Akerman has developed into one of the most comprehensive legal shops on the East Coast, particularly in the Southeast region, where it is one of the area’s dominant players. Clients cheer the “strategy, timeliness and responsiveness” of the firm’s litigation team. One specifies, “They provide great strategy in an environmental toxic tort case and product liability matters. They provide excellent advice and [they] staff matters appropriately.”
While its reputation and client base has grown well beyond its original Florida stronghold, the Sunshine State is still where many of its key litigators reign supreme. Tallahassee’s Kathi Giddings, a renowned appellate practitioner (and consistent repeat appearance in Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation) was part of a team that triumphed on behalf of Florigrown, a local player in the budding medical cannabis industry, (and, one could argue, the local industry itself) when she successfully challenged the Florida Department of Health’s and the Legislature's efforts to subject all licensed medical marijuana businesses in the state to mandatory full vertical integration, meaning that each licensee is solely responsible for all aspects of the medical marijuana supply chain, from the time that it originates as a seed until the time it is sold or delivered to the patient, as well as the state’s imposition of a strict limit on the number of medical marijuana businesses operators in the state. This integration effectively shuts out new entrants. Florigrown retained Akerman in late 2017 to assist in its stalled application for a medical marijuana license and In July 2019, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal issued a decision upholding all key aspects of a temporary injunction. The Florida Supreme Court was due to conduct oral argument via remote videoconference in May 2020. Miami’s Michael Marsh, a celebrated commercial litigator, represented Meritor, a manufacturer of automobile components for military suppliers, trucks, and trailers, and several of its subsidiaries, in a product liability and wrongful death action filed by the estate of a man killed after a braking system of a semi-tractor trailer truck allegedly malfunctioned and broke apart, striking the man while driving on a highway. The estate alleged that Meritor manufactured the braking system, which was comprised of a purportedly defective brake shoe and brake drum. The estate demanded damages in excess of $19 million dollars. Without the actual truck driver having gone MIA, the plaintiff could not prove causation and thus agreed to dismiss the claims against Meritor with prejudice. Marsh also represents E-Alternative Solutions, a company that sells vaping devices and cartridges, in a dispute with a supplier in Delaware Chancery Court. The lawsuit includes claims for fraud, breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and declaratory relief. The supplier alleges that the client intentionally sought to limit sales of the products that they supplied and preferred a separate line of products that the client also distributed. Stephen Hurlbut, domiciled in the Tyson’s Corner, Virginia office and is known as an authority in construction litigation, is counsel for CDJV in proceedings against the Navy pending before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA). The case involves claims against the Navy for damages and additional compensation of $13.5 million that the client claims are owed as a result of changes and differing site conditions associated with a contract for Airfield Vegetation Conversion and Clear Zone Restoration at Naval Air Station Boca Chica in Key West, Florida. The case is still in the discovery stage and is now scheduled to commence in January 2021.Brian Fraser, who recently joined the firm from Richards Kibbe & Orbe, provides an augmentation to the firm’s New York office. Fraser represents the designated certificate holder under a securitized trust of commercial mortgages in a case in which the plaintiff owner of a $60 million office tower in Memphis has sued the trustee, the servicer and special servicer to the trusts alleging that the defendants conspired to deprive it of the right to refinance and has obtained an injunction against a foreclosure sale in Tennessee.
With offices in New York, Washington, DC, Hartford, Connecticut and San Francisco, Axinn maintains a special focus on litigation, particularly in the antitrust and intellectual property spaces. One appreciative client addresses the firm as “excellent, very accessible, responsive and reasonably priced.” This client goes on to note that “Axinn is also more diverse than most IP firms. ‘More diverse’ meaning not all white men and women.”
In the firm’s Hartford office, Matthew Becker represented Alvogen Pine Brook in patent infringement litigation brought by plaintiffs concerning Alvogen’s ANDA submitted to FDA for approval of its Budesonide Extended-Release Tablets, which was marketed by Santarus and now plaintiff Valeant Pharmaceuticals under the name UCERIS, a corticosteroid medicine used to treat mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. In May 2017, a trial was held in Wilmington, Delaware. At the close of plaintiffs’ case-in-chief, Becker moved for judgment of non-infringement, which was granted, ending the case with a judgment in Alvogen’s favor in November 2017. The plaintiffs appealed that judgment. Oral arguments in the appeal were held in January 2019, and the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that same month. The case was dismissed pursuant to a settlement on favorable terms in August 2019. Becker also, along with fellow Hartford partners Chad Landmon and Ted Mathias, represented this same client in a case regarding patents related to Pernix hydrocodone extended-release capsules, Zohydro. This case went to appeal at the Federal Circuit, which affirmed the lower court’s decision in December 2019. Landmon represented Zydus Pharmaceuticals and Cadila Healthcare in a Hatch-Waxman patent infringement action brought by Millennium Pharmaceuticals. The litigation involved the drug bortezomib, which is marketed under the Velcade. The patent at issue had previously been found valid by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, but Axinn developed a unique obviousness argument and aggressively litigated the case, leading to a favorable settlement on the eve of trial.
Operating in the DC office, Aziz Burgy defended Par Pharmaceutical in four separate suits filed by Horizon Therapeutics in various jurisdictions involving a generic version of the drug Ravicti. Collectively, the cases involved six different patents. The four lawsuits and inter partes reviews have all been dismissed and/or terminated in light of a favorable settlement, which grants Par a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free license to manufacture generic Ravicti after July 1, 2025 or earlier under certain conditions. The July 2025 License Effective Date represents allows Par to enter the market nearly a decade before the latest expiring patents directed to Ravicti. Burgy also acts for Par in several other patent matters. Burgy is also part of a team that currently represents Novitium in a lawsuit filed by Taro Pharmaceutical Industries in the District of New Jersey relating to the first generic version of the drug Ovide. The case was filed in January 2019 and is still in the early stages. Beyond the pharmaceutical industry, Burgy represents American Bankers Association in a lawsuit it filed against SS&C Technologies in the Southern District of New York to protect over 200 copyrights relating to banking courses.
Bartlit Beck is celebrated among peers for forging a template of what many firms aspire towards. “They are the type of firm we have all been watching and all want to be like,” concedes one peer. “We want to hire
those type of people, hopefully before Bartlit Beck gets to them.” Another declares, “They set the standard for litigation boutiques in the US. Most people setting up litigation shops owe at least some debt to Bartlit Beck, whether they know it or not.” Ironically, the runaway success that the firm has experienced with its business model has caused it to outgrow its “boutique” status; the firm now has over 40 partners practicing in its offices in Chicago and Denver. “Yes, they’re like a boutique on steroids now,” sums up one peer. Clients are equally impressed. One commends the firm’s “outstanding trial prep and presentation of evidence and arguments,” while another cheers individual counsel at the firm as “incredibly responsive, practical and solution oriented.”
Few would argue that the firm’s most venerated figure remains Chicago trial icon Phil Beck, who boasts a decades-long series of appearances as lead counsel on precedent-setting cases in a wide variety of forums. Beck was lead counsel for Bruce Rauner, the former Governor of Illinois, in a private equity dispute with the general partner of a fund in which Rauner invested. The dispute centered on whether the general partner breached his fiduciary duties by deviating from the partnership agreement’s “waterfall” provision. The case was tried to a final, and confidential, arbitral award. “Phil is still ‘the man,’” confirms one peer, elaborating, “but the firm has done great in alleviating the ‘what’s after Phil Beck?’ question. They have groomed powerhouse people from top to bottom.” Rebecca Bacon, another frequent mention who enjoys her fifth consecutive appearance as one of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation, was retained by FedEx Ground to serve as lead trial counsel in an action in the Western District of Pennsylvania brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC brought its action on behalf of over 300 hearing-impaired package handlers from across the country. They allege that FedEx Ground violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide needed accommodations, such as American Sign Language interpretation and closed-captioned videos, to both deaf package handlers and deaf applicants for the package handler position. In addition to monetary relief, the EEOC is seeking a broad, nationwide injunction that would have significant impacts on FedEx Ground’s operations. Bacon also represents USG, a drywall manufacturer, and its former distribution company against Sherman Act and state price fixing claims related to its drywall business. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by conspiring to fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize prices for gypsum drywall. This multidistrict litigation matter was consolidated in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. USG settled the class cases and subsequently, 12 of the largest homebuilders in the United States brought similar claims that are currently pending. The firm’s intellectual property prowess has been increasingly on display, and peers are taking notice. “Bartlit Beck are doing more patent litigation! We have a great deal of respect for their IP people.” Scott McBride is lead trial counsel for Bayer in Hatch-Waxman litigation against three generic drug makers in a case relating to Bayer’s soluble guanylate cyclase stimulator, riociguat, a drug used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, and marketed as Adempas. The case is scheduled for trial in December 2020. McBride is also lead trial counsel defending Gilead Sciences against patent infringement allegations brought by the Regents of the University of Minnesota relating to Gilead’s sofosbuvir-containing treatments for Hepatitis C. In the product liability space, Kaspar Stoffelmayr serves as lead and coordinating counsel and trial counsel for Walgreens in nationwide litigation relating to the distribution and sale of prescription opioids, including a federal MDL in the Northern District of Ohio, related state court cases, and appellate proceedings. The litigation currently involves over 2400 cases against Walgreens in which states, cities, counties, Indian tribes, and private parties assert claims against manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of prescription opioids. Stoffelmayr also acts as national counsel and lead trial counsel for Bayer product liability litigation including approximately 20,000 lawsuits and claims alleging that the oral contraceptives YAZ and Yasmin (and related product) carry an excessive risk of blood clots and other injuries.
In the Denver office, Sean Grimsley is lead counsel for Arconic and its US subsidiary AAP in a case currently pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in which survivors and the estates of victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have brought product liability and wrongful death claims against various US companies regarding products used in or on the Grenfell Tower. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the Reynobond PE cladding sold by Arconic’s French subsidiary for installation on the Grenfell Tower was defective and that the clients should be held strictly liable under Pennsylvania law for any damage caused by the cladding. Grimsley has filed various motions to dismiss, including for failure to state a claim and forum non conveniens. Grimsley also serves as national counsel for ConocoPhillips in a series of cases brought by states and municipalities across the US seeking damages and injunctive relief related to climate change from the sale and marketing of petroleum products.
Berman Tabacco has been referred to by peers as “one of the premier plaintiff shops.” One such peer, speaking to the San Francisco office where the majority of its litigation stars are housed, as “sort of the ‘Bernstein Litowitz of the West.’” While this comparison to one of the country’s other top securities class-action plaintiff shops is meant to be a flattering one, it is not entirely accurate, as Berman Tabacco also operates a Boston office. And while Berman is engaged in its fair share of securities class actions, its reach is broader and more diverse; one peer observes, “I’m actually seeing Berman Tabacco more in the antitrust space these days!” Lending weight to this claim, San Francisco’s
Todd Seaver filed a class action in April 2020 accusing Juul and Altria of illegally monopolizing the market for electronic cigarettes in violation of federal antitrust laws, a result of Altria’s 2018 agreement to acquire 35% of Juul and subsequent exit from the e-cigarette market. This class action is one of several filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a nationwide class of Juul purchasers, after the Federal Trade Commission in April filed an administrative complaint against both companies for violating federal antitrust laws through two agreements in 2018 and an amended agreement in 2020.
In the securities space, the firm is continuing to evolve and expand into areas, such as health, considered outside of its “usual” industries. The firm is also examining an increasing amount of opt-out opportunities for its clients, in addition to the class-action work. A peer notes, “They are getting fewer settlements, but they are getting bigger ones!” San Francisco’s Nicole Lavalee is cheered by a client for her “communication, strategy and expertise in the field.” A peer notes, “I’m seeing her on more securities fraud cases, making motions for lead plaintiff.” Lavalee is co-lead counsel representing lead plaintiff Plymouth County Retirement Association in a securities class action lawsuit against Aqua Metals on behalf of all persons who acquired the common stock of Aqua Metals during a period in 2016-2017. During the class period, Aqua Metals touted that it had developed a technology that had the potential to revolutionize lead recycling and make lead-acid batteries the only truly sustainable battery technology, which was discovered to have been rife with misleading statements. In August 2019, the court issued an order denying, in part, and granting, in part, defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint. In June 2019, Lavalee was appointed lead counsel representing the sole lead plaintiff Utah Retirement Systems in a class action brought on behalf of investors in Healthcare Services Group, a provider of housekeeping and laundry services to hospitals and other healthcare service organizations. The action currently alleges that, between certain period between 2017 and 2019, defendants issued materially false and misleading statements and failed to disclose “earnings management” practices that allowed the defendants to consistently meet or beat earnings per share estimates that, in turn, caused the price of the company’s stock to be artificially inflated. In April 2020, the court issued an order denying the defendants’ motions to dismiss in full. The case will now proceed to discovery.
The Boston office has also been busy. Patrick Egan represents whistleblower clients in a federal False Claims Act action against former pharmaceutical executives and sales managers stemming from their alleged off-label promotion of the orphan drug Juxtapid, which is used to treat an exceedingly rare cholesterol disorder. Plaintiffs allege that the defendants orchestrated a scheme to aggressively promote Juxtapid beyond that population through an aggressive misinformation campaign directed at doctors and other improper sales and marketing tactics. As a result, the federal government was defrauded into paying millions of dollars through Medicare, Medicaid and other federal prescription drug programs for drug coverage for patients who did not have the underlying disorder. In 2017, the United States intervened in the whistleblowers’ action for purposes of settling claims with the company under an arrangement in which it agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges. Following settlement with the company, the whistleblowers continued with their litigation against the senior executives and sales managers allegedly involved in directing the wide-ranging off-label marketing scheme. In March 2019, the court issued an order, largely denying defendants’ motions to dismiss and sustaining plaintiffs’ claims against the top executives and sales professionals. In December 2019, Egan announced a $6.5 million settlement with the eight former executives and employees, bringing the total recovery to the United States and certain individual states in this matter to $42.5 million. Nathaniel Orenstein is a member of Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee and Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee representing three residents of Andover, Massachusetts in this litigation filed in the wake of the September 2018, catastrophe in which widespread explosions and fires engulfed the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts as a result of the over-pressurization of natural gas lines. As a result of the incident, thousands of residents of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence Massachusetts were displaced and suffered significant physical and emotional injury. Plaintiffs’ counsel negotiated an extraordinary $143 million, non-reversionary settlement fund for the benefit of the proposed class of residents, property owners and businesses in the three towns. The proposed settlement provides for direct cash payments to claimants in amounts calculated to reflect the harm they suffered from the Incident.
Bernstein Litowitz has emerged as an undisputed leader in the securities-focused plaintiff arena. Peers on both sides of the “V” offer plaudits and admiration on a near-unanimous basis. A plaintiff peer endorses the firm’s standing as “the cream of the crop,” while a defense-side peer quips, “I see more of Bernstein Litowitz than I would care to. But you can’t argue with their quality and their market share. In the 10-B(5) securities class action space, their results speak for themselves.”
Historically a New York-based institution position as “an attack dog for Wall Street,” the firm has also attended to a Delaware practice as well, a position that the firm cemented when it officially opened an office in Wilmington this past year and installed recent recruit Greg Varallo to run it. Varallo, long known to the Delaware Chancery community as a defense lawyer at Wilmington institution Richards Layton & Finger, raised eyebrows and had the legal market talking when he “flipped sides.” One peer observes, “Greg joining them was a very interesting development! He was at one of the classic white-shoe Delaware firms and then one day you wake up and he’s a plaintiff with Bernstein. It was a bit of a head-scratcher but I’m sure they know what they’re doing, they both are great in their respective roles.” A local peer confirms, “Greg is well known and well-liked by everyone in the Chancery community. He’s got a certain charisma and credibility.”
