responsibility. This has clearly impacted the practice of criminal lawyers in advising and representing corporate entities, especially listed ones, vis-à-vis prosecuting and judicial authorities, and in conducting internal investigations in the interest of corporate clients.

The increasing prominence of anti-bribery and anti-corruption work in the global marketplace has seen a number of law firms beef up their white-collar crime capabilities in recent years. Is this a trend that you’ve noticed? How has this affected your practice?

Yes, it is a noticed trend which is welcome, because it increases the number of qualified advisers in the field. In the Italian scenario, however, representation at trial remains a role for boutique firms of experienced trial lawyers, who do not compete, but actually work in synergy with supplementing skills, with the larger law firms. All this makes the white-collar crime practice in our times much more complex, challenging and appealing.

How do you intend to continue competing with the likes of larger firms in this space? Are networks and strategic alliances important to ensure that you offer clients cross-border capabilities?

As said, in the Italian scenario there is no competition with the larger firms, but synergy with different and supplementing skills. Internationally, it is crucial to have developed fruitful working experiences with the most knowledgeable lawyers in the various countries, because they will be the key factor of success when the case will arise.