While Davis Polk & Wardwell houses one of the smaller litigation groups among firms of a similar stature, it has secured a notable presence at the forefront of some of the country’s most high-stakes securities, commercial, antitrust and white-collar matters. The compact group (34 partners in total) is also distributed among several strategic locations: New York, Washington, DC and Silicon Valley, CA. The firm is routinely revered by peers; one calls them “an excellent group, with a high-end pedigree and clientele.”
Davis Polk has made a remarkable surge in its white-collar and investigations practice. “They have done a great job of making sure to build this group up after so many years of ‘the Bob Fiske show,’” confirms a peer, referring to a legendary former partner. “The team there now is younger and more diverse and, more importantly, a real team.” Even more impressive, the team at Davis Polk is truly trial tested. Greg Andres, who rejoined the firm in June 2019, represents clients in both civil and criminal trials. He previously served as a partner in Davis Polk’s white-collar group from 2013 to 2017 and has represented individuals, financial institutions and other entities in a wide range of regulatory and criminal investigations involving market manipulation, insider trading, securities, procurement and tax fraud, and money laundering. He also has extensive experience in anti-corruption matters, both in private practice and at the Department of Justice. From August 2017 to March 2019, Andres was a member of the Special Counsel’s Office in Washington DC, investigating Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters. Andres served as the lead trial lawyer in the successful prosecution of Paul Manafort in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Andres makes his debut on Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers this year. Another white-collar and investigation star seeing his profile surge is Neil MacBride, a former US Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia who joined the firm’s DC office in 2014. MacBride represented Exxon Mobil in successfully suing the US Department of Treasury and OFAC in federal court to vacate a penalty notice, dating from July 2017, imposing a $2 million fine on ExxonMobil for alleged violations of the Ukraine-related sanctions regulations. In December 2019 the court granted ExxonMobil’s motion for summary judgment, denied the government’s cross-motion for summary judgment, and declared that OFAC’s penalty notice violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
In the firm’s prized securities department, New York’s James Rouhandeh is a consistent fixture in cases, as is rising star Brian Weinstein. “We’re seeing a lot of Jim and Brian, they do a lot of Morgan Stanley work.” Indeed, this named client has been a loyal mainstay in the firm’s securities capacity, but recent cases are evidence of a greater diversity. Rouhandeh represented Walmart in litigation filed against Tesla Energy Operations related to solar panels that Tesla’s predecessor, SolarCity Corporation, had installed at numerous Walmart sites. In a complaint prepared by Davis Polk and filed in New York State Supreme Court, Walmart alleged that SolarCity had designed, installed, and promised to safely operate solar panels on the roofs of 244 Walmart stores – but, instead, SolarCity and Tesla had acted with gross negligence and failed to live up to industry standards in their operation of those solar panels. Walmart claimed that, as a result of that gross negligence, seven Walmart stores experienced fires due to Tesla’s solar systems between 2012 and 2018. Walmart and Tesla reached an amicable resolution of the litigation and entered a stipulation of voluntary discontinuance in November 2019. Rouhandeh also, along with Silicon Valley-based Neal Potischman, secured a victory for Novo Nordisk in two actions pending in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, one of which is a putative nationwide class action. The cases are brought by consumers with diabetes and by certain health plans; both groups claim that they paid excessive prices for insulin manufactured by Novo Nordisk and other pharmaceutical manufacturers. The theory of the cases is that prices paid at the pharmacy counter are deceptive because they do not properly reflect the value of rebates that manufacturers pay to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to ensure that the manufacturers’ products are made available to consumers on drug formularies. Plaintiffs in both cases alleged that each of the manufacturer defendants was involved in a conspiracy with different PBMs to inflate the price of insulin in violation of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Plaintiffs also brought claims under the consumer protection laws of various states. In February 2020, the court granted Davis Polk’s motions to dismiss all of plaintiffs’ RICO claims.
The firm’s bankruptcy practice has also seen a rising profile of late, specifically New York’s Elliot Moskowitz. “Keep an eye on Elliot,” advises a high-profile peer in the bankruptcy capacity. “I’ve been impressed with him and I think he’s got quite a future.” Moskowitz is advising a major lender in the ongoing chapter 11 bankruptcy cases and related litigation in the US and Hong Kong involving China Fishery Group Limited and certain of its affiliates. Through its Peruvian subsidiaries, China Fishery Group, which filed for bankruptcy in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in June 2016 and has also been involved in insolvency proceedings in Peru, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and Singapore since 2015. On behalf of this client, Moskowitz is currently defending a lawsuit pending before the bankruptcy court in which plaintiff is seeking at least $245 million in damages based on purported violations of Peruvian, Hong Kong and US law. In 2019 Moskowitz filed, argued, and submitted supplemental briefing in support of a motion to dismiss the claims. A ruling on the motion is currently pending.