In the New York flagship, Mark Lebovitch is also known for a Delaware element to his practice, which frequently involve derivative actions. “Mark is outstanding,” enthuses a peer, echoing the sentiment of others. “He’s very creative and very big in the activist space.” Lebovitch recently triumphed for shareholders of New Senior Investment Group in a derivative action brought in Delaware Chancery Court in 2016 arising out of an unlawful scheme to enrich Fortress Investment Group and its affiliates at the expense of New Senior and its stockholders, through self-dealing transactions that caused New Senior to overpay for the properties, issue a larger secondary offering than necessary to fund the acquisition, and pay higher management fees than necessary. The court denied the defendants motion to dismiss. Following a mediation process, Lebovitch secured a settlement consisting of $53 million to be paid to New Senior, as well as important corporate governance. The settlement was approved in July 2019. Sal Graziano is another frequent mention. “Sal is always in the mix, and he can certainly try a case if needed.” Graziano pursued a securities fraud class action on behalf of investors in SunEdison alleging that the executives of renewable energy entity SunEdison misled investors concerning its financial condition. In June 2019, following multiple mediation sessions and extended settlement negotiations, the parties reached an agreement in principle to settle for $74 million. The settlement was approved in October. Peers also note that one of the firm’s younger partners, Jeremy Robinson, “really has stepped forward as a true first-chair litigator.” One peer elaborates, “for someone at that age bracket at that firm to forge their own practice is very, very difficult. He is now the #2 guy on their Facebook case that’s been pending – dealing with the effects of privacy matters on shareholders. He’s got the aggressive, front-facing style that Bernstein likes.”
Initially a Philadelphia-based firm and still one of that market’s key players, Blank Rome has since swelled to 13 offices in the US and over 600 attorneys. The firm offers services in a wide range of areas, but arguably its most significant development as of late is its entry into an especially busy policyholder-only insurance recovery practice, which Blank Rome managed to cultivate through its absorption of several leading partners from now-defunct DC-based plaintiff shop Dickstein Shapiro. The firm didn’t stop there, however; the firm has since launched an insurance-led expansion that has netted the firm key litigators in the practice such as Linda Kornfeld from the Los Angeles office of Kasowitz Benson & Torres and, more recently, Mary Craig Calkins, who the firm lured away from the Los Angeles office of Kilpatrick Townsend in August 2019. Calkins, a member of the American College of Coverage Counsel, is viewed by fellow insurance litigators as a particularly prized acquisition. “Blank Rome’s substantive legal knowledge in this [coverage] field is stellar,” insists a client.
Washington, DC’s Jim Murray and New York future star Jared Zola are leading the charge for numerous archdioceses across the country seeking insurance proceeds to cover defense costs and any potential settlements or judgments incurred from claims of alleged sexual abuse within the clergy, frequently many decades ago. Murray and Zola were also retained by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Malik Jefferson to pursue a claim for insurance coverage under his “Loss of Value” disability policy while he was a student at the University of Texas. This line of coverage is marketed to top college football players destined for the NFL to protect the financial value of their NFL draft status in the event they suffer an injury playing college football. This retention follows on the heels of the firm’s representation of Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee under a similar policy. This same pair also were named trial counsel, after the client had been represented by another firm, in a high-profile matter involving property and business interruption losses sustained by Madelaine Chocolate Novelties in New York during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. An October 2020 jury trial is set, after a New York federal judge held that the scope of coverage under the chocolatier’s policy is unclear and the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the case to the trial court on an issue of fact for the jury to resolve. Zola is making a name for himself independently as well. He was retained by North American Automotive Services (NAAS) to pursue coverage under general liability, directors & officers, employment liability and personal lines insurance policies following an alleged incident after a company event, in which two NAAS executives were named in a civil lawsuit seeking more than $50 million in damages. One executive is facing criminal charges set for trial in February 2020, and the company is named in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge.
Headquartered in Birmingham, Bradley has emerged as a dominant player in the legal services industry in the Southeast, boasting an ever-expanding network of offices throughout the region (in Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and Washington, DC, as well as its native Alabama.) The firm has doubled down on its surge into Texas as well; most recently the firm lured a celebrated local “trial lawyer extraordinaire,”
Richard “Dick” Sayles, to the firm’s Dallas office. Sayles, an all-purpose commercial litigator who once headed his own litigation boutique, Sayles Werbner, is viewed by all as a particularly auspicious addition. “With that hire, Bradley certainly made a splash in Texas,” testifies one local peer. “That is basically kicking the doors open, yelling ‘Hey Dallas, we’re here!’ Dick Sayles was one of those people who owned the city when I was a young local lawyer, and he continues to do amazing things.” As a bonus, the firm also scored Sayles’ son, Robert Sayles, a noted future star. The elder Sayles is representing JPMorgan Chase in a $220 million qui tam action arising out of mortgage modification program.
In the firm’s flagship Birmingham office, Mike Pennington is lead counsel defending Ocwen and PHH in four class action and over a dozen individual cases alleging that convenience fees charged for use of optional same-day telephone and online payment and processing methods violate the FDCPA and various state laws. The cases are pending in Florida, California and New Jersey. A prior similar class action in Alabama was settled and received final approval in 2019. Pennington was also, along with Scott Smith and Leigh Anne Hodge, retained as ERISA class-action counsel to defend BBVA against challenges to its 401(k) defined contribution plan. The lawsuit putatively covers all participants in the BBVA 401(k) plan nationwide and seeks over $40 million in damages. Specifically, the suit claims BBVA violated its fiduciary duties to plan participants by including a money market fund in its plan and by failing to control the costs and expenses of several actively managed mutual funds and target date funds in the plan. Beyond commercial litigation, “Bradley’s life sciences team is nationally known,” according to a peer. Tripp Haston, Kim Martin and Lindsey Boney have represented Bayer in multiple Xarelto litigation matters. A mass tort litigation recently settled for $775 million in the aggregate, after six bellwether trials, all of which were defense wins. Seasoned partner David Hymer is noted for his nationwide representation of CVS in the opioid litigation. In the Montgomery, Alabama office, Charles “Chuck” Stewart has an ongoing relationship with Textron and is representing this client in a case filed by a plaintiff that was rendered crippled by a golf cart.
In the firm’s Nashville office, Lela Hollabaugh serves as Tennessee counsel for Amazon.com, in a $30 million product liability litigation against it arising from the sale of hoverboards by third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace. The allegations in the complaint seek to hold Amazon liable as a seller of the products that are sold by others on its Marketplace.
Cahill Gordon & Reindel remains a favorite with its stable of loyal, longtime clients, which include global cornerstones of the financial industry, as well as embattled individuals who turn to Cahill practitioners for counsel but probably hope to never see the firm (or any litigator) again. One of Cahill’s clients voices appreciation for the “comprehensive advice, with excellent strategic gameplan” that the firm has become known for. Cahill is best known for its concentration in the commercial, securities, antitrust and white-collar crime capacities.
Operating from both the firm’s New York flagship office as well as DC, Brad Bondi has become known as a trusted advocate for white-collar and securities enforcement matters. “Over the years I have gotten to know Brad well and have trusted him on several important projects,” testifies a peer. Bondi represents former a KPMG senior partner and executive who is charged along with four others are charged in a high-profile case with wire fraud and related offenses relating to the misappropriation by the defendants of confidential inspection information from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Bondi was also engaged by Tesla in the wake of statements made on Twitter by CEO Elon Musk in 2018. These infamous Tweets claimed “funding secured” for a transaction to take Tesla private, which caused a furor within the SEC, who responded with a securities fraud action. Bondi undertook an internal investigation and ultimately secured a highly favorable resolution for non-fraud charges. Bondi is not the only partner in this group earning acclaim; Nola Heller represents a former asset manager who is charged for her alleged role in a $63 million scheme to place fraudulent bonds in discretionary client accounts. In March 2020, Heller served as lead trial counsel in a four-day evidentiary hearing regarding the client’s motion to withdraw her guilty plea. A decision on that motion is pending. The response is also strong for Arinudh Bansal, a younger partner who is making a swift ascent. “I think Arinudh is first-rate,” opines a peer. “He was a junior to [celebrated former Cahill partner] David Kelley so he got excellent training and then had big shoes to fill, which he did. He stepped up in a big way, and I expect you’ll see more of him.”
In the commercial capacity, Tammy Roy is another younger partner making a rapid rise. A client addresses Roy as a “rock star” who “[has] command of facts without getting lost in details. [She has a] bright future.” Roy has taken the lead on several notable engagements as of late. She represents S&P Global in five related actions alleging that S&P made reckless misrepresentations in connection with the rating of a life settlement securitization. In March 2019, several claims were dismissed but others were allowed to proceed and are now in discovery. Roy also represented UBS in connection with a defamation claim filed by a former UBS employee-turned-whistleblower after UBS publicly refuted the plaintiff’s claims, which were published in a book, regarding the details of his role in a tax-evasion scheme allegedly implicitly endorsed by UBS. UBS also denounced the plaintiff and highlighted lapses of credibility in his story. Landis Best serves as co-counsel representing Hayman Capital Management and its founder in litigation brought by a real estate investment firm in Texas state court alleging claims of disparagement and tortious interference stemming from reports published by Hayman that were critical of plaintiffs’ business.
Cahill has long served Credit Suisse in cases straddling an intersection of securities and antitrust issues. Joel Kurtzberg, a recent addition to Benchmark’s litigation stars, has proven his mettle in having taken the lead on several of these matters. “Get Joel on your radar,” advises a peer. “He has earned it.” The team also includes longtime stars Herb Washer and Elai Katz, the latter known primarily for his antitrust acumen and the former frequently pivoting between securities, antitrust and commercial cases. “Elai is an antitrust secret weapon,” confides a peer. “He comes on like a bit of a street fighter but you can tell by his writing – and he does a lot of it – that he is really studious and geeks out on this stuff.” Washer is said to be able to “do it all” while at the same time “being one of the more pleasant and well-spoken litigators you’ll encounter.”
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is one of the few firms of its ilk to span the globe with its disputes prowess while still being a champion of cases that set precedents through its practitioners in New York and DC. “Cleary benefits from having a really broad and international book of business,” states a peer. “This drives some great work their way and they have superb people there to look after it.” The firm excels in antitrust, white-collar and investigations work, securities, bankruptcy, commercial and even some intellectual property, in addition to being known as one of the dominant forces in the international arbitration arena.
Cleary’s antitrust capacity, already considered one of the country’s strongest, got a further boost in March of 2020 when it recruited Bruce Hoffman, a former leader of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, to its DC group. A peer offers in summation, “That was a fabulous hire,” a consensus shared by many in the antitrust sphere. Hoffman is already making his presence felt in cases; he and fellow DC partner David Gelfand are representing Molson Coors in the defense of a claim by a US brewer alleging an antitrust violation affected exports to Ontario, Canada. The case is on remand from the Seventh Circuit, which dismissed the majority of plaintiff’s claims. Another DC partner, George Cary, is widely considered the firm’s antitrust figurehead and is also a near-unanimous reference among fellow practitioners in the field. One peer hyperbolically quips, “George Cary is antitrust!” Another elaborates, “George has not only an encyclopedic knowledge of antitrust law, he also just has instant credibility. He actually manages to teach the judiciary about antitrust law, and that would only happen if you’ve got the kind of clout with them that George has.” Cary and a fellow antitrust star, Leah Brannon, represent Keurig in massive multiparty monopolization litigation in the Southern District of New York. Almost two years into discovery, the litigation involves five complaints brought against Keurig by two individual competitors, two purported classes (direct and indirect purchasers), and an individual purchaser. Among other allegations, these cases allege that Keurig has unlawfully monopolized a market for Keurig-compatible single-serve coffee through a wide range of actions, from Keurig’s design and advertising of its 2.0 coffee brewer and related coffee to its contracts with suppliers, distributors, and other partners. A team consisting of Cary and yet another antitrust star, Jeremy Calsyn, along with Gelfand and Mark Nelson, secured federal merger clearance and won an unprecedented multi-state lawsuit as lead antitrust counsel to T-Mobile and parent company Deutsche Telekom in connection with T-Mobile’s historic merger with Sprint Corporation. The lawsuit was brought by 17 Attorney Generals and culminated in a two-week trial in December 2019 and January 2020. Brannon and Calsyn, both based in DC, are quickly risen stars who represent the younger generation of the firm.
Another area in which Cleary is routinely praised is the white-collar and enforcement area. “They have a good nucleus of a practice in DoJ and SEC and in DC and NY,” confirms a peer. Another elaborates, “Cleary is great because they have about six people I can count on who are solid. When I have a huge case that I need to refer, I need the breadth and the depth, not just one star player who may or may not be too overwhelmed to be fully engaged. The Cleary team is smart, knowledgeable and experienced, and there are a bunch of them: David Brodsky, Joon Kim, Breon Peace, Lev Dassin, Victor Hou – these people are all a solid team.” Hou represents embattled Brazilian engineering and construction firm Odebrecht and related entities in two private securities actions in the Southern District of New York. At the heart of the matters is the defendants’ involvement in the biggest bribery scandal in history (the investigation of which resulted in the well-publicized “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) action), which resulted in a guilty plea and $2.6 billion settlement with the US DoJ as well as settlements with other foreign governments. “Victor is not just a white-collar guy, though,” insists a peer, speaking to Hou’s broad-based practice. “He kind of does it all, commercial and securities work, and he’s great with all of it. Plus he’s got relative youth and energy going for him, which you don’t often see with someone with his level of experience.”
The firm’s international muscle is frequently on display in cases managed by Jeffrey Rosenthal and Howard Zelbo, two long-established figures in the global arbitration arena, as well as Ari MacKinnon, a future star who is increasingly moving to the fore in cases of his own. Another future star, Lisa Vicens, makes her debut in this edition on the strength of vibrant peer review. “Lisa has developed a fabulous South American practice,” confirms one competitor. “She is a homegrown talent, an unusual person in that respect.” The international team at Cleary frequently attends to cases touching on securities enforcement, white-collar crime and bankruptcy issues. Lisa Schweitzer is a practitioner engaged in bankruptcy specifically. Schweitzer represents bedding products company Tempur Sealy International in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases of one of its regional retailers, preserving the client’s litigation claims and other rights through the bankruptcy. In a recent development, Schweitzer is leading a team representing LATAM Airlines Group and its affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and the US in the voluntary reorganization and restructuring of their debt under Chapter 11 protection in the US. Under the Chapter 11 financial reorganization process, LATAM and its affiliates will have the opportunity to resize their operations to the new demand environment, given the effects of COVID-19, and reorganize their balance sheets. The group will continue passenger and cargo operations as conditions permit throughout the process. This cross-border procedure, which highlights unprecedented challenges faced by the industry in the face of the global pandemic, also involves Luke Barefoot, a rising star in the bankruptcy arena, as well as securities-focused star, Roger Cooper.
Cohen Milstein covers the Eastern seaboard with offices in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, Palm Beach Gardens and Raleigh, and services the Midwest through a Chicago office. Peers on both the defense and plaintiff sides of the “V” have voiced appreciation for the firm’s zealous approach. “I have always regarded them highly,” declares one plaintiff peer. “They have been mainly regarded as an antitrust firm, but they also so some work in securities and appear to be doing more of this. We happen to have a case where we are co-lead with them. They are smart lawyers.” The firm also has a noted employment, civil rights and ERISA practice. The firm made news in 2019 when a federal judge in Illinois to co-lead shareholder litigation against money transfer entity MoneyGram International, who, in November 2018, agreed to pay $125 million to resolve allegations that it failed to crack down on fraudulent money transfers.
