Our new Supreme Ct Nominee: His wife is big in satellite systems; her company is targeting Iraq

Yet another first for our boundary-breaching White House: for the first time in American history, we’re going to have a justice on the high court whose spouse facilitates financing and putting together global satellite systems.


Also, the company in which she is a partner, Shaw Pittman, emphasizes among other things its expertise in facilitating business in Iraq:


We offer one-stop service to clients pursuing projects in Iraq, from solicitation and RFP counseling to working with key government and multilateral agencies, and from initially penetrating the Iraqi marketplace to final project implementation. Our attorneys are recognized as leaders in their fields, and at the cutting-edge in a variety of disciplines relevant to Iraq reconstruction. A number have served in senior government positions in key agencies – including the Departments of Transportation, Navy, Justice and Commerce, as well as the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank.”



Iraq has not yet been able to achieve an integrated communications service (many Iraqis don’t even have their electricity back, yet.) By numerous accounts, satellite communications/networks loom as a large unfilled need in Iraq. Jane Sullivan Roberts’ credentials are solid, and business-wise, her walk in life is largely helping clients put together and get financing for satellite systems, according to her company bio:


Ms. Roberts practices with the firm’s communications and global sourcing groups, concentrating in representing clients in sophisticated transactions involving technology. She has extensive experience in representing clients in the buying and selling of space-related goods and services, including companies involved in the development of multi-billion dollar global and regional satellite systems. Ms. Roberts’ experience also includes representing clients in information technology outsourcing transactions; software licensing, development, and maintenance contracts; and professional services arrangements. Prior to 1992, Ms. Roberts practiced litigation in a wide variety of matters before various courts and decision-making bodies, including large international commercial arbitrations involving nuclear power plants before the International Chamber of Commerce.” http://www.pillsburylaw.com/Go/bios.nsf/professionals/Jane%20Sullivan%20Roberts

(I like that afterthought re nuclear power plants. Shades of Homer Simpson.)


The following statements by and about Ms. Roberts come from an article titled “High flyers, high margins, high society and space VC,” in the publication Space Business International (4th quarter 2000):

“Shaw Pittman is a composite organization, in which teams of associates, corporate finance partners, technology procurement and transfer partners, intellectual property strategists, corporate deal-makers work together with the clear aim of dominating Washington’s high-tech legal world. They’ve made a good start – hands on involvement already in 25 percent of all metropolitan VC closures in Q1-2000.

‘Despite the March 2000 downturn in US stock markets, there is still lots of VC money available’, says Roberts. ‘But the way the money is channelled has changed – it’s harder to fund business-to-business dot.coms, especially where you have to build a brand; and likewise for business-to-consumer deals. But there is still plenty of money left to fund wireless technologies, Internet infrastructure, next generation networking devices and b2b software plays.”


‘And Washington DC is cementing its position as an international hub of the commercial space and satellite industry. In terms of corporate headquarters, we have many major players, including Loral Cyberstar, Astrolink, Skybridge, Hughes Spaceway, Final Analysis, Ellipso, INTELSAT, COMSAT, WorldSpace, and XM Satellite Radio. Not to mention the major aerospace players …’”


Ms Roberts’ specific targets are the procurement of satellite systems and related services and technologies such as launch services, launch insurance, terrestrial networks, terminals, call centers and billing systems. ‘As a technology transaction lawyer, my role is to use contractual techniques to minimize my client’s completion risk, that is the risk the satellite system will not be completed – designed, built and deployed – within established performance, cost and schedule objectives. For a company seeking venture capital, it is critical to demonstrate to potential investors that the company is successfully managing its completion risk.’”


“So – how to close a transaction to buy a satellite system: ‘In a typical transaction where a client lacks substantial financial backing, we call up our experts in intellectual property, export control, bankruptcy, securities, debt financing, and dispute resolution. We have roughly 300 lawyers in the DC metro area and if, need be, we can call upon another one hundred lawyers in our New York, Los Angeles and London offices. Each of those offices is also focused on the high-tech industry.’”

[This link is down, but you can get to the article by clicking “cached” in a google search.]


A quite good, concise article by Ms. Roberts, on the risks of putting together a new satellite system and attempting to break into the market, is found at


The risks of building and financing a new satellite system fall into three broad areas: market, regulatory and completion. Market risk is the risk the target market does not want or cannot pay for the satellite services offered. Regulatory risk is the risk of not obtaining all regulatory approvals required to build and operate the satellite system, such as for orbital locations allocated by the International Telecommunications Union, spectrum licensed by the satellite operator’s “host” or “home” government, and “landing rights” granted in each country that will receive the new satellite service. Completion risk is the risk the satellite system will not be completed—designed, built and deployed—within the established performance, schedule and cost objectives.”

(from Satellite Finance, Issue 16)


Perhaps it will surprise few people that Shaw, Pittman, where Ms. Roberts is a partner, is offering its services for a newly privatized Iraq:

“Pillsbury’s Iraq Reconstruction Practice is mobilized to offer clients strategic legal advice in their postwar reconstruction efforts. Comprised of lawyers from several offices and backgrounds with relevant legal, industry and regional experience, the team is well poised to support virtually every endeavor in post-war Iraq, including:

·                                 Infrastructure development, construction and procurement

·                                 Intellectual property, technology and outsourcing services          [etc.]



The company’s web site does not indicate that Ms. Roberts is on its Pillsbury Iraq Reconstruction Team. A call to the company to inquire whether she has yet had clients/projects in Iraq has not yet been returned. Stay tuned.


Meanwhile, the nominee husband’s numerous investments also include Shaw Pittman. One wonders whether a Justice Roberts would have to recuse himself on any cases involving Iraq, including cases about profiteering; procedure re “detainees” rounded up in Iraq; Iraq contract fraud; and/or regulatory or other violations by satellite systems companies that hired his wife’s firm or his wife herself.


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