Litigator Gerry Pecht in conversation with Ingeborg Alexander in 2018


I’m 65. I made my bones being a litigator and have done that for thirty-eight years.


Everything has turned out well.


My wife is an extraordinarily generous person. She’s got the biggest heart of anybody you can imagine.


I have two boys. Neither of them has gone into the law. Thankfully, they’re both still in Houston.


Like everybody else, I am searching for the blessings of intelligence, truth, peace.


I was born in Wisconsin but don’t remember it. I was only there for a few months.


I grew up in the traditional German family in the sense that there was a lot of discipline and everything had to be perfect.


We lived just outside of New York while my dad worked on the lower deck of the George Washington bridge.


Then he was asked to design the runways at Dulles airport at Washington D.C. So we moved to northern Virginia.


Then he was asked to work on another iconic bridge. So we moved back to New York.


Then the World Bank asked him to go to what used to be East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh. So we went out there thinking it would be for six months.


That was in 1963. I was in the fifth grade, so I was eleven maybe twelve years old. Anyhow, we ended up living in Asia for thirty-two years.


I know a smattering of a lot of different languages—a little Farsi, a little Bengali, a little Tagalog, a little Italian.


We were in East Pakistan and then we were in the Philippines, Iran, Indonesia. The chorus of my life at that time was moving around.


I went to boarding school in Rome when I was fourteen.


I got on a plane in Dhaka, East Pakistan and flew by myself to Rome, Italy. I had enormous freedom and independence and I loved it.


There were five of us, five kids. Everybody got to pick where they wanted to go. I thought about London. Or Switzerland. But ultimately I fell in love with Rome.


My mother is half German and half Polish. She was the second of seventeen children and she grew up in Wisconsin. When she graduated from high school her teacher said, ‘This is too small a town for you, you’ve got more ability than this, you need to go to Chicago.’


So she went to Chicago and got a beautiful job with the US Treasury Department. She went on her own. She was only eighteen.


My father was a hundred percent German. He was an engineer in World War Two. So while General Patton was driving across Europe my dad was throwing up bridges to allow the army to cross the rivers on their way to Berlin.


He was on a ship returning to the United States and just as they were about to hit the Statue of Liberty the ship was diverted south to the Panama Canal. So he spent the next several years in south-east Asia fighting in the Pacific theatre.


My father would never talk about the war. He was a captain in the army and I am sure he saw a lot of things and he would not discuss it with any of us. We asked him all the time and he really didn’t want to get into it.


I was seventeen when I started college in Washington D.C. It was the late sixties early seventies so it was the Vietnam War, it was protests, it was the hippie movement.


Some of my siblings never did return to the United States. My sister never came back. She stayed overseas for the rest of her life. She met a fellow (who turned out to be in the CIA) and they lived in India and Saudi Arabia. She divorced the CIA guy after a few years and lived in Rabat, Morocco, where she married a Dutch guy. She was in Caracas, Venezuela for a while. And Sri Lanka in between times. Now she’s living in a beautiful town in Holland.


My mother met my dad in Chicago. He was a handsome guy who’d just come back from World War Two and he thought a lot of himself. She would have nothing to do with him.


Gradually he won her over.


She grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin and it’s in the middle of nowhere and then she goes to Chicago and marries this guy and he says, let’s go to Asia!


You could react in one of two ways. I saw this with Americans when I was living in Asia. Some of them (not all) would just hate it. They would go there and they would say, this place is dirty, the people are poor, I don’t understand the language, I don’t understand the culture. But my mother—and my father and all of us—we embraced it.


My  mother  travelled  extensively.  She became a great lover of China and of India.


I was a drummer in a band for a number of years in India. And I played the sitar. There is a beauty and a smell and an image about India that stays with you your whole life. You go to somebody’s home and there’s a flood of memories.


America is a complicated diverse varied wonderful place that has a lot of very different viewpoints about things and people can be outspoken about their views.


People who migrated to the United States from Asia or Africa or Europe would come here and think of it as the land of opportunity, but you had to seize the opportunity—you had to have the education to seize it—so they were devoted to education.


Parents sacrificed enormously for their children to have the best education they could possibly have.


To the point where the parents wouldn’t do anything for themselves, it was all about their children.