The majority of Cohen Milstein’s star power is concentrated in its DC home base. Managing partner Steven Toll is a celebrated figure among the plaintiffs bar and a “feared but respected adversary” of defense lawyers. Toll has been at the helm of several recent milestone wins, including securing a ruling from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals that reinstated a suit against electronics maker Harman International Industries. A $28.25 million settlement was achieved in this action in 2017. Toll was also co-lead counsel in the BP Securities class action securities fraud lawsuit that arose from the Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the certification of the class of investors alleged to have been injured by BP’s misrepresenting the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, and thus minimizing the extent of the cost and financial impact to BP of the cleanup and resulting damages. In February 2017, the court granted final approval to a $175 million settlement reached between BP and lead plaintiffs for the “post-explosion” class. Julie Reiser attends to a practice that straddles antitrust, securities and ERISA matters. Reiser has led litigation teams in several major class actions and has secured landmark settlements, including a $500 million settlement related to Countrywide’s issuance of mortgage-backed securities and a shareholder derivative suit against Wynn Resorts, with a net settlement value of $90 million. More recently, Reiser made news in September 2020 as co-lead counsel in negotiating a settlement with Google parent company Alphabet regarding credible claims of a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination within the company. Reiser's efforts precipitated a $310 million settlement that Alphabet pledged to commit to diversity efforts.
While the DC partners are some of the firm’s most established, partners in other offices, particularly on the younger end of the spectrum, are also moving to the fore and garnering peer attention. Lauren Posner in the New York office is tipped by peers as a future star. “I’m sure she’ll be put in charge of many of their high-end cases,” forecasts a peer.
The star power of Cravath Swaine & Moore continues undiminished for yet another year. Still operating out of only one office in Manhattan, the firm commands respect nationally for its prestige and unassailable brand in the legal community. “Cravath remains one of the ‘usual suspects,’ for very good reason,” declares a peer, echoing the consensus of many. The firm is frequently at the forefront of cases involving elements of antitrust, securities and commercial litigation, and sometimes an intersection of all of these. Cravath has been identified as one of the few firms among its “white-shoe” ilk to feature a diverse client base that is not exclusively beholden to financial institutions. Even in practices into which the firm has made more recent entries, such as white-collar crime and intellectual property, Cravath has made notable strides.
Cravath is also singled out for its dedication to trial law, and indeed the firm’s increased concentration in Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers list reflects this. “If you look around at some of the top trial lawyers in the city these days,” confirms a New York peer, “many of them got their start at Cravath.” To a great extent, trial law figurehead Evan Chesler is credited for forging this culture over the years. Chesler himself has joked, “I try cases – that’s all they let me do around here.” Despite decades plying his craft in front of juries, Chesler still earns plaudits from peers and continues to appear in a lead role on some of the firm’s most groundbreaking matters. Others have stepped up and made their mark, however; notably, Daniel Slifkin is acknowledged by a peer as “Cravath’s most experienced trial lawyer after Evan. He is skilled and polished, with just the right amount of aggression.” Another peer notes, “Evan and Dan are the mentors. They foster the Cravath trial approach.” Chesler and Slifkin play lead roles representing Elon Musk and other members of the Tesla board of directors in connection with a stockholder class and derivative action filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery related to Tesla’s $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity Corporation. Plaintiffs allege that Musk exercised control over the Tesla board, despite holding only 22% of Tesla’s stock, and that the acquisition benefited Musk and others at the expense of the company and its minority stockholders. The Cravath team was retained as trial counsel after defendants’ motion to dismiss was denied. At a younger vintage point, Kevin Orsini, who a mere three years ago was still considered one of Benchmark’s “future stars,” has made an astonishing ascent in profile since then due to his increased presence as a first-chair trial lawyer. Although Orsini took home the award for “Antitrust Litigator of the Year” at the 2020 Benchmark awards ceremony due to his proven acumen in the area with a milestone win for AmEx, Orsini maintains an all-purpose approach, covering a broad spectrum of commercial issues. In just the most recent example, Orsini won a significant trial decision for Occidental Petroleum in November 2019. Plaintiffs, entities affiliated with activist investor Carl Icahn, filed the action in the Delaware Court of Chancery in connection with the company’s $57 billion acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum, which closed in August 2019. Plaintiffs criticized the terms of the acquisition and sought company books and records to support a potential proxy dispute to replace Occidental’s board of directors. Following a Chancery decision, plaintiffs appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court, where Orsini argued in February 2020, with both parties reaching a settlement shortly thereafter. Gary Bornstein is also noted for a practice that straddles antitrust and commercial elements. Bornstein also boasted a 2020 trial victory, this one in a judicial appraisal proceeding in North Carolina state court. An estimated $350 million to $400 million was at stake in the suit, which sought a determination of the fair value of shares of RAI common stock exchanged by former RAI shareholders in connection with the merger between RAI and a subsidiary of British American Tobacco. Bornstein is also part of a team, which also includes Antony Ryan and Yonatan Even, spearheading antitrust litigation on behalf of Qualcomm following the FTC’s 2017 complaint. The case was tried over 10 days in January 2019 and in May the court issued a decision finding in favor of the FTC and issuing a permanent injunction against Qualcomm. The Cravath team continued to represent Qualcomm on appeal, and oral arguments were heard in February 2020. Bornstein is said to have been “cautiously optimistic” regarding the outcome, and his sanguine outlook was validated when, in August 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the district court’s judgment and vacated the injunction in a complete defense win for Qualcomm.
Cravath’s white-collar and enforcement capacity, while a newer development and small in size, has also seen a steady ascent in stature. “They are building [that group] up quite nicely,” speculates a peer, “and I think very highly of the two main people, John Buretta and Ben Gruenstein.” These two noted practitioners are acting as compliance monitors for Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata, which has been subject to international scrutiny in the wake of an imbroglio regarding defective airbags. As part of a subsequent Consent Order, Buretta was brought on by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the compliance monitor in 2015, with other Cravath partners, also including David Stuart, assisting as of 2017 as the monitorship took on global proportions.
For a firm with such a historic pedigree, Cravath is also noted for doing an exceptional job in keeping an eye on the future by way of nurturing its younger litigation talent. Vanessa Lavely played a role in both the aforementioned case for Tesla. Omid Nasab brings a pronounced bankruptcy focus, a burgeoning area for the firm that dovetails with its representation of embattled California utility PG&E, which declared bankruptcy in the wake of its wildfire litigation, and also an area many law firms expect to emphasize following on to effects of Covid-19 on the global economy.
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.
Debevoise & Plimpton has etched itself a position of prestige in the legal market among peers, many of whom laud the firm’s approach as well as its practitioners’ proven skills across the board. “Debevoise is a very classy bunch,” opines one peer. “Always has been. The lawyers there all are very respectable.” It is also noted that Debevoise “has one of the more genuinely diverse benches around,” and that the firm “is not just playing catch-up. They put their money where their mouth is a long time ago.” Indeed, the firm has one of the highest percentages of women appearing as lead counsel on matters and nominated as star players, a metric that has quantified since
Benchmark’s first edition in 2008.
Several sources credit Mary Beth Hogan with fostering this dynamic atmosphere, particularly in its New York office, the larger of the two. A commercial litigator who is also recognized for her investigations work, Hogan is also the co-chair of litigation. “Mary Beth deserves a lot of praise for making Debevoise what it is today.” Maeve O’Connor, an authority in the securities area, represents the Mamaroneck, New York-based Winged Foot Golf Club, along with certain present and former members of the Board of Directors of the Winged Foot Holding Corporation, in several shareholder derivative and securities class action lawsuits in the Southern District of New York. O’Connor is also noted for an insurance practice (a practice for which she is the firm’s Chair.) She secured a victory for six insurers in a qui tam lawsuit alleging over $14.5 billion in damages. The plaintiff, an audit firm, brought the action on behalf New York in 2010, alleging that the clients knowingly failed to report and escheat abandoned life insurance policy proceeds. A judge granted O’Connor’s motion to dismiss with prejudice and denied plaintiff’s request to re-plead. Susan Gittes, a quickly rising star in both the securities and insurance spheres, worked with O’Connor on these matters. Shannon Selden is a commercial litigator with a specialty in asset management and private equity. Selden represents Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, as well as four of the client’s funds and the general partner of those funds in connection with a putative securities class-action lawsuit relating to the funds’ sale of more than $4 billion of stock in Envision Healthcare Corporation, which the client took public in 2013. Plaintiffs allege that the client violated Section 20A of the Exchange Act by selling their Envision stock while in possession of material adverse non-public information regarding purportedly improper billing practices. In November 2019, the court dismissed claims against the defendants in their entirety, while allowing certain other claims to proceed against the company and certain individual defendants. Maura Monaghan, a commercial litigator with a niche in product liability matters, represents certain former directors and shareholders of Purdue Pharma, regarding prescription opioid litigation, including a federal multi-district litigation and actions brought by states attorneys general. Monaghan also represents Hospital Corporation of America and its affiliated hospital systems and subsidiaries in several high-profile, complex class action matters involving alleged overbilling practices and other violations. “Once clients meet Maura, they can’t get enough of her,” enthuses a peer. Ted Hassi, in the firm’s DC office, acts with Monaghan on the latter case. Hassi, an antitrust authority, receives unanimous acclaim. “Ted is one of the tops in antitrust,” extols a peer. “He is currently the lead on a merger challenge between two of the biggest coal mining entities in the US!” Hassi also represents Toyota in a multi-district litigation concerning rail fuel surcharges, which were the subject of a long-running class action, which was denied class certification in 2017. Toyota subsequently filed its own suit, alleging that it overpaid hundreds of millions of dollars for rail transport in the US and Canada due to collusion on the part of the defendants to artificially inflate prices via the surcharges.
Debevoise has long been a leader in the white-collar and enforcement area, with a team that has historically been acknowledged with reverence by the community. “With Mary Jo White and Andrew Ceresney coming back on board a few years ago [both left the firm to serve in government during the Obama administration before rejoining the firm in 2017,] an already great team got a further invigoration. It’s basically an all-star cast there now,” extols a peer. Bruce Yannett is advising Royal Dutch Shell and serving as global coordinating counsel in connection with a criminal prosecution of Shell and four former employees in Milan, Italy. In September 2019, the DoJ informed Shell that it was closing its investigation of the matter without bringing any charges. The SEC has also closed its investigation without taking any action against the company. Yannett continues to represent Shell in connection with a criminal prosecution and four former employees in Italy as well as in an active investigation by the Dutch Public Prosecution Services. Another area in which the firm has historically held a dominant position is the international arbitration capacity. “I would guess Debevoise contains the highest percentage of multi-linguists of any firm in New York,” asserts a peer. Indeed, the firm’s international office count outnumbers that of its Stateside locations. Longtime stalwart Donald Donovan, along with “next-generation” stars Dietmar Prager, Mark Friedman and Natalie Reid, represented Tethyan, a company jointly owned by Antofagasta Minerals S.A. of Chile and Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada, in a multibillion-dollar investment dispute arising out of a mining project in Pakistan, winning nearly $6 billion in a July 2019 decision, the second-largest award ever rendered from a World Bank arbitration tribunal. Donovan and Catherine Amirfar prevailed on behalf of the State of Qatar with respect to two proceedings against the United Arab Emirates on provisional measures before the International Court of Justice in a high-profile and complex set of international disputes arising out of a multitude of measures, including a blockade, imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on Qatar.
Plaintiff specialty shop DiCello Levitt & Gutzler makes its debut on Benchmark and at only three years old, is a relatively new addition to the legal landscape. However, the firm has made waves in a short period of time. This momentum could be attributed to the background of its founding partners – Adam Levitt was previously with securities plaintiff shop Grant & Eisenhofer, and Mark DiCello was formerly a prosecutor – but it could also be due to the firm’s business model. Eschewing the singular approaches employed by many other plaintiff firms, such as a class actions or a single-incident personal injury, the firm has remained dedicated to a variety of strengths across a number of different areas. Several of its cases have made headlines. Ostensibly a boutique, the firm operates out of offices in Chicago, Cleveland, New York and St. Louis.
Exemplifying the firm’s flexible and forward-looking approach, Chicago’s Levitt has teamed up with celebrated Houston plaintiff attorney Mark Lanier in a very timely case pertaining to the issues of “business interruption insurance” that have bedeviled many businesses in the wake of COVID. These specific cases allege that certain insurers rejected special property coverage insurance claims made by small businesses impacted by mandated closures over COVID-19. The lead plaintiffs include a restaurant and nightclub in Bonita, California, and a Florida chain with locations in Coral Springs and Boca Raton. Levitt also represents the State of New Mexico in litigation that arose from Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche’s sale of purportedly “clean diesel” vehicles that, in fact, contained “defeat device” software designed to conceal the fact that the vehicles emitted harmful pollutants in gross excess of legal. In marketing and selling these vehicles in New Mexico, the defendants violated the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act and New Mexico False Advertising Act through their misrepresentations to consumers regarding the environmental impact of their vehicles. In August 2019, Levitt secured a $13.5 million settlement. Mark DiCello, based in Cleveland, represents the victims of the 2017 disaster at the Grenfell Tower a high-rise apartment building in West London. DiCello identified the US courts as the proper forum in which to bring this case and coordinated with a number of solicitors, barristers and Queen’s Counsel from the United Kingdom to seek justice in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The firm’s youngest partner, Amy Keller, has become a leading force in several data privacy-related cases taken on by the firm. When she was just 34 years old, Keller was named Consumer Plaintiffs’ Co-Lead Counsel in a massive Equifax data breach MDL. The litigation stemmed from Equifax’s ineffective handling of a 2017 data security breach that exposed the Social Security Numbers, birth dates, addresses and—in some cases—the driver’s license and credit card numbers of 147 million American consumers. Keller is also active in a similar case regarding the 2018 data breach experienced by the Marriott hotel chain. A client of Keller’s speaks on her behalf: “A company filed a suit against me for slander and Amy Keller defended me. I am a consumer advocate and Amy defended me against this company pro bono. Amy was very patient with me, explaining all aspects of my case, providing me with options, providing me advice. I felt VERY well taken care of. Any questions I had or worries about the lawsuit (this was the first time I had someone sue me) were promptly addressed.”
Gibbs & Bruns is a nationally recognized litigation boutique. Recognized by Benchmark Litigation as one of the Top 20 Trial Firms in the country, the firm has continuously obtained favorable results on behalf of their clients in high-stakes business and complex commercial disputes.
