International criminal investigations powerhouse Chavi Keeney Nana moves from private practice to Michigan Law faculty.

For the past decade, Chavi Keeney Nana has blazed a trail in international criminal investigations as counsel in the New York office of WilmerHale, where her practice has focused on anti-corruption, human rights, human trafficking, and ESG (environment, social, and governance) issues.  

Nana has represented multinational corporations and financial institutions in civil and criminal investigations before the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. She has also advised executives and in-house strategy teams on conducting risk assessment and building stress-tested compliance programs leading to negotiated resolutions with domestic and international enforcement authorities. 

In business, we often talk about forced labor and ESG issues as if they were separate from corruption. But corruption underlies all of these concerns, so we need to take a more integrated approach and bridge that gap.

Now, Nana is embarking on the next phase of her career as a professor from practice at the University of Michigan Law School.

“What I bring after 10 years in private practice is expertise in the corruption and financial crimes space, knowledge of what happens within businesses where corrupt practices are an underlying factor in corporate misconduct, and advice on how to help businesses remediate these issues,” said Nana. She previously taught as an adjunct professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. 

Michigan Law’s Human Trafficking Clinic complements her work in gender-based violence

This fall, Nana will teach a class dealing with issues around anti-corruption, sanctions, and anti-money laundering regulation and enforcement. These tools enable governments to fight corruption and financial crimes at the corporate level while curtailing human rights violations and coercion.

Through her professional and pro bono activities, Nana has developed a specialized interest in gender-based violence, including human trafficking.

She started this work as assistant to Catharine MacKinnon, the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at Michigan. Nana met MacKinnon while the latter served as special gender adviser to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. 

For the past decade, Nana’s pro bono work has centered on civil litigation on behalf of trafficking victims. She has helped these individuals obtain compensation for the years they were subjected to forced labor and collect damages for sexual assault and psychological coercion. 

Nana said she has been following the pioneering work done by members of the Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic, including its founder, Professor Bridgette Carr, ’02.

Nana is looking forward to working on trafficking and forced-labor issues within the Law School’s newly launched Trafficking Lab―a combined course and interdisciplinary research project that will take a deep dive into the root causes of trafficking.

In addition, Nana is excited to collaborate with Luis C.deBaca, ’93, another Michigan Law professor from practice. He served in the Obama administration as ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons.

In recent years, Nana has begun counseling business clients on taking measures to identify and remediate the use of forced labor in their supply chains.

“In business, we often talk about forced labor and ESG issues as if they were separate from corruption,” Nana said. “But corruption underlies all of these concerns, so we need to take a more integrated approach and bridge that gap.”

Drawing lessons from her nonlinear career

Nana’s decision to return to Ann Arbor brings her full circle back to her childhood home. Her mother, brother, and husband graduated from U-M. Nana recalls hanging out in the Law Quad as a high school student before pursuing her education at Wellesley College, Oxford University, and Yale Law School.

Before law school, Nana worked as a legal and policy adviser for the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands.

After law school and her year at the International Criminal Court, she joined the New York office of Jenner & Block LLP, where she conducted her first Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation. 

“The combination of investigations and international reach was perfect for me, and I decided this was the type of work I needed to be doing at a law firm,” Nana said. “I then went to WilmerHale because the firm had one of the best FCPA practices.”

Having pursued a career path that is anything but straight and narrow, Nana hopes to serve as a role model for the next generation of law students.

“You can use your legal career in many different ways and pull from both legal and nonlegal experiences,” she said. “It’s important to take the temperature down for students who are concerned about any career decision they make in law school. I was going to stay in private practice for a year or two, and here I am, a decade later.

“I brought my public policy and international work to private practice, and I will take my law firm experience into my work at the Law School,” Nana continued. “Students should remember that careers can be shaped and changed―they can almost always course correct.” 

Claudia Capos