Fatema Merchant is Co-Managing Partner of Sheppard Mullin’s Washington, D.C. office and a partner in the Governmental and Corporate Investigations Practice Groups. Fatema leads the Sanctions Team at Sheppard Mullin.

Areas of Practice

Fatema focuses on supporting clients in their international business and global transactions to mitigate risk and address trade, regulatory and national security issues. Her practice includes compliance counseling, investigations and cross-border transactional work related to anti-corruption, export controls, economic sanctions, anti-money laundering, foreign investment (CFIUS) and tariff and import regulations. 

At Sheppard Mullin, Fatema is chair of the Washington, D.C. office's Diversity Working Group and former co-leader of the firm-wide attorneys of color group, known as the Diversity and Inclusion Attorney Network (DIAN).

Fatema is a leader in many broader DEI efforts and in the legal community. She was a 2019 Fellow for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD). She is currently serving on the Board of Governors for the District of Columbia Bar. She has also previously served as President of the Capital Area Muslim Bar Association (CAMBA). She has been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Washington, D.C. "Rising Star" in 2015-2018., and was featured by Washington Lawyer for being the first hijab-wearing partner at an Am Law 100 firm in Washington, D.C.

Prior to joining the firm, Fatema seconded as a Special Assistant Attorney General with the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General.

White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations
Fatema represents companies and individuals across industries in criminal matters and corporate investigations involving the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Her recent matters included allegations of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, anti-money laundering, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and economic sanctions on Iran. Fatema has conducted numerous internal investigations and handled matters around the world, including in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 

Export Controls, Economic Sanctions, Trade & Anti-Corruption Counseling
Fatema counsels technology, energy, healthcare, defense and consumer-product companies in day-to-day matters involving export controls, economic sanctions and anti-corruption compliance. She has prepared disclosures to the OFAC, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) on behalf of clients. She has deep experience in classifying technologies and emerging technologies under the highly complex U.S. export control regimes. Fatema also counsels importers on trade issues such as tariffs, HTS classification, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement and prior disclosures with CBP. 

Fatema regularly assists clients with developing, implementing and evaluating effective compliance programs across a broad spectrum of legal risk areas. With an understanding of business, clients’ values, and the spectrum of legal risks, she has supported clients with implementing tailored policies and procedures that protect companies in a practical way. 

CFIUS and Cross-Border Transactions
Fatema regularly advises clients in M&A deals on international trade regulatory matters through the life cycle of a transaction. She counsels clients across industries on regulatory filings stemming from cross-border transactions, including filings with DDTC. Fatema represents buyers and sellers in transactions before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) and advises clients on transactions subject to the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) and the FIRRMA Pilot Program.

ESG and Sustainability
Fatema is a leader in the firm’s ESG and Sustainability team. Fatema has over a decade of experience advising global organizations on social and governance issues, including designing codes of business conduct that reflect a company’s core values and incorporate those values into specific, practical, and auditable standards; conducting internal reviews of ethics programs and ethics issues; counseling multinational enterprises on complying with sanctions targeting human rights violators; and advising companies regarding potential liability for human rights violations, including the use of forced labor in the supply chain.



White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations:


  • Represented multi-national energy companies in criminal and civil investigations involving the DOJ, SEC and OFAC of potential violations of the FCPA and economic sanctions.
  • Represented global security company in an ethics investigation with presentation to Board of Directors. 
  • Represented non-U.S. banks in criminal investigations involving OFAC and New York States authorities of potential violations of Iran sanctions regulations.


  • Represented executive in connection with criminal investigation of company employer involving potential FCPA violations.
  • Represented named individual in criminal matter involving DOJ regarding potential violations of Iran sanctions regulations.
  • Represented employee in connection with investigation by DOJ of potential violations of export controls.

Counseling on International Regulatory Issues:


  • Represented clients across industries to provide day-to-day advice on compliance with U.S. economic sanctions, export controls, anti-corruption laws, customs regulations and anti-money laundering regulations.
  • Designed, developed and monitored global anti-corruption, economic sanctions, and anti-money laundering compliance programs for companies in the technology, defense, financial and consumer-product sectors.

Export Controls

  • Advised multiple technology companies on jurisdiction and classification of products and technology under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR).
  • Represented multiple defense and technology companies in obtaining licenses from the U.S. State Department’s DDTC and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).
  • Represented software companies in classification of encryption technologies and utilizing License Exception ENC to export software and technology.