Veteran trial lawyer and firm figurehead Robin Gibbs has more than 45 years of litigation experience under his belt. His practice is dedicated to business and commercial litigation pertaining to contract, energy, oil and gas, antitrust, trade secret, legal malpractice, securities, director liability, intellectual property, construction, and partnership issues. Fellow partner Mark Giugliano represents clients in complex energy, construction, intellectual property focused on patent and copyright infringement, trusts and estates, products liability, class action, and securities litigation. He is active representing Enterprise in an engineering/construction lawsuit concerning a large petrochemical refinery recently constructed in Mont Belvieu, Texas. Enterprise seeks several hundred million dollars in cost overruns and lost profits from its original EPC contractor and parent company. After successful motion briefings and years of litigation that began in 2016, the trial is set for 2020. Fellow partner Scott Humphries is recognized for his work representing institutional plaintiffs in securities and contract disputes. His experience spans numerous state and federal courts, as well as across US and international arbitrations panels. Kathy Patrick is a seasoned trial lawyer who routinely represents big-name clients in high-profile, high-stakes cases. She is part of the lead counsel team representing OxyChem in a New Jersey federal lawsuit over cleanup costs allegedly related to a stretch of the purportedly polluted Passaic River. Patrick is renowned for her securities-related work, most notably recovering for a group of 14 large institutional investors who purchased securitized mortgages that contained fraudulent or ineligible loans prior to the financial crisis. Barrett Reasoner’s commercial litigation practice includes work on behalf of clients in securities, oil and gas, construction, environmental, and intellectual property. Reasoner recently represented Natural Resource Partners in a case brought by Anadarko. The client was alleged to have triggered an internal tax restructuring due to an anti-flip provision in an asset purchase agreement, leading to an allegedly owed buyout fee that ranged between $56 million and $78 million. In September 2019, the case was tried in a one-week bench trial. After a successful motion on damages and following trial, the Court rendered a final, take-nothing judgement in favor of the client in November 2019.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher continues to enjoy a coveted position as one of the nation’s strongest and most in-demand litigation institutions. “We view Gibson Dunn as our biggest and most formidable competitor,” confides one peer. Another offers in agreement, “I think these days you are seeing a ‘flight to quality,’ and Gibson Dunn really exemplifies that. They just get better and better.” Indeed, the firm’s star litigators, already one of the highest concentrations of any listed firm, seem to swell in number annually, and it is worth noting that these partners are distributed evenly throughout its offices and practice areas. “It’s hard to find an Achilles’ heel there! There are just no weak links,” confirms a peer, speaking to the firm’s balance of talent. That said, the firm is particularly celebrated in the fields of antitrust, white-collar crime, intellectual property, securities and commercial litigation, and its appellate and Supreme Court practice is regularly viewed as the most active and experienced in the country.
In the appeals practice, partners such as Ted Olson, Ted Boutrous, Mark Perry and Miguel Estrada are considered “pretty much brand names at this point” in the eyes of peers. “That is basically like the Mount Rushmore of the Supreme Court practice.” Indeed, each of the aforementioned partners (all based in Washington, DC except for the Los Angeles-based Boutrous) has been at the forefront of a staggering number of game-changing appeals that have forged new law and made national headlines. This year saw yet another appellate star joining the ranks of the stars: David DeBold, in the firm’s DC office. A peer testifies, “David handled an appeal for us and did an extraordinary job. He is incredibly smart and has handled hundreds of appeals. The briefs that he writes are so beautifully written.” DeBold also operates in the white-collar capacity, another practice in which the firm demonstrates indisputable depth. DC’s Joseph Warin receives resounding commendations. “In the anticorruption area, if we’re conflicted out, we refer to him, because he has a really experienced team,” testifies one peer. Another insists, “If I was a GC in trouble, Joe would be on my speed-dial, certainly in the FCPA world, but he’s terrific with everything. Gibson has a ton of great people but Joe is really the essence of that firm.” Others, notably women in the New York office, are also making their mark. Mylan Denerstein is a particularly noted figure. “She’s a rockstar there,” enthuses a peer. She was a Deputy Commissioner, she was [New York State Governor Andrew] Cuomo’s chief counsel, she just has an extraordinary background.” Zainab Ahmad is another partner gaining increasing traction “She came from the DoJ to Gibson about two years ago and had been working on the [Robert] Mueller investigative team for a while,” testifies a peer. “She is very able and we’re seeing her in matters, she’s really excelling in her new position.”
Also in New York, evergreens like Orin Snyder and Randy Mastro continue to elicit thumping praise. “Orin Synder is like the rainmaker supreme for that firm right now,” declares a peer. “He brings in a lot of business and he knows how to try a case if needed.” Among his many other appointments, Snyder lays claim to scoring several substantial wins for Facebook in the ongoing saga concerning its controversial Cambridge Analytica data breach, which unleashed a firestorm in the media and made privacy and data security professionals worldwide sit up and take notice. Mastro meanwhile continues to play a role in litigation for Chevron, most recently scoring a 2019 win in a matter concerning a “sham” $18 billion arbitration award against the client regarding an 80-year-old land dispute. “Randy has a very aggressive style, which may not for everyone, but his clients love it and that’s what matters,” states a peer. “He has a very loyal fan base.”
Richard Parker, a DC partner acknowledged as a “true antitrust trial lawyer, which is a real rarity,” scored big in February 2020, when a judge dismissed antitrust claims concerning the $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. State attorneys general from 13 states and DC sued to block the merger after the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division gave its approval. Also in DC,
Andrew Tulumello burnished his reputation as one of the nation’s authorities on False Advertising claims when he secured a landmark March 2019 victory on behalf of PepsiCo when the Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of a class action challenging the name of the company’s iconic beverage, Diet Pepsi. The plaintiffs mounted a broad-based scientific challenge to Diet Pepsi, saying that artificial sweeteners trick the body into wanting more food and make people obese. A future star in the DC office, commercial litigator Jason Mendro is seeing his star on the rise. “I had gotten the privilege to work closely with him on a certain bank matter and was impressed with his strategic input and his collegiality.”
In the firm’s Dallas office, yet another appellate star, Allyson Ho, triumphed for International Paper in one of the most plaintiff-friendly courts in Texas when the court tossed $100 million of a jury verdict against International Paper Company. The jury trial included claims for breach of contract and fraud arising out of invoices submitted by a contractor to build a new piece of equipment at an International Paper mill. The court of appeals rejected the jury’s fraud finding against the client and reversed the jury’s award of $44 million from what the plaintiff said was a lost opportunity to sell the company and tax penalties imposed on the plaintiff for raiding its own employees’ trust fund that the plaintiff blamed on International Paper. Among multiple claims and damages awards, the court left intact only $14.8 million of the original $125 million verdict, solely on the breach of contract claims. International Paper plans to pursue Texas Supreme Court review to reverse the remaining damages award.
Los Angeles-based full-service firm Glaser Weil represents a diverse group of clients in capacities including business litigation, intellectual property, corporate securities, international business transactions, real estate/land use/government relations, green building, taxation, trusts/estates/corporate fiduciaries, environmental and energy, and entertainment. The firm’s clients include movie studios, public utilities, the largest title insurance company, real estate developers, IT companies, investment firms, banks, performing artists, manufacturing and distribution companies, and gaming and hospitality enterprises.
Patricia “Patty” Glaser, arguably the firm’s most celebrated figure and a “fearless” trial lawyer, is considered a first-call among her wide-ranging client base, which includes an enviable roster of entertainment industry mainstays. Glaser conducted arbitration-based trials in New York City and San Francisco on behalf of high-profile electrical contractor Gary Segal in litigation filed by an international civil and building construction company, following its acquisition of an entity that was founded in 1959 by Segal’s father and captained by Segal after his father’s death. The claims arise out of the acquisition, some of which relate to an investigation by the US Attorneys’ Office for the Eastern District of New York into the acquired entity’s use of Minority-Owned, Women-Owned or Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. The parties are now engaged in post-trial briefing. Acting with Glaser on this case, Garland Kelley is an all-purpose commercial litigator and “crisis-management” specialist. Kelley lived up to this designation in his representation of John Schnatter, aka “Papa John,” namesake of the pizza franchise, in numerous lawsuits, including class-action litigation. Kelley also acts for Dubai-based NMC Health in an investigation that was initiated by the board of directors in the wake of comments made by short sellers, which prompted a sharp decline in the share price of NMC Health. The team also engaged former FBI Director Louie Freeh and his team to assist in the investigation. Ultimately the investigation identified significant issues related to NMC’s financials, including inflated cash balances, understated debt, and other governance-related issues at the company, which led to the termination of the CEO and the resignation of several members of the Board. Jill Basinger and Amin Al-Sarraf act with Kelley on this matter. Kelley and Al-Sarraf also represent Trammell Crow and related entities in litigation filed in LA County Superior Court regarding a real estate venture. Basinger represents Freddie Roach, a professional celebrity boxing coach in connection with a lawsuit filed by a former waiter who claims that he arranged a meeting that led to a 2015 boxing match and thus is due 2% of the total gross of the fight as a finder’s fee for allegedly arranging the meeting. The plaintiff also claims that he has been pressured and harassed by Roach and the Showtime network to drop his claims, and he alleges that he has suffered emotional distress as a result. Basinger also represents entertainment agency ICM in a dispute before the California Labor Commissioner that results from Canadian singer Celine Dion firing her longtime agent, Rob Prinz of ICM, after he procured for her an approximately 10-year, $500 million minimum live performance contract with AEG, and refusing to pay post-termination commissions. Basinger also represents music impresario Russell Simmons in an alleged sexual assault claim filed by an unnamed plaintiff in 2018.
Andrew Baum is representing Josh Goldstine in connection with his wrongful termination as President of Marketing for Universal and the resulting publicity that NBC/Universal created. Baum took the case to trial and prevailed. Kerry Garvis Wright, whose practice is dedicated to high-profile cases at the intersection of entertainment and employment law. Wright has earned her stripes as a “warrior in court and therapist out of court” with a portfolio of clients including household names in the entertainment elite. “Her clients are coming to her with their hair on fire, which is really a problem, as so many of them have such great hair!”
Goodwin has steadily expanded from its Boston roots, arriving at its current status as an national player in several key markets and industries, most notably the finance and life sciences sectors. It now houses litigation stars in nearly every one of its offices on the East and West Coasts.
Boston’s Christopher Holding is the co-head of the firm’s antitrust practice and manages a practice largely devoted to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry. In a case illustrative of the link between antitrust issues regarding patents, Holding represents Actavis in a challenge to the settlement of patent litigation between Shire and Actavis about the drug Intuniv. The plaintiffs assert that the agreement contained an implicit reverse payment that delayed generic entry. Holding also represents Teva in a pharmaceutical antitrust case raising reverse-payment allegations. The litigation was mostly settled after years of litigation, but a number of indirect purchasers who opted out of the settlement challenged the opt-out procedures set by the district court, and that challenged was briefed and argued in the Second Circuit in 2019. Anthony Fiotto, the Boston-based co-chair of the firm’s securities and white-collar capacity, recently achieved significant New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division and Court of Appeals victories on behalf of The Pyramid Companies, a developer of shopping malls with 16 properties that are separately owned by partnerships, with Pyramid being the majority partner in each. The dispute began when a minority partner sought to dissolve and force the liquidation of one of the partnerships on numerous grounds.
In the firm’s DC office, Thomas Hefferon is nationwide litigation and trial counsel to Think Finance, a provider of technology, analytics, and marketing services to financial businesses in the consumer lending industry. Hefferon has coordinated the simultaneous defense of three major litigation matters: a lawsuit by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a lawsuit by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a substantial number of coordinated consumer putative class actions—all in separate federal courts across the country. All three controversies concern the alleged improper issuance of consumer loans, allegedly in violation of state usury and licensing laws. Also in DC, Willy Jay is a unanimously revered appellate practitioner. One peer, also one of DC’s leading appellate lawyers, raves, “I’m a HUGE fan of Willy. I would say he’s ‘up-and-coming’ but he’s probably there already. Clients love him, he’s like a walking encyclopedia of the law. He’s just awesome, very charming.” Jay is equally celebrated for his demeanor as well as his acumen; one peer testifies, “We co-wrote briefs with Goodwin, and we have a great relationship with them. Willy Jay in particular is just personally a very good guy and is a team player and not about trying to take all the credit for anything. He was very gracious in recognizing the contribution that we made to the briefs in a way that frankly you don’t always see. He is excellent, the go-to guy for appeals court work, and he was excellent in his presentation to the Supreme Court.” Jay also represents Teva in a nine-figure patent infringement appeal.
In New York, securities-focused partner Marshall Fishman represents Citibank and multiple affiliates in connection with a number of lawsuits that have been brought by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Board Special Claims Committee. Brian Pastuszenski, another securities-focused partner, is called “fantastic,” with one peer testifying, “I see him in a ton of work. He should be on your national securities list for sure.” Richard Strassberg is a New York fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers with a pedigree as an “aggressive” white-collar practitioner. William Harrington is another revered white-collar practitioner and attends to a practice focused on the finance and health care industries. “Bill Harrington is really impressive,” states a peer. “He got a good acquittal in a District of Massachusetts trial that got a fair amount of publicity.” Another peer insists, “Clients I’ve introduced him to think the world of him.” Elizabeth Holland is a recipient of commendations from peers in the IP capacity. “She’s another one at the firm that does a lot of work for Teva,” confirms one peer. “I’ve never seen her at trial but I have interacted with her and she presents excellently and I like her personally.”
The firm’s Silicon Valley office has seen high-profile work in the white-collar and intellectual property capacities, unsurprisingly largely linked to the area's high-tech industry. California litigation leader Grant Fondo is a white-collar practitioner with specialties in cybersecurity and privacy as well as fintech and cryptocurrency. Fondo is part of a multi-office team advising Tezos on litigation matters, including state and federal securities class actions related to the launch of the Tezos blockchain network. The parties recently entered into a class-action settlement, for $25 million, which is waiting court approval. Fondo is also part of a multi-office team representing John Stumpf, the former Chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, in litigation and governmental investigations arising from the September 2016 announcement that Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and City of Los Angeles, to settle allegations that it opened unauthorized accounts and issued unauthorized products for customers, as well as other recent reports concerning Wells Fargo’s alleged sales practices. The securities class action has settled for $480 million and Stumpf paid nothing. In February 2020, the company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DoJ and settled with the SEC, agreeing to pay $3 billion to resolve these matters. IP specialist Neel Chatterjee represented the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, a public higher education and research institution in West Bengal, India. After 11 years of litigation, the Northern District of California definitively rejected the plaintiff's claims that the client breached an oral joint venture agreement, breached a nondisclosure agreement, and misappropriated the plaintiff's trade secrets.
Greenberg Traurig is a full-service law firm with a global presence in a variety of practice areas. The firm hosts more than 2,000 attorneys in 41 offices across the world, which positions them to effectively serve both domestic and international clients.
The firm is highly regarded for its product liability capabilities, largely attributed to the efforts of Atlanta-based partner Lori Cohen, who chairs the pharmaceutical, medical device and health care litigation practice, in addition to serving as co-chair of the global litigation practice group. Among her current matters, Cohen, who is also recognized in Benchmark Litigation’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list, is a member of the lead counsel team representing Alcon Laboratories and fellow Novartis subsidiary Sandoz in several multi-state putative class actions. This case alleges that the manufacturers of brand-name and generic prescription eye drops intentionally designed their droppers to dispense drops of medication larger than the human eye can hold, allegedly resulting in waste of the product and purchase of more frequent refills. After the client's motion to dismiss was granted by the District Court on grounds of impossibility preemption, Cohen and company were chosen to represent all defendants in briefing and arguing the appeal. The First Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. Cohen was also lead counsel for C.R. Bard (now Bard) in long-running pelvic mesh litigation, winning back-to-back summary judgements.
New York-based star Alan Mansfield is part of the lead national counsel team representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the arbitration of payment adjustment disputes arising under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement ("MSA") between certain tobacco manufacturers and 52 states, districts, and territories of the U.S. The firm also represents the client in all related disputes arising under the MSA, as well as disputes arising under R.J. Reynolds' settlements with four previously settled states. Additionally, the firm has served as lead trial and appellate counsel in state court proceedings before the courts of Florida, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, and New Mexico, and before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, including appeals before the Florida and New Mexico courts of appeal.