That’s still the case today. One of my brothers—his wife is Chinese; and his kids are just driven to be successful. Education is a very important part of their lives.


The parents of people of my generation came through the Great Depression. When I was growing up, my father always said: ‘The one thing I want to make sure of is that you are better than I am, that you’re more educated than I am, that you’re more successful than I am.’


Many people now aren’t necessarily going to be better off than their parents. In fact, they’re going to be worse off.


When they look at their own children they feel it’s going to get worse, not better.


I don’t see it as a uniquely U.S. phenomenon: I see it as a world phenomenon. The divide between the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, has become greater.


People feel left out.




Anybody can be a success in Texas. It’s just the way the Texans are.


They don’t care if you come from a very wealthy family or a very privileged family, that’s not what interests them about people. They are more interested in who you are and how smart you are and how capable you are and whether you have the energy to be a success.


I thought about staying on the east coast. I had job offers in both New York and D.C. I decided on Texas.


The weather in Houston is a lot like the weather in Bangladesh. It’s the same torrential rains, the same humidity, the same heat.


I live two lives in Texas. I live in the city and I have a ranch out in the country. I have very close friends in both locations and they are very different.


In the country it’s all about the local community, it’s about your neighbors, your local church, about helping each  other.  It’s very community oriented. They’re not spending a lot of time worrying about what’s happening in the Middle East, they’re worried about what’s happening down the street. That’s how they focus their lives. They’re very warm people, and generous.


I’ve got seven horses at the ranch.


A Lusitano stallion, a Friesian stallion, a Thoroughbred that used to be a racehorse, a Paint, two Quarter horses—and a new filly. She’s half Lusitano and half Quarter horse, and her name—Colibri—means hummingbird in Spanish. She’s three months old.


My wife loves all living things. She’s a vegan. She’s an animal rights activist. I’ve got fifty-two animals at the ranch: many of them are rescues.


She grew up in southern Mississippi. She went to law school in Oxford, Mississippi.


Oxford, Mississippi, I would say, is the heart of the Deep South. The prejudices that continued to linger on in the South were there when she was young.


That’s part of the reason why she left.


She likes to give her time and attention to individuals in need of some one-on-one help. We had a ranch hand who died, and his daughter is fifteen, so my wife spends a lot of time with her. That’s just one instance.


I wanted to sail, so I read a bunch of sailing books (and a book about anchoring) and then I bought a sailboat and then I figured I could figure it out myself, and I did.


I do this quite a bit. I will have a passion for something and then I will buy a lot of books about it, and then I’ll read up.


I have read quite a bit about North Korea. A lot of literature from India. A lot about Naples. A large number of Australians. I’m reading a Chinese crime writer just now.


I read all these garden books. I looked at fifty types of garden in a great garden museum in Holland. Then I thought about what I wanted from a garden.


The garden is one of the great metaphors of life, right? Life and beauty and pain and lack of permanence.


So I designed and constructed my own garden.


I had to bring in bulldozers and excavators and all kind of things.


Then I thought, well, I want to do the next garden differently.


So I made three gardens. And each one is different.


All of these things have repercussions. Once I had the gardens, I had to get into the bee business. Now I have to get more bees.


I have a house in Mexico now. I like the culture of that part of Mexico. The streets are cobblestone and the houses are old— Spanish colonial.


I’m a person who needs projects in my life.


I get up at four thirty in the morning. You can accomplish a lot in life if you add to the time that’s available.


Three days a week I have a guy come to my house who’s a former football player with the Jets. I hang out with him for an hour working out.


I don’t see ‘intellectual’ as something I want to be.


I’m interested in understanding people and what motivates them.


It’s good to be smart, it’s good to be serious, it’s good to have a fine mind. At the end of the day it’s not going to be your greatest attribute. Having compassion is probably much more important.


‘For the sake of the rose the thorns get watered.’ I love that saying.

Gerry Pecht
Global head of bankruptcy, financial restructuring and insolvency, Norton Rose Fulbright
Litigator (securities litigation and enforcement, internal investigations, commercial litigation)
Joined Fulbright & Jaworski (now Norton Rose Fulbright) in 1980
Served on US MCom, global ExCom, and as global head of litigation and disputes, and head of US regulation, investigations, securities and compliance

Interview by Ingeborg Alexander. Photographs by Ivan Maslarov