Plaintiff shop Labaton Sucharow historically has been viewed as, and still is primarily known as, a securities boutique. Operating in the financial district of New York as well as in Wilmington, Delaware and Washington, DC, the firm is well poised to feed heartily on a steady diet of corporate disputes arising on Wall Street and in the Delaware Court of Chancery. “Labaton is one of the few plaintiff firms that get the big, meaty securities cases and they litigate them,” confirms a defense-side peer. Another advises, “Look closer – Labaton is getting more into the consumer class-actions space as well, particularly with privacy and data breach work.”
A noticeable change of the guard has transformed the front lines of Labaton’s bench, with a host of younger partners making their mark with lead appointments on some of the firm’s biggest cases of late. Exemplifying this, as well as the observations about the firm taking on more privacy-related work, New York future star, Michael Canty provided co-lead counsel and secured an all-cash $650 million settlement from social media juggernaut Facebook in a case alleging Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology to extract and store user biometric identifiers without consent and as required by the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. “They were actually working this up for trial against Facebook’s very formidable team of lawyers and it settled,” testifies a peer. Another New York future star, Carol Villegas is lauded for her “grit and talent,” both of which were put on display in several cases in which she provided co-lead counsel. In one such case, she served as lead counsel in a securities class action against data analytics behemoth Nielsen and certain of its executives, that alleges the company misrepresented the strength of its Buy business, the value of its goodwill, and the impact of the EU’s privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation. Villegas argued that the price of Nielsen publicly traded common stock was artificially inflated as a result of Nielsen’s allegedly false and misleading statements and omissions, and that the price declined when the truth was allegedly revealed through a series of partial revelations. The parties settled for $73 million in cash. Villegas also served as lead counsel in a securities class action against World Wrestling Entertainment – the sports entertainment company primarily known for its brand of professional wrestling – and certain of its executives, that alleges the company misrepresented the status of its media rights agreements in the Middle East and North Africa region, once again artificially inflating the company’s common stock, which suffered a precipitous drop following revelations about the stock. James Johnson, a more senior partner in the New York office, lays claim to several key victories of his own. He acted as lead counsel in a securities class action against Canadian cannabis producer CannTrust Holdings following a cross-border exposure of CannTrust’s illicit business practices and related regulatory violations – namely, secretly growing massive amounts of cannabis in unlicensed rooms in violation of Canadian cannabis regulations. Through a mediation process, Johnson and his team was able to settle with all but one of the named defendants, with preliminary approval of a $66.4 million settlement in the US.
One of Labaton’s biggest developments as of late has been the rising profile of the firm’s Delaware practice. This has largely been attributed to the efforts of Ned Weinberger, a partner who has the community talking. “Ned is one of the leaders,” confirms one Wilmington peer. “There are no shortcuts in Delaware – you have to earn your way up through the peers and judiciary. Ned has gotten appointed lead counsel on several cases, important cases, OVER people from several other plaintiff firms that are more established in Delaware!” Another peer adds, “Courts love him, he’s an aggressive litigator who gets results.” Still another peer confirms, “These days, he has very quickly risen up to the position of being my first or second call if I needed to refer a case to a plaintiff. I would choose him over more established plaintiffs in Delaware, who are older and fading.” Weinberger is co-lead counsel in the class action and derivative lawsuit against certain officers, directors, and/or controlling stockholders of Expedia Group arising out of a transaction that allowed Barry Diller, chairman of Expedia’s board of directors and the company’s senior executive, to acquire super voting shares in the company. According to the complaint, Expedia suffers from an extreme separation of ownership and control. A peer offers in summation, “There’s something going on in Wilmington in the plaintiff bar – can’t you just feel it? And that’s Ned – he’s building that out.”