William Goines is co-managing partner of the firm’s Silicon Valley office and dedicates his practice to complex commercial litigation and business disputes. Goines, along with New York-based vice-chair Richard Edlin were co-lead counsel to KT Engcore Corporation in a case against Moneual, an up-and-coming South Korean computer manufacturer that arose out of one of the largest corporate frauds ever prosecuted in South Korea. The client was positioned as an intermediary, providing certain financing support and acting as the computer manufacturer's exporter. After the two companies had worked together for several years, the Korean Customs Department and the Seoul Central District Prosecutors revealed that they had undertaken a large-scale investigation in which the founder of Moneual and his longtime associate were convicted of having run a massive scheme. It was determined that the computers that were supposed to have been shipped for seven years were, in fact, never shipped, and the entire scheme was a fraud. This matter is the first case of its kind to be tried in the United States and, after a five-week jury trial, Goines and Edlin scored a $32 million verdict and full damages awarded. In all, more than a dozen high-ranking business executives and government employees went to jail on the matter. Most recently, Goines and Edlin successfully dismissed the defendants appeal.
Miami-based star David Coulson currently defends Champion Petfoods USA in a suit filed in the Federal Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin alleging the client's dog food was tainted with dangerous levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury which in turn rendered some of the statements on Champion's packaging misleading. The plaintiff asserted claims for breach of express and implied warranties, unjust enrichment, and alleged violations of state consumer protection and unfair competition statutes. In February 2019, the District Judge granted summary judgement and dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice on the basis that the small amounts found in Champion's dog food were naturally occurring, safe, and did not render any of Champion's statements on its packaging misleading or deceptive. Shortly after, consumers in 15 additional states, including another in Wisconsin, filed suits against Champion making similar allegations – for a total of 17 matters now being litigated state-by-state, rather than in a multi-district litigation proceeding. In October 2019, the Greenberg Traurig team won the denial of class certification in the Central District of California.
Hausfeld has emerged as a plaintiff-side firm to be reckoned with in several categories. However, unlike many other firms of its ilk, the firm has not opted for taking the “boutique” route and has instead expanded domestically and globally with 120 litigators practicing in 12 offices throughout the US and Europe. Primarily in the antitrust capacity, Hausfeld is an undisputed trailblazer, identified as a ubiquitous presence by peers on both the plaintiff and defense sides of the “V.” One major defense peer confirms, “Hausfeld is who we almost always see on the plaintiff side if there is antitrust class-action. Even it’s not exclusively them, they are always somewhere in the mix.” Another frequent opponent notes, “They have a wide scope regarding antitrust actions, and they are also huge in sports! I do a great deal of this work, and it’s nearly always against Hausfeld, at least in the biggest and best cases.” Over the past several years alone, the firm has landed national headlines for its dogged pursuit of antitrust and sports claims.
Few would contest that the firm’s legacy is credited to firm founder and visionary Michael Hausfeld, the name partner who entrepreneurially built his firm into a zealous plaintiff empire. Hausfeld made news in 2019 as one of the key plaintiffs behind a class-action matter against several railroad entities, claiming that from 2003 to 2008 these entities conspired to increase revenue by imposing a fuel surcharge. While the DC office, where Hausfeld is based, has long been viewed as the firm’s center of gravity, several California-based partners are tipping the scales to a more balanced footprint. Megan Jones in the San Francisco office has been identified by several peers as “a leader at Hausfeld now,” and Bonny Sweeney, also based In San Francisco, is a recipient of accolades. In addition to antitrust, Sweeney attends to niche practices in sports and entertainment law as well as consumer protection and pro bono matters.
Haynes and Boone is home to more than 575 lawyers across 17 offices. The team of complex litigators offer specializations in 40 major practice areas. DC-based trial lawyer Barry Buchman is a leading policyholder insurance lawyer who routinely represents policyholders in complex insurance coverage matters, general liability coverage disputes, and other cutting-edge insurance coverage proceedings. Buchman’s practice is also inclusive of complex commercial disputes, business torts, actions involving private equity firms and automotive companies, as well as an active pro bono practice. Buchman is active representing a top company in a massive litigation against nearly 60 insurance companies over coverage for thousands of asbestos-related and silica-related bodily injury claims. Austin, Texas-based Leslie Thorne serves as co-chair of the litigation practice group. She recently, successfully represented a Honduran woman seeking asylum in one of the first court victories in family-separation litigation in a federal suit. Thorne is active in complex commercial litigation, cyber-related liability actions, and insurance disputes. Dallas partner Russ Emerson is lead counsel in numerous high-profile patent disputes related to technologies, medical devices, pharmaceutical products, and computer networking, among others. His practice also includes additional intellectual property disputes, such as cases involving trademarks and trade dress, copyrights, theft of trade secrets, and other complex matters. Fellow Dallas partner Nina Cortell is recognized as one of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation. She is active in appellate, general commercial, and tort actions. Cortell is part of the lead counsel team that recently persuaded the Texas Supreme Court to vacate a $16.5 million judgment and deny injunctive relief in a trade secret dispute on behalf of client VHSC. The decision was obtained after a six-year long battle.
Operating for nearly a quarter of a century, Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney now occupies a unique space in the crowded New York market, taking on cases spanning several practice areas and servicing them with a more personalized, hands-on approach. While several of their founding partners come armed with “big law” credentials, the firm itself enjoys a maverick reputation as a smaller boutique taking on some of the largest litigation shops. One peer notes, “they are making a mark as ‘giant killers.’ They go up against, and beat, some of the big brand-name shops all the time.” The firm is noted especially for its commercial, insurance and labor and employment capacity, and the cases it takes on are often of a novel nature.
One such example involves an ownership dispute concerning New York’s iconic Palm steakhouse, in which firm founder Frederic Newman scored several consecutive wins. An all-purpose commercial trial generalist, Newman won a $120 million award at trial in a dispute over the iconic Palm steakhouse. Newman represented the plaintiffs, who own a 20% stake in the entity and alleged that the grandsons of the founders, who own the other 80% of the entity, cheated the plaintiffs out of the financial rewards of the Palm's expansion by creating a series of companies, which the two grandsons own exclusively, to hold the new restaurants. In December 2019, a judge ordered defendants in the long-running battle to pay $4.6 million in attorney’s fees and expenses to HNRK for its successful prosecution of the case and, in May 2020, the New York Appellate Division, First Department unanimously affirmed the February 2019 judgment. Dorothea Regal attends to a robust insurance coverage practice that includes ongoing representation of Syngenta Crop Protection in insurance coverage disputes. Andrew Bourne is another partner earning accolades for his insurance acumen. A client cheers, “Andrew is masterful at insurance coverage disputes generally, and D&O coverage disputes specifically; [he offers] tremendous advisory services with respect to ex ante policy evaluation, and he has impeccable appellate advocacy.” Bourne and Regal represented China Merchants Bank in connection with an alleged claim of employment discrimination. This matter involves the interplay of two employment practices liability insurance carriers, both of which denied insurance coverage. The pair convinced the insurance companies to provide coverage without resorting to litigation, and the matter then settled without contribution by the bank. Bourne and Newman secured complete dismissal in a high-profile litigation concerning statements made by Former Fox News star Bill O'Reilly in a litigation alleging that he defamed a former producer and breached a settlement agreement with her related to non-sexual harassment allegations. Damian Cavaleri, who attends to a hybrid commercial and employment practice, represented Montefiore Medical Center in a six-week employment-related trial in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, which took place between November and December 2017. The matter was settled partially in the client’s favor in 2019. Cavaleri also acts for individual clients; one voices appreciation, stating, “Damian counsels his clients, and helps with perspective when clients are upset. [He worked on a] separation agreement after I was terminated. He drove the conflict to conclusion, explained everything, and kept me realistic.”
New York litigation boutique Holwell Shuster & Goldberg has, since its inception in 2012, forged a reputation as one of the city’s most esteemed legal shops. Its partners, which span a comprehensive range of senior partners and younger talent, have received near-unanimous acclaim. “It’s a great boutique composed of smart and aggressive people, some of whom actually got their start at some of the best ‘bigger law’ firms out there.” Holwell Shuster is particularly adept at cases featuring an intersection of commercial, securities, and antitrust, which has afforded itself the opportunity to take on cases in the plaintiff role as well as defense.
Arguably the firm’s busiest and most visible partner, Michael Shuster continues to lead the charge, appearing in a lead role on a staggering number of matters attended to by the firm over the past year. Among the many residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) “putback” actions the firm has been engaged in, they represent HSBC Bank USA as plaintiff trustee in multiple cases against financial institutions that securitized residential mortgage loans. The cases collectively seek billions of dollars. Other partners involved in these matters include Daniel Goldberg, Avi Israeli, and Daniel Sullivan, all of whom also receive the nod from peers. Shuster and Goldberg also were brought in to represent US Bank, then Wilmington Trust, as trustees to serve as lead trial counsel in the prosecution of RMBS “putback” claims against Lehman Brothers across more than 150 RMBS trusts. The claims are for breach of contractual representations and warranties concerning tens of thousands of defective mortgage loans that Lehman securitized before it imploded at the outset of the financial crisis. Shuster also is lead counsel for Visa, a mainstay client, in several key matters. In one, he and future stars Demian Ordway and Blair Kaminsky represent the client in a putative nationwide class action and dozens of individual antitrust cases in multiple jurisdictions brought by some of the largest retail merchants in the world. These merchants claim that Visa, among other parties, conspired to impose rules and fix fees governing credit and debit card transactions in violation of antitrust laws. Visa denies all liability. In September 2018, the parties reached a settlement for $6.26 billion with one of the putative classes of merchants, which is subject to possible reduction of up to $700 million in the event opt-outs exceed a certain threshold and is believed to be the largest-ever antitrust class-action settlement. Final approval of the settlement was granted in December 2019 and is currently being fought by objectors on appeal. That settlement aside, this team continues to defend Visa in dozens of cases brought by individual merchants as well as in a class action seeking injunctive relief (where plaintiffs seek changes to the fundamental rules underlying the Visa network). Goldberg, Israeli and Dorit Black represent AIMCo, an investment fund owned by a foreign sovereign, and also Wells Fargo, as a securities intermediary, in nine-figure, multi-district litigation against insurance carriers alleged to have improperly increased premiums on “universal life” insurance policies. The Holwell team has secured several important early wins in these high-profile cases, ensuring that the defendants’ alleged abuses will be adjudicated on the merits. Vincent Levy represents Aenergy S.A., an energy and transportation company doing business in Angola, in connection with various proceedings arising out of the termination of 13 contracts worth $1.1 billion between Aenergy and entities owned by the government of Angola. In May 2020, Levy filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Aenergy and one of its wholly owned subsidiaries against Angola and General Electric, asserting that Angola unlawfully repudiated its commercial contracts with Aenergy and expropriated Aenergy property, and that GE tortiously procured that unlawful repudiation and aided and abetted the expropriation. Aenergy seeks compensatory damages from Angola and GE in excess of $500 million for lost profits (before interest), as well as punitive damages. Levy is a future star generating an increasing level of peer acclaim. “Vince is fantastic and has a bright future ahead of him. He used to be at Wachtell, where he got some superb training, and he knows!”
Since its genesis in 2015, Los Angeles litigation boutique Hueston Hennigan has seen an ascent that can only be described as astonishing. Formed by a group of commercial litigators who peeled off of California institution Irell & Manella to launch this venture, Hueston Hennigan has forged itself a coveted position as a local litigation shop that has achieved statewide and even national prominence. The firm is noted for its mission of putting a premium on trial work, a mission that has been fulfilled with rapid momentum on several high-level appointments. “They have just been massively successful,” sums up one East Coast litigator, stating a consensus shared by many peers. The firm’s client base is remarkably diverse, ranging from individuals to a variety of entities encompassing tech giants, Native American tribes, the Boy Scouts and the California State Bar (to name but a few), with very little repeat business and virtually no “routine” cases. “Hueston Hennigan doesn’t do the ‘cookie-cutter.’ They do really cool, cutting-edge work,” declares a peer, who goes on to confide, “I admit it makes me jealous, and I’m sure I’m not alone!”
The firm’s figurehead is John Hueston, a trial trailblazer who has carved himself an enviable position among others in the elite trial lawyer circuit. “I’ve seen trial lawyers rise and fade but John is young and vibrant enough to be in this for the long haul,” opines one peer. Hueston’s proven activity as lead counsel on a number of high-level appointments more than supports this near-unanimous acclaim. In just one of several examples of Hueston’s prowess and versatility, he recently represented The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which was sued by a former researcher who claimed he was terminated for exposing alleged misuse of government funds and research misconduct, and sought $65 million from the client. He further alleged that Caltech tortiously interfered and breached with his business relations and obligations. Caltech, on the other hand, argued that it acted entirely properly in all aspects of its dealings with the government and in eliminating his position after he failed to satisfy his obligations. After Caltech was granted summary adjudication on 10 out of 12 of plaintiffs’ claims, the issue at trial (in May 2019) was whether Caltech retaliated against the plaintiff for complaints he had made and wrongfully terminated him. After four weeks of trial and just two hours of deliberation, Hueston secured a full defense verdict for Caltech. Hueston’s dance card bulges with engagements from other clientele as well, including the Houston Astros, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and an individual caught up in the “Varsity Blues” college cheating imbroglio, to name but a few.
While Hueston is undoubtedly the “center of gravity” at the firm, others in his orbit are also emerging as leaders in their own right. Moez Kaba is a noted example. Kaba, who as of 2020 still qualifies for Benchmark’s 40 and Under Hotlist (he made his fourth consecutive appearance in this year’s edition) has enjoyed a rapid rise in profile on the strength of his work in tandem with Hueston as well as on his own. An example of the former is his appearance with Hueston on the aforementioned case for Caltech, while an example of the latter is his representation of Ring in several class actions brought in both federal and state court arising from incidents in which Ring devices—including video doorbells and in-home cameras—were accessed by unauthorized third parties. Each of these cases seeks relief on behalf of all users of Ring devices within the US. “Moez attracts some very trendy clients,” opines a peer.
The firm has been at the forefront of several “event-driven litigation” cases involving environmental crises. In one, Hueston and Kaba represent the Navajo Nation in all aspects of its claims arising out of the unprecedented 2015 acid mine wastewater spill from the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. This spill released more than three million gallons of contaminated water, and the toxic plume coursed into the San Juan River, which is a primary water source for the Navajo Nation, flowing through more than 200 miles of Navajo territory. In March 2019, the Navajo Nation won important victories in its fight for fair compensation for the harms caused by the US EPA and its contractors. The Federal District Court in New Mexico in denying the motions to dismiss, decisively ruled that all parties – the United States, the US EPA’s contractors, and mine owners and operators – must face the consequences arising out of the spill. In October 2019, the Navajo Nation won another important fight—the Court rejected the federal government’s motion for partial summary judgment on the Navajo Nation’s tort claims, paving the way for full discovery. In another matter, a Hueston Hennigan team including Hueston, Kaba, and Doug Dixon provide lead counsel to Edison International and Southern California Edison against civil claims and potential criminal charges arising out of the 2017 Thomas Fire, the 2018 Montecito mudslides, and the 2018 Woolsey Fire, three of the largest fires in California history.
Hunton Andrews Kurth, the product of a recent merger between two prominent firms (the Southeast institution Hunton & Williams and the Texas-centric Andrews Kurth), with the combined entity bringing together each firm’s strengths in a complementary fashion and doubles down on its comprehensive coverage regionally. Clients cheer the firm’s “expertise in our area and consistent excellence in client service and communications exceeded expectations,” calling out the individual lawyers’ “thorough, responsive and concise work product,” and testifying that they are “always available”.