FCPA & Anti-Corruption

  • Led FCPA training for automotive company’s global regulatory affairs team.
  • Conducted audit of technology company’s global anti-corruption compliance program and developed practice enhancements to program.
  • Led global FCPA due diligence review of third parties, including leading Arabic-language due diligence, advising on FCPA compliance and design of FCPA compliance policies and training programs.


  • Represented hospitality company in obtaining licenses from OFAC involving Cuba sanctions program.
  • Advised multiple universities regarding compliance with sanctions regulations involving Iran, Cuba, Syria and Russia.
  • Advised multiple non-U.S. businesses and financial institutions regarding compliance with sanctions connected to the Iran Nuclear Deal.


  • Represented home appliance and furniture companies in internal audits to review compliance with customs regulations and submitting prior disclosures to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
  • Advised consumer product companies regarding HTSUS classification of products being imported into the U.S.
  • Represented compliance across industries in responding to requests for information and notices of action from CBP.
  • Represented semiconductor chip manufacturer in releasing goods seized by CBP.
  • Helped secure exclusions from Section 301 and 232 tariffs for multiple clients.

Transactional Diligence, CFIUS and Regulatory Filings:

  • Led international trade due diligence and developed risk mitigation strategies in mergers and acquisitions to identify risks in transactions related to export controls, FCPA, sanctions and customs regulations, working closely with M&A team on behalf of buyers and targets.
  • Represented technology company in sale of Indian computing equipment manufacturer and obtained CFIUS clearance.
  • Represented defense contractor in obtaining CFIUS clearance in sale of company to UK security company.
  • Advised multiple clients on impact of FIRRMA and Pilot Program regulations on transactions.
  • Represented defense, security and satellite companies in regulatory filings to the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).



International Trade Editorial Advisory Board, Law360, 2023

Top Author, JD Supra Readers' Choice Awards, 2023

Washington, D.C. Rising Star, Super Lawyers, 2015-2018

Lawyers of Color's 2014 Hot List

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2023



Consumer Finance and Fintech Blog

Corporate & Securities Blog

FCC Law Blog

Global Trade Law Blog Posts

Government Contracts, Investigations & International Trade Blog Posts

Law of the Ledger: Blockchain Law Blog Posts

Organizational Integrity Group Blog Posts

Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Law Blog Posts

Video Game Law Blog Posts

White Collar & Government Enforcement Blog Posts

Media Mentions

Speaking Engagements

  • Speaker, "A Roundtable on Leveraging Compliance Connections," Great Women in Compliance, October 25, 2023
  • Keynote Speaker, Capital Area Muslim Bar Association (CAMBA) Annual Meeting and Dinner, December 9, 2022
  • Panelist, “Proposed ‘Reverse CFIUS’ Outbound Investment Review Process,” Association of Women in International Trade, October 20, 2022
  • Panelist, "Navigating Big Law as a Muslim and the Power of Pro Bono," American Muslim Bar Association Webinar, February 11, 2021
  • Panelist, "International Contract Law: Key Issues to Consider When Conducting Business Overseas," ABA Center for Professional Development, October 11, 2017
  • Panelist, "100 Days of Trump: A Cuban Legal Perspective," ABA Teleconference, co-hosted by ABA Young Lawyer’s Division International and Litigation Sections," May 3, 2017
  • Panelist, "ABA YLD Midyear Program Doing Business with Cuba," Miami FL, February 3, 2017
  • Panelist, "Pathways to International Law," ABA International Section's Spring Meeting, New York, April 12, 2016
  • Panelist, "Pathways to International Law," ABA International Section's Spring Meeting, April 28, 2015
  • Panelist, "Women and Minorities: Willing Partners or Reluctant Allies?" July 15, 2014
  • Panelist, "Export Control Reform Level Set: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Headed?” Momentum Webinar, July 8, 2014
  • Panelist, "Doing Business in India: Anti-Corruption Best Practices," Momentum Webinar, May 29, 2014



Member, International Section, American Bar Association (ABA)

Member, International Anti-Corruption Committee, ABA

Member, India Committee, ABA

Digital Media


J.D., American University Washington College of Law, 2008

B.A., Al-Jamea-Tus-Saifiyah Arabic Academy, 2003


  • District of Columbia
  • Texas


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