Hunton’s concentration of litigation talent in its Richmond office is particularly notable. Mike Shebelskie garners praise from well beyond Virginia and is noted nationally for his presence in high-stakes matters often containing an environmental element, an area in which Hunton & Williams was particularly well versed. Shebelskie has cases with Elbert Lin, another Richmond partner who has been particularly visible as of late. Lin argued for Maui County at the Supreme Court in a case exploring the parameters of the Clean Water Act, Lin triumphed in a favorable decision that was rendered in April 2020. “This is a milestone,” claims a peer. “It’s time to recognize Elbert Lin!” Another environmental litigator (and leader of the practice) based in the DC office, Deidre Duncan led a team that won a significant victory for Mosaic Fertilizer in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a suit challenging the federal authorizations and reviews issued for Mosaic’s South Pasture Extension mine under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act (CWA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA.)The underlying suit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups, raised more than a dozen claims under NEPA, CWA and ESA. The Hunton team defeated those claims in the district court in November 2018, and the environmental groups appealed. In a comprehensive opinion, a divided panel of the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and, in doing so, established important precedent governing the scope of NEPA reviews.
Kelly Sandill in the firm’s Houston office led an all-female firm team that scored a milestone win in a hotly contested lawsuit for the Houston Police Officers’ Union when, in May 2019 after months of litigation, a Harris County District Court Judge awarded summary judgment in the client’s favor by ruling that Proposition B, which was a City Charter Amendment passed by the voters that tied firefighter pay to police pay, was preempted by Texas state law and unconstitutional. The ruling follows a year’s worth of contentious debate surrounding Proposition B and the financial effect on the City of Houston and Houston police officers. In the Miami office, all-purpose commercial litigator Sam Danon continues to be viewed as “a force,” with one local peer elaborating, “Sam is very savvy – he’s a native Spanish speaker, which you need to be around here, but Sam is particularly good at using this to his advantage not only in litigation but for building business.”
The firm’s geographic footprint is not limited to the South. Partners in the firm’s Boston office Harry Manion and Martin Gaynor led a team that won a June 2019 jury verdict of more than $20 million against the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over dredging related to construction of a marine terminal.
Husch Blackwell has blossomed from its initial Missouri origins into a more expansive and diverse regional entity, claiming an increasing level of market share across the Midwest, the Plains states and forays into the South and Southwest. “Husch has an interesting model, that seems to be working for them,” observes one peer. “They have a number of different practices, with a lot of focus on industries, with practitioners developing a good deal more expertise in these areas than they would otherwise. They are also growing!”
The firm’s reach in the Southwest is represented by Dan Goldfine, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago and now a star in the firm’s Phoenix office. Goldfine handles class actions for insurance companies, with 75 different matters in this area to his credit. These cases often deal with allegations of antitrust RICO violations. Goldfine also represents individuals and companies under investigation. In the firm’s Omaha office, Marnie Jensen led a team that prevailed in August 2020 before the US Court of Appeals on behalf of Farmobile in trade secret litigation initiated by a competitor in 2016. Previously, Farmobile had secured a complete summary judgment victory in May 2018 from a federal district court. This win comes nearly a year to the day that Jensen also triumphed on behalf of a client in what was ultimately a family squabble wrapped around a valuation dispute of approximately $900 million, a rare value in Nebraska. This case was a major contributing factor to Husch taking the “Nebraska Firm of the Year” award at the 2020 Benchmark awards in February 2020. Husch made a notable entry into Wisconsin recently, absorbing the local entity Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek and picking up some of the Badger State’s most respected litigators in the process. In the firm’s Madison office, Eric McLeod, a noted appellate and land-use authority, made headlines with his role in Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Northland Television, a defamation case in the Western District of Wisconsin in which McLeod acted for the plaintiff client, alleging false claims made by the defendant with the intentions of damaging the Donald Trump campaign. While this was arguably McLeod’s most high-profile case, he also represented the Wisconsin Legislature before the Wisconsin Supreme Court with a declaratory judgment action against Secretary-designee of Department of Health Services (DHS), successfully challenging an emergency order issued in response to COVID-19 pandemic, which order required all people within state to remain in their homes, prohibited non-essential travel, and required closure of all non-essential businesses. McLeod also got a big win in the summer of 2019 for Enbridge Energy, securing a high-profile victory before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in connection with a dispute over the grant of a conditional use permit made by Dane County, Wisconsin, allowing for the upgrade of Enbridge’s pipeline facilities. Another appellate star in Wisconsin, Anne Maher in the Milwaukee office is cheered by a peer as “very smart and one of those rare appellate guru types who is also very articulate.”
In the firm’s Kansas City home base, Jeff Simon had several wins in early 2020. He triumphed for Kansas City Southern in a lawsuit arising from a bus accident at a railroad crossing, obtaining a dismissal based upon forum non conveniens, later affirmed on appeal, in Missouri state court. He also defended a law firm client in a class-action lawsuit alleging violations of the Missouri Unfair Merchandising Act and other claims arising out of the firm's service as successor trustee in foreclosures. He also defended a Kansas City Police Department officer against civil rights claims arising out of the fatal shooting of a fleeing suspect; he served as lead trial and appellate counsel and successfully argued the appeal in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the trial court and remanded the case for reconsideration. On remand, the trial court granted the summary judgment motion and dismissed the case in its entirety.
Litigation boutique Kaplan Hecker & Fink is viewed by peers as “the place to be” at the moment. “They chose the right moment to form that firm,” opines one. “Their model is superb, and their approach dovetails perfectly with so many of the issues of this time in history.” The firm’s partners continue to demonstrate the fierce commitment to social justice that has been in its DNA since its 2017 founding, and its partners, all formerly with “big” law firms, boast a remarkably trial-tested résumé for their relatively young vintage. Historically a New York-based shop, the firm recently expanded, opening a DC office and welcoming back
Joshua Matz, who is returning to the firm after serving as counsel to the US House Judiciary Committee, as a partner in February 2020. The New York office also got a new infusion of talent within the past year with the recruit of
Marshall Miller, a white-collar star who joined the firm from Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz. “That’s a great addition,” offers a peer. “Marshall is a capable lawyer with a stellar track record.”
Founder and all-purpose trial lawyer Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan, who initially launched this firm as Kaplan & Company, continues to earn plaudits for her role as a mentor and driver of the firm’s culture as well as for her unwavering commitment to pursuing cases dedicated to progressive causes. “Robbie Kaplan is our adversary most of the time,” testifies one peer, conceding, “and it’s tough to be on the other side of her.” Kaplan grabbed headlines in October 2017, when she was one of two partners retained by nonprofit Integrity First for America to represent 11 plaintiffs from Charlottesville against 26 defendants implicated in the white nationalist/neo-Nazi rally that took place in Charlottesville that August and culminated in violence and other shameful turns of events. The defendants include named people and several organizations, such as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Nationalist Front. On a more business-oriented (and local) level, Kaplan triumphed for Airbnb, a longtime client of hers, in challenging a New York City Council law that, if passed, would have required the client to produce massive amounts of private business records to city officers with no procedural or privacy protections, doing irreparable harm to Airbnb’s business in New York City. Sean Hecker joined the firm from his previous post at Debevoise & Plimpton. Hecker, a securities enforcement and white-collar star, has a particularly vocal fan base as well. “Like I predicted, Sean Hecker really went on to great things,” confirms a peer. “He is terrific and I like working with him. He is good with juries and judges and is very analytical and is a good presence. It’s funny because he was never a Titanic presence at Debevoise, he kind of just quietly did his own thing, but you could tell he had something, and now he has really come into his own. That win he had for the Barclays trader out in California was a substantial white-collar trial win, in front of a judge, no less, which is very rare.” This alluded-to victory was on behalf of a former trader at Barclays, who was charged with manipulating the price of foreign currency options to defraud the bank's customer, Hewlett-Packard. Hecker secured an acquittal for his client from a federal judge in San Francisco in March 2019.
Kasowitz Benson Torres has continued apace with its bold strategy of exclusively pursuing aggressive litigation, often with a more trial-ready approach and often in areas with a high risk/reward ratio. “Litigation is their business - they are experts in this field,” asserts a client, summing up the firm’s hard-charging approach. A peer quips, “They get down in the trenches, in the dirt, and that’s exactly where they want to be.”
The firm, mostly through its flagship New York office, has made a name for itself in areas such as commercial real estate, bankruptcy, antitrust and securities, and its practitioners have been at the forefront of novel areas such as cryptocurrency, litigation funding and cannabis. The latter three categories in particular have been a focus of Mike Hanin, who comments, “They’re all a bit similar in that it’s all kind of the Wild West. There is a lot of money to be made, there are many ambiguous contracts, and often, no rules.” Hanin is part of a team representing investors in over $1.4 billion in notes issued by the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts in various actions concerning the management and control of the Trusts. Hanin is working on these matters in tandem with Sheron Korpus, who is most frequently addressed by peers as “the firm’s top commercial and antitrust person now, and the most active.” Korpus also represents Israeli generic drug manufacturer Teva and its US subsidiary Actavis in defending many antitrust class actions brought by private plaintiffs, as well as an antitrust action brought by 48 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which are consolidated in an MDL in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that allege price-fixing of over 100 pharmaceuticals. Paul “Tad” O’Connor is especially engaged in the commercial real estate sector, a specialty also shared by Jennifer Recine, who recently returned to Kasowitz after leaving for a brief stint at Stroock. O’Connor represents InterContinental Hotels Group in an ongoing case with a hotel owner involving damages in excess of $100 million and claims for breach of contract arising from a license agreement relating to the flagship 795-room Crowne Plaza Times Square in New York City. O’Connor also represents this client in a contract dispute with the owners of Times Square Intercontinental Hotel. This dispute relates to a hotel management agreement involving damages in excess of $100 million. In both cases, he obtained significant preliminary injunctions preventing the owners from terminating the agreements and the owners’ motions to dismiss were denied. Both cases are proceeding in the trial court, with the injunctions in place and in force. Stephen Tountas is elevated from future star status in this edition on the strength of his rising profile in the securities area. A client notes, “Stephen implements innovative strategies; communicates effectively to achieve goals; works well with co-counsel and clients and has an excellent understanding of the market.” Tountas, on behalf of prominent hedge funds affiliated with Axon Capital, filed a direct securities fraud action against certain officers and directors of Adeptus Health and Sterling Partners (the company’s private equity sponsor), following Adeptus’s multi-billion-dollar bankruptcy. Facing a bankruptcy plan that would award next to no recovery for equity shareholders, Tountas led the filing of the only opt-out in the federal class action, securing a confidential settlement in 2019. A new future star, Uri Itkin, represented Astra Asset Management, a London-based asset manager, in a trust instruction proceeding against Goldman Sachs involving Astra’s investment in an Abacus CDO sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Astra, which was seeking to require the distribution of $55 million in collateral appreciation to investors, rather than to Goldman, won two dispositive motions; Goldman Sachs settled with Astra on the eve of trial.
While Kasowitz’s primary focus is New York, its West Coast team has kept busy as well. Daniel Saunders, a white-collar star based in the firm’s Los Angeles office, scored a landmark victory on behalf of Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, the stars of the long-running hit TV show “Bones,” and its producer Kathleen Reichs. Saunders obtained a $179 million arbitration award for fraud and breach of contract, including $50 million in compensatory damages and over $128 million in punitive damages, against 21st Century Fox, Fox Broadcasting Company, and other Fox entities. Lyn Agre, a new star and entrant into Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation, also attends to white-collar crime as well as civil litigation from the firm’s San Francisco office.
Headquartered in downtown DC, Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick is a mid-sized law firm home to numerous trial-tested appellate and complex litigation lawyers.
Founding and managing partner Michael Kellogg specializes in appellate, regulatory, and antitrust issues, many of which he has argued before the US Supreme Court. Fellow name partner Mark Hansen is a seasoned trial lawyer active in civil and criminal actions. As counsel, he has obtained some of the largest judgments in antitrust and unfair trade practice cases in recent history. David Frederick, a name partner, manages a diverse practice in the appellate arena. He has represented an array of individuals, classes and companies before the US Supreme Court, state supreme courts, and in every court of appeals across the country. Frederick serves as lead counsel for National Credit Union Administration in a lawsuit against numerous international and national banks. Aaron Panner is recognized for his work in the antitrust space. He is active representing clients in high-profile, high-stakes disputes in appellate and district courts across the country. He recently represented iPhone owners in one of the most considerable victories for private antitrust plaintiffs before the US Supreme Court. Andrew Shen is recognized for his breach of contract, securities, antitrust, health care, fraud, telecommunications, and whistleblower litigation practice. He recently represented an insurance company in a string of lawsuits related to the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. Steven Benz is recognized as an antitrust and unfair competition expert, having represented clients in numerous complex commercial actions throughout his 25-plus year career. He is part of the lead counsel team representing Veeva in a suit filed by a rival life sciences giant which accuses the client of poaching an employee as part of an alleged practice that encourages competitors’ works to breach noncompete agreements. A Maryland federal judge determined the court had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Based in the Philadelphia suburb of Radnor, Pennsylvania for almost 30 years, powerhouse plaintiff shop Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check has scored nationwide wins in the securities sphere and has even entrenched itself overseas. Peers refer to the firm as “solid, young and continuing to improve,” with one peer elaborating. “They’re taking cases so much deeper than they used to – some of their cases are settling about a month away from trial, whereas they used to settle right away. And I would trust them to try these cases if they had to.” One peer, in the defense capacity, notes, “I actually see Kessler Topaz filing
fewer cases, which is a good thing, because too many plaintiff firms are well known by us as ‘volume shops,’ just bringing junk cases that make you almost embarrassed for them. Kessler Topaz is not one of these, and in fact the firm has distinguished itself by its selectiveness. They don’t always win but the cases they bring don’t make you roll your eyes either.” Another peer elaborates upon a key advantage of the firm. “Kessler Topaz has a lot of penetration in the European market, they spent a lot of money on that and it’s paid off. They realized that there was a space in Europe where they did not know there was a class-action market at all, and so they built a monitoring practice with them. This has grown to the point where they’re representing institutional investors in the US as well.” Stuart Berman is particularly noted for his non-US litigation practice, as is Darren Check.
A peer observes, “I’m seeing Kessler Topaz as lead or co-lead on certain cases that I wouldn’t have expected to see them on before, they’re more present now.” In one recent example, Kessler Topaz is co-lead counsel in a derivative and class action case on behalf of Tesla and its minority stockholders challenging Tesla’s 2016 acquisition of SolarCity Corporation, which plaintiffs allege was essentially a bailout of the financially struggling SolarCity (founded and run by Elon Musk’s cousins) at shareholders’ expense. In another example, the firm was appointed lead plaintiff counsel in the case concerning the involvement of several Goldman Sachs executives in the massive 1MBD fund fraud scandal in Malaysia, which eventually led to the removal and ultimate prosecution of that country’s prime minister. The firm, and particularly partners Andrew Zivitz and Matthew Mustokoff, lead this action, which has been consolidated in the Southern District of New York. Zivitz has emerged as one of the firm’s most active and visible partners. A prominent New York defense attorney confirms, “I witnessed Andrew in the ‘London Whale’ case and was very impressed. He is a great lawyer and also just a really good guy.” Mustokoff meanwhile has also kept busy with a matter involving Allergan, concerning alleged price fixing of generic drugs. In yet another example, in October 2019, the firm was also granted co-lead plaintiff counsel status representing institutional investors against Brazilian private equity entity 3G concerning the “over-ambitious and spectacularly over-leveraged” merger of food industry giants Kraft and Heinz, in which the complaint alleges the overstating of the potential of this integration. “As you may have seen, that merger’s not going very well,” pipes a peer, “but it seems like 3G made out VERY well despite this, while the investors most certainly did not.” Lee Rudy is another frequent mention in the community. “Lee mostly does Delaware corporate governance litigation, and he very good with that.” Rudy led a March 2016 argument New York’s Court of Appeals challenging the going private “freeze out” of stockholders of Kenneth Cole Productions by its namesake majority stockholder Kenneth Cole. More recently, in December 2017 he scored for investors in a $290 million settlement with Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square fund concerning insider trading claims. “I view Lee as a real standout,” ventures a peer. “A few years back he was lead trial counsel on that monster Southern Peru case, which was a $2 billion verdict. If I had the kind of attorney fees he must have pulled in with that, frankly I’m not sure I would ever return to work again! But Lee has just kept at it and is dedicated to doing great work.” The profile of Sharan Nirmul is on the rise on the strength of his lead role in cases against Snap concerning allegations of misinformation on its IPO as well as a pending action against GE.
King & Spalding is an internationally lauded law firm with a network of 22 offices worldwide, 11 of which are outside the US. Peers are quick to highlight the firm’s obvious strengths; one being its global presence. “King & Spalding was way ahead of the curve in terms of establishing an international scope. That firm has as many tentacles internationally as it does in the US.” Another area in which the firm reigns supreme is the energy sector. One competitor confirms, “King & Spalding is very DEEP in the life sciences world, and in energy - forget it. No other big national firm can touch them on the litigation side.” The firm is also said to be “the best in the world when it comes to representing the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms.”
Already one of the strongest and globally comprehensive of national firms, King & Spalding has been on an expansion spree, a phenomenon that has not gone unnoticed by peers. “King & Spalding is clearly in growth mode,” observes one peer. “They are adding people left and right.” Some of these bold additions have fortified the firm’s bench strength across several practice areas and jurisdictions. In February 2020 alone, the firm added product liability and mass tort trial lawyer Morty Dubin to its New York office and international arbitration star Javier Rubinstein to its Chicago office. Dubin, who joined the firm from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, boasts a book of business containing industry heavyweights such as Dow Chemical and Johnson & Johnson, the latter of which he (acting with Ali Brown of Skadden) triumphed for in a March 2019 defense victory regarding claims concerning the company’s talc powder product. Rubinstein, who joined the firm from Kirkland & Ellis “adds a nice new element of strength to an already great practice led by [Houston international arbitration star] Doak Bishop, particularly in the Latin American component.” In addition to these two auspicious recruits, the firm also doubled down on its California practice, scooping a sizeable haul of almost 20 partners from the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices of Boies Schiller in a double-dip of hires in April and June 2020.
In the firm’s initial home base of Atlanta, the firm is regarded as “the 800-pound gorilla,” with one local peer summarizing, “Whether they care to admit it or not, in Atlanta, it’s King & Spalding and then everybody else. You can’t be a huge national firm in this market that represents Coca-Cola and not be the dominant player at the table.” Atlanta-based trial lawyer David Balser was lead counsel to SCANA in criminal and SEC investigations. The dispute was related to the abandonment of SCANA’s new nuclear development at the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina, including defense of ratepayer class actions, derivative claims, federal securities class actions, and state and federal governmental investigations. Additionally, an expedited federal court injunction proceeding seeking to block implementation of confiscatory legislation targeting SCANA was also at stake. A multi-practice, cross-office team, led by Balser, were involved in a multi-week evidentiary hearing before the South Carolina Public Service Commission that sought to block SCANA’s proposed $14.6 billion merger with Dominion Energy. A complete victory for the client was obtained, leading to the closing of the Dominion merger in January of 2019. “We have a lot of litigation against King & Spalding,” testifies a peer, “and we think very highly of them, and David Balser in particular. When you’re against him, you know it’s going to be a tough fight but it’s going to be a fair fight.” Balser and fellow Atlanta partner Michael Smith were members of the lead counsel team representing Equifax in numerous high profile putative class actions arising from the cyber security incident announced in September 2017. The client is involved in more than 250 consumer and financial institution class actions from the data breach. Trial and global disputes practice group leader Andy Bayman successfully obtained a reversal of a $3 million jury verdict in favor of his client GlaxoSmithKline in a wrongful death lawsuit. Bayman was co-lead counsel in this matter, the first lawsuit ever tried under the “innovator liability” theory. “Andy Bayman got excellent training with [now retired product liability leader] Chilton Varner,” opines a peer, “and now he is running the show and putting that experience to excellent use.
Seasoned trial lawyer Bobby Meadows hails from the Houston office where he is recognized as a frequent fixture in trials in state and federal court, as well as arbitration proceedings. He is lead counsel to Chevron USA in multiple lawsuits arising from an explosion and fire at its Richmond, California Refinery. He has secured the dismissal of over 10,000 plaintiffs in the individual claimant actions. The firm also achieved the dismissal of two purported class actions at the pleadings stage.
King & Spalding is noted as a top performer in the securities enforcement and investigations area, a capacity it has dubbed its “Special Matters” practice. “They have been tremendously successful in this space,” observes a peer. Notably, a sizeable number of its noted stars in the white-collar practice are women. Texas-based Tracie Renfroe serves as the managing partner of the Houston office, as well as co-head of the energy practice. Her trial practice is centered on toxic tort, environmental, professional and product liability, and commercial disputes. She currently represents DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson company, in a multi-district litigation involving metal-on-metal hip implants. New York litigator Carmen Lawrence specializes in securities-related government investigations and litigation. She serves as co-lead of the firm’s Securities Enforcement and Regulation practice and often represents both public and private companies in regulatory and investigative matters. Renfroe, Lawrence, and DC litigator Dixie Johnson are also acclaimed as one of Benchmark's Top 250 Women in Litigation. Johnson is the deputy practice group leader for government matters of the firm, where she represents businesses and individuals in securities enforcement investigations and conducts internal investigations for corporate board committees and companies.
Since its inception in Chicago in 1909, Kirkland & Ellis has steadily risen from its Illinois roots to become an international powerhouse. The firm has approximately 2,200 lawyers with expertise in a number of practice areas, with notable strengths in commercial litigation, product liability, intellectual property, bankruptcy, restructuring and counseling matters and white-collar/investigations work. One client highlights the firm's bankruptcy practice, commenting, "They are preeminent in the bankruptcy space, debtors, and a lot of that comes out of their private equity. It’s pretty astounding how Kirkland managed to get to number one by a wide margin in bankruptcy."
Chicago's James Hurst and DC-based appellate authority Paul Clement are part of the lead counsel team representing AbbVie, AbbVie Products, and Abbott Laboratories in the AndroGel bellwether multidistrict litigation regarding testosterone replacement therapy products. The dispute alleges injuries were caused as a result of taking prescription testosterone replacement therapy drug. In 2018, the team secured complete defense victory in the third, fourth, and fifth bellwether trials and has entered into global settlement to resolve the remaining cases, which are pending final court approval.
Fellow partner Mark Filip heads the firm's government enforcement defense and internal investigations group. Filip and Jennifer Levy are part of Kirkland's nationwide team representing Allergan Finance in relation to the various investigations and litigation involving its sale and marketing of opioids. The litigation consists of over 1,500 separate lawsuits filed on behalf of states, counties, cities, hospitals, Indian Tribes, and putative classes of individuals. Kevin Van Wart is an experienced commercial litigator and currently represents Dow Chemical in a series of product liability lawsuits brought by the State of New York public drinking water providers alleging the company contaminated the aquifer and public wells. Senior litigation partner Richard Godfrey was a key member of the team that secured an important victory for General Motors (GM) in November 2019. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled GM cannot be held liable for punitive damages involving vehicles or conduct related to the old GM brand, which was restructured in 2009.
Antitrust partners David Zott and Daniel Laytin serve as lead counsel members in a team representing the Blue Cross & Blue Shield Association, as well as co-coordinating counsel for all defendants, in a series of putative class action lawsuits filed across the country challenging the structure of the Blue System of health insurance under the antitrust laws. Jeffrey Zeiger is active in restructuring cases, with one client highlighting "Jeff Zeiger in Chicago, he's great! He just got a big win for Neiman Marcus in a litigation relating to their ongoing bankruptcy." Zeiger obtained a dismissal of a $1 billion fraudulent transfer lawsuit against Neiman Marcus. The state trial court has also decided the client can sue the debt investor Marble Ridge Capital for defamation over statements the firm made about its debt. Fellow antitrust authority James Mutchnik represents Hitachi in multiple cases against allegations of price-fixing of cathode ray tubes.
New York-based Sandra Goldstein is a highly respected litigator and manages a diverse practice. Most notably, Goldstein and fellow partner Stefan Atkinson recently served as lead counsel for Barnes & Noble, securing an important victory concerning digital disclosure under the Video Privacy Protection Act. In addition, Goldstein serves as a member of the firm's global management executive committee. Highly-renowned litigator Dale Cendali heads the firm’s copyright, trademark, internet and advertising practice group, where she specializes in intellectual property disputes. As a nationally revered leader in the IP field, Cendali and her practice group have defended WeWork’s “HQ by WeWork” brand in a Texas trademark action, as well as shot down suits against Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive by celebrities claiming copyrights on their dance moves. Cendali has also persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to let a Ninth Circuit decision stand in favor of Nike in a dispute over a famous photograph of Michael Jordan. In addition, Cendali is actively defending Take-Two against a company that claims to control the copyrights on LeBron James and other NBA players’ tattoos. Fellow IP litigator Leora Ben-Ami focuses her practice on all areas of technology, including biotechnology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and chemistry, mechanical devices, and electronics. Ben-Ami's experience includes trying numerous cases on behalf of Pfizer including, Pfizer v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, a recent case in which she successfully defended Pfizer's patents on Celebrex.
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel has been a mainstay of the New York legal community since its inception in 1968 and, while it has since opened offices in the Silicon Valley and in Paris, that continues today. While a full-service firm, its litigation bench has been consistently championed as a small yet powerful and dynamic group. “What’s interesting about Kramer Levin is the way they just keep reinventing and reinvigorating themselves,” observes a peer. “There are people at that firm who are still legends, but they are bringing up new legends-in-waiting all the time.” The firm has historically been known for its commercial, securities, bankruptcy and white-collar work, but is also identified as one of the few leaders in the false advertising/Lanham Act space.
Kramer Levin has recently doubled down on their “hard” intellectual property capacity, emphasized by the recruit of patent star Dr. Irena Royzman, who is noted by peers to “occupy a definite presence in the pharma patent space.” In just one example of her prowess, Royzman represented Regeneron, who was sued by Novartis for $350 million for alleged patent infringement. Royzman succeeded in dismantling each of Novartis’ claims. The firm’s celebrated false advertising and Lanham Act area, historically dominated by Harold Weinberger, has more recently seen Norman Simon taking on a leading role. Simon and Weinberger secured a July 2019 dismissal of a Lanham Act case against TrueCar by 108 car dealers. Plaintiffs’ theory was that they were injured by supposedly false advertising that TrueCar provides a car-buying experience without “haggling.” Simon, a specialist in class-action litigation brought pursuant to consumer fraud statutes, as well as in challenges before the National Advertising Division and National Advertising Review Board, also has active matters for clients ranging from Procter & Gamble to T-Mobile. Sean Coffey concentrates on the securities area, which has benefited greatly from Coffey’s experience in both the plaintiff and defense capacities. A peer testifies, “Sean was a leader at [securities plaintiff shop] Bernstein Litowitz! He knows his way around a securities case, all the advantages and pitfalls.” Kramer Levin is also home to a prized white-collar crime group, of which Barry Berke is an undisputed leading presence. Berke was recently thrust into the limelight when he was called into service as special counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives in connection with its investigation and impeachment proceedings of Donald Trump. As of February 2020, Berke returned to Kramer Levin with newly burnished credentials. Not that he needed them; even before this engagement, Berke has been routinely identified by peers as “absolutely one of the best,” with one elaborating, “Especially at his age point, he has some of the best experience you could ask for and credibility beyond question.” Clients agree; one calls Berke “a counselor, a litigator, and a strategist,” and goes on to assert, “No one is better.”
Plaintiff shop Labaton Sucharow has been historically viewed as, and still is primarily known as, a securities boutique, although the firm has broadened its scope to take on cases in the antitrust arena as well. 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.
One of the Labaton’s biggest developments over the past year 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 Weinberger is a real up and comer,” confirms one Wilmington peer. “He is not yet at the level of the big Delaware of the more established senior guys around [Wilmington] but he has a couple of wins under his belt and a lot of people really respect him.” Another observes, “There’s definitely something going over at Labaton in Delaware, you can feel it. And that’s Ned. He is making waves around here and is going to start making life a little more difficult for some of the more senior ‘swashbucklers’ who are used to running the show.” Weinberger scored a plum appointment in March 2019 when he was appointed co-lead counsel in a class action against Dell Technologies stemming from a $14 billion share exchange transaction that closed in December 2018. The action alleges that the controlling stockholders of Dell breached their fiduciary duties and expropriated billions of dollars in value from Dell's Class V Stockholders. According to the complaint, Dell's controllers created a sham special committee that was riddled with conflicts, failed to obtain appropriate and independent advice, and ultimately aligned itself with Dell. Weinberger also served as co-lead counsel in a derivative lawsuit challenging decisions made by the board of directors of AGNC Investment, a mortgage REIT, including paying exorbitant annual fee payments to the company’s external asset manager, and then, acquiring that manager for an inflated price. A $35.5 million settlement was announced in June 2019. Weinberger is also is co-lead counsel in a class action litigation challenging the fairness of a take-private transaction involving AmTrust Financial Services. Private equity funds managed by Stone Point Capital together with AmTrust’s directors proposed to take the insurer private for $2.95 billion. The firm had been prosecuting a derivative lawsuit against the same defendants since 2014, which alleged that the controlling shareholders of AmTrust and the board of directors breached their fiduciary duties by acting to advance the interests of the controlling shareholder’s family, rather than the interests of AmTrust and its minority stockholders. In 2016, the court denied the only motion to dismiss filed in the derivative suit. The consolidated class Action Complaint filed in January 2019 alleges that members of the AmTrust board of directors’ special committee charged with reviewing the take private transaction were conflicted.
Another major development within the firm is blossoming of its whistleblower practice, an area that has received a significant level of attention from peers, opponents, and the media. The credit for this lies with New York’s Jordan Thomas. Over the past seven years, Thomas, a former SEC regulator himself, has cultivated “a very impressive space for himself in that world, and a very impressive pathway for this practice in general.” One peer insists, “He is the guy – the most renowned SEC whistleblower in the nation. He had a $13 million claim. He has a pipeline of about 30 matters that have been accepted by the SEC.” Thomas scored big in March 2018, when the SEC announced that it awarded a group of whistleblowers more than $83 million, the largest awards announced by the agency since the inception of the SEC's Whistleblower program in 2011. The firm’s clients tipped the SEC off to misconduct at Merrill Lynch, leading to a landmark enforcement action resulting in Merrill paying $415 million to settle charges that it misused customer cash to generate profits for the bank and failed to safeguard customer assets. Another New York partner, Jonathan Gardner secured a $42.5 million recovery in a securities class action against Intuitive Surgical. The action alleged that Intuitive violated federal securities fraud laws by making false and misleading statements regarding the safety and efficacy of its marquee product, the da Vinci Surgical System, and its compliance with FDA regulations.
Thomas Dubbs, one of the firm’s more senior partners, remains one of its most active litigators and, according to a peer, “is still Tom Dubbs, and will continue to be until he decides to stop being Tom Dubbs. Those who’ve seen him in action know what I mean by that.” Dubbs is co-lead counsel in a high-profile litigation based on the scandals involving Goldman Sachs’ sales of the Abacus CDO. The lawsuit alleges that Goldman made a series of false and misleading statements surrounding its sale of the Abacus CDO, and concealed conflicts of interest in several CDO transactions. Dubbs is also lead counsel in a complex securities class action against California utility PG&E related to a series of wildfires that devastated Northern California in October 2017 and subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Dubbs is also co-lead counsel in a landmark class action against seven US stock exchanges alleging that the defendant exchanges provided distinct products and services to high-frequency trading firms that manipulated the market in favor of these firms at the expense of ordinary investors. In May 2019, the Southern District of New York denied the defendant exchanges’ renewed motion to dismiss in its entirety, reasoning that plaintiffs had successfully alleged standing, reliance, scienter, and loss causation.
Historically recognized and revered as one of the largest and most comprehensive global players in the corporate and transactional capacity (a position it still enjoys), Latham & Watkins has also proven itself to be an equally dominant presence on the litigation stage. “Latham has always been a litigation powerhouse,” sums up one peer. “This might not have been mentioned as much before because their corporate practice is so celebrated, but it was always a deep and broad litigation team, with some serious star players. And they just seem to keep getting more of them!” Another peer confirms, “Latham is definitely a destination for litigation these days. They are going from strength to strength. The ‘flight to quality’ that we’re seeing play out right now is working in their favor.” The firm’s expansive US footprint covers a host of major markets, all staffed with partners deemed as “top class” in practices spanning antitrust, white-collar crime, securities, M&A litigation, intellectual property and even more niche practices like environmental law (an area the firm is said to have a higher-than-average concentration in compared to other firms its size.)
Latham’s DC office scored a one-two punch of bench strength this year when it lured IP partner Adam Perlman and all-purpose commercial litigator Nicholas Boyle, both from Williams & Connolly. Perlman, a patent trial lawyer who is said to have “probably made a living beating another top IP firm in ANDA cases,” augments an already highly successful build-out in the IP area. Boyle meanwhile attends to a niche in trade secrets. “These are great hires,” offers a peer. “Williams & Connolly breeds stellar litigators and it’s not a firm people just walk away from for just anything, so clearly Latham had the ‘mojo’ to attract these two. They are both fairly young too, which is an added bonus.” The IP department in DC is also home to Michael Morin, a widely championed patent litigator. “We had a case against him and we actually won,” testifies a peer and former opponent, “but we were still very impressed. Michael still did a fantastic job and was, and is, a great trial lawyer.” Still another DC-based IP litigator, Maximilian Grant led a team that scored an April 2020 victory for Texas-based energy entity Schlumberger in an oil patch-related patent dispute at the Federal Circuit.
Also in DC, Andrew Clubok is the co-chair of the firm’s securities practice and is unanimously revered as “very skilled and very successful” by peers in this capacity. Clubok led a team that secured a $1 billion judgment in January 2020 on behalf of UBS Securities in a long-running contract dispute against bankrupt hedge fund manager Highland Capital Management, which dates back to the early days of the financial crisis. Elizabeth Deeley, who resides in the firm’s San Francisco office, was also part of the team on this matter. Other luminaries in the securities space include New York’s Jamie Wine and James Brandt. A peer at another of New York’s top securities firms confides, “I’m currently in a dispute with Jamie and I think she is very talented, even though she’s not wanting for accolades.” Wine scored a June 2020 win for information technology entity DXC Technology when Virginia federal judge dismissed a $2 billion proposed securities class action accusing the client and its executives of making misleading statements about revenues, causing its stock to drop by up to 16%.Another peer testifies, “I’ve been working with Jimmy Brandt a lot, and it’s rewarding to work with someone who’s been around along as he has. He’s seen everything!” Blair Connelly, another New York-based securities star, is “well known in Delaware M&A-type cases.” Along with local Delaware counsel, Connelly triumphed for Ligand Pharmaceuticals in January 2020 when the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed a Chancery Court ruling over a botched formula used in a bond indenture from Ligand, rejecting certain traders' contention that the decision disregarded investor protections by allowing Ligand to unilaterally fix its potential $3.75 billion error.Another securities leader (and global chair of the firm’s litigation and trial department), Michele Johnson in the Orange County, California office lays claim to a win for Puma Biotechnology in a rare securities class-action case to actually wind up at trial in a literal “bet-the-company” matter. Johnson and her team managed to whittle down initial claims of $1.1 billion to just a fraction of those costs.
In Chicago, Sean Berkowitz is a near-unanimous recipient of acclaim in the white-collar field. “Sean has long been known as one of the best,” confirms a peer. “He is one of those white-collar people who would actually try a case!” A fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Berkowitz also manages a robust commercial litigation practice, is the global chair of the commercial litigation practice, and just completed a five-year stint as the global head of the litigation and trial practice. Latham’s antitrust practice is also considered “premier league,” with Daniel Wall in the firm’s San Francisco office as a noted standout. Wall has represented a “who’s who” of industry-leading clients, including Apple, American Airlines, LiveNation and Genentech, to name a few, in investigations, class-action litigation and trials.
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein is nationally known and respected plaintiffs-only firm. Founded in San Francisco in 1972, Lieff Cabraser also has offices in New York and Nashville and handles cases involving consumer protection rights, intellectual property, product liability, labor and employment, securities cases, and class actions. The firm is also cornering an emerging niche of litigation concerning the automotive and auto parts industry as well as the “no poaching” statutes that govern employee movement between competitors. A glowing summary of the firm’s strategy and towering stature is offered by a peer: “Lieff Cabraser specializes in fraud. Quite simply, they look at fraud and how to combat it. They really pride themselves in doing their homework before taking a case, and when defense counsel sees that they’re involved that it’s serious – they know they’re in trouble. It takes years to develop this reputation but it’s hard-won. The defendants and their counsel know that they have a fight on their hands and they have to plan accordingly.” Another peer raves, “That’s a great shop, they have a core group that is strong from the top to the bottom because they have a senior person who loves what she does and she imparts that all the way down the line. It’s an intense place and if you’re there, you’re going to work hard but they all love what they do.”
The alluded-to “senior person” is Elizabeth Cabraser, arguably the firm’s center of gravity. Based in the San Francisco headquarters (which houses the highest percentage of the firm’s star litigators), Cabraser lays claim to a national profile, with peers from coast to coast, and in both the plaintiff and defense capacities, weighing in on her behalf. In just one of her several high-level appointments, Cabraser represents over 100 persons injured nationwide, and families of loved ones who died, in accidents involving GM vehicles sold with a defective ignition switch which, without warning, can cause the car’s engine and electrical system to shut off, disabling the air bags. For over a decade GM was allegedly aware of this defect and failed to inform government safety regulators and public. One former opponent, based in New York, concedes, “When we’re about to go against Liz Cabraser, I warn my team to make sure they are extremely prepared, because it will be a fight. She is aggressive, but she is also unquestionably ethical, and just quietly always seems to know more than you do.” Another peer notes, “Liz Cabraser is known as having the lead, even if she doesn’t wind up trying the case. She is very good at organizing teams of lawyers and delegating work. If it’s a bellwether, she knows how to pick a case.” Cabraser is not the only firm partner attracting a national profile. Peers also insist, “Don’t let Richard Heimann get overshadowed! He doesn’t get the press and he doesn’t seek it, but he is a very dangerous lawyer. I saw him come in and do a trial one time and people’s hair just blew back!”
On a more local level, the firm has been at the center of several cases concerning environmental disasters that have bedeviled the Golden State over the past several years. Cabraser and Lexi Hazam serve as chairs of the Class Action Committee in the consolidated lawsuits against Pacific Gas & Electric relating to losses from the 2017 San Francisco Bay Wine Country fires. Cabraser and Hazam also serve on the Individual Plaintiffs Executive Committee in the litigation. The lawsuit sought to hold PG&E accountable for damages to real and personal property, loss of income, and loss of business arising from the fires. Hazam was also appointed co-lead counsel for individual plaintiffs in the coordinated Woolsey Fire Cases against Southern California Edison relating to the devastating 2018 fire that burned more than 1000 homes and 96,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. The action includes claims for negligence, trespass, inverse condemnation, and violation of the California Public Utilities and Health and Safety codes, and seeks damages for the fires victims’ losses. Hazam and Robert Nelson serve as co-lead counsel in consolidated individual and class-action lawsuits against Southern California Edison over the role of the utility's equipment in starting the devastating Thomas Fire that ravaged Southern California in December 2017 and the resulting subsequent mudslides in Montecito that killed 21 people. The action seeks restitution for personal and business losses alleged to have occurred as a result of Southern California Edison's failure to properly and safely maintain its electrical infrastructure in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Nelson also brought suit on behalf of three different subclasses in the wake of the 2015 rupture of a pipeline owned by Plains All-American Pipeline, spewing oil into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara, soiling beaches and impacting local fisheries. The subclasses include homeowners who lost the use of the beachfront amenity that they pay a premium for, local oil platform workers who were laid off as a result of the spill and subsequent closure of the pipeline, and fishers whose catch was impacted by the oil spill. In 2018 the trial court certified the three different subclasses. In July 2019, the Ninth Circuit reversed certification of the oil worker class but recently denied motions by Plains to decertify the other two subclasses. Therefore, a trial is set in August 2020 on behalf of the fishers and property owners.
Lightfoot Franklin & White is a prominent defense litigation firm founded in 1990. With offices in Birmingham and Houston, Texas, the firm has established roots in litigation, compliance and investigations matters. In January 2020, the Houston law firm of Levinthal Wilkins merged into Lightfoot, adding two partners and an associate to Lightfoot’s growing Houston office.
Managing partner Melody Eagan is specialized in high-stakes catastrophic injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product liability and appellate actions. Her trial experience involves serving as lead counsel for product manufacturers in high-stakes catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases across the Southeast, including jury trials in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Eagan has overseen hundreds of cases in 25 years of legal practice. She currently serves as co-lead counsel to Leigh Corfman in a case that alleges repeated and malicious defamation by Republican candidate for Senate and Judge Roy Moore. The defendants answered the complaint with several motions to dismiss, all of which were denied after extensive briefing by the parties. The case is in discovery with the client seeking a trial date in 2020. A trial-tested lawyer, Lana Olson focuses her practice on business litigation, contractual disputes, catastrophic injury cases and mass torts. She represents clients ranging from small, family-owned businesses to Fortune 100 corporations. She was lead counsel defending American Home Shield Corporation (AHS) in a dispute that began when approximately 90 former and present customers initiated arbitration proceedings against the home warranty company claiming breaches of contract, bad faith failures to pay, and violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The firm secured a greater-than-75% win rate and, because of that result, the claimants' attorneys agreed to settle all remaining cases for less than 20% of their initial settlement demand. As the firm’s hiring partner, Haley Cox is skilled in disputes that arise out of claims of personal injury, medical malpractice, and fraud. She has been responsible for hundreds of cases in 13.5 years, and she has overseen global and complex resolutions in a variety of disputes. Cox, along with Eagan and Olson, have been recognized on Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list for 2020.
Johnny Johnson is a founding partner of the firm. He has spent more than 30 years defending companies against environmental and mass tort litigation, including class actions and individual toxic tort lawsuits. He represented the city of Jackson, Mississippi in a suit against international company Siemens, along with several local subcontractors, bringing claims for fraud, declaratory judgment, and breach of contract. The suit sought more than $225 million in damages for a water meter and billing system designed and installed by Siemens and its subcontractors that failed, costing the city more than $20 million a year. Less than ten months after filing suit, Siemens agreed to pay the city $89.8 million to settle the case. As a result, the city was essentially reimbursed the full amount of the contract price while retaining the equipment installed, including the water treatment plant and sewer line repairs. Harlan Prater is active in high-stakes civil trials, and has developed an expertise in product liability, pharmaceutical, medical device, environmental and business litigation. Prater also frequently represents clients in consumer fraud, antitrust and patent actions. Enrique Gimenez is active in product liability and commercial litigation, as well as in collegiate sports law. Both Prater and Gimenez are currently representing BP Exploration and BP America Production in ongoing personal injury actions arising out of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Prater and founding partner Christian King are members of the trial team representing 3M Company in a series of class actions, mass actions, and single-plaintiff actions alleging that historical operations at the client’s manufacturing facility in Decatur, Alabama, have allegedly contaminated the local environment. The various cases assert claims for personal injury, property damage, and violations of federal environmental law.
A Dallas litigation boutique that has its fans among peers in the local community as well as among its dedicated clients, Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann has transformed itself several times within the past several years while remaining a mainstay in the region. Most recently, former name partner Trey Cox departed the firm for Gibson Dunn, with
Chris Schwegmann stepping up to replace him at name partner status. “Lynn Pinker keeps regenerating,” testifies a local peer. “They have great people that are well known and well trusted around here.” A client meanwhile cheers the “great business sense and unbelievably responsive” attributes of the firm’s leaders.
Mike Lynn, a noted local trial figure, has been at the helm of several cases that are particularly timely in nature. He led one case for ETC Northeast Pipelineinvolving a pipeline explosion that led to an operator/producer failing to get gas to market and claiming $100-200 million in damages. Lynn’s client settled for approximately $1 million, after the producer’s creditors aggressively fought to hold it liable. A central argument for the client’s position was invoking “force majeure,” which has become central to almost every contract dispute in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In another matter involving recent and novel issues, Lynn represented upscale department store Neiman Marcus Group and affiliate entities in litigation originally filed by a fund and fund advisor for fraudulent transfer claims exceeding $1 billion. Lynn then obtained dismissal with prejudice of all of claims filed against Neiman Marcus. An appeal to the Dallas Court of Appeals in February 2020 by David Coale, the firm’s key appellate strategist. Coale also represented Panhandle Northern Railway, a short-line railroad operator, in a literal “bet-the-company” matter against BNSF. Panhandle Northern’s rail line connects an inland petrochemical complex with BNSF’s national rail network. BNSF argued that, under the contract by which it sold the rail line to the client almost 25 years ago, BNSF retained the power to set Panhandle Northern’s prices. BNSF won in the trial court and sought an injunction during appeal that would have put the client out of business. Coale was retained, defeated the injunction request, and won the appeal on the merits. Coale also is arguing the appeal for a case originally handled at the trial level by Michael Hurst for L.W. Hunt Resources on claims or breach of fiduciary duty and fraud regarding an oil and gas business relationship. After a trial lasting more than three weeks, the jury found self-dealing and awarded $70 million verdict for the client. The court of appeals affirmed a majority of the judgment for the client, and the Texas Supreme Court has requested merits briefing from all parties, which include potentially precedent-setting issues about partnership formation and proof of an attorney-client relationship. That briefing was scheduled to conclude in May 2020. Coale also led the appeal of yet another case, this one handled at trial by Schwegmann, for Sara Lee after the plaintiff sought more than $150 million in a breach-of-contract and fraud case concerning the development of an energy-infused iced tea to be sold in convenience stores across the US. Sara Lee successfully won summary judgment on both claims after winning a Daubert challenge and excluding the plaintiff’s expert on damages. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed in full. Eric Pinker has his fans among peers and clients as well. One peer insists, “Pound for pound, [Eric is] the best business litigator for anyone who knows him. He brings the right amount of firm power with his client but not suffocating. He’s on our referral list; he has a great team behind him and he himself is a hard worker and can do it all.” Another peer confirms, “Eric is our firm’s personal lawyer!” A client reveres Pinker as “very creative and detail oriented.”
Milbank has etched itself a unique position among national firms. Its litigation capacity spans both coasts and a number of practice areas, several of which boast practitioners considered “the best in the business.” Through its offices in New York, DC and Los Angeles, the firm has a concentration of partners attending to commercial litigation, bankruptcy, white-collar, securities and intellectual property. Clients appreciate the firm’s “record of follow up, strategy cost containment and great attorneys.”
In New York, litigation practice group leader Dan Perry is representing Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels, the license holder and operator of the Solaire Resort & Casino located in Manila, Philippines, in connection with a case filed by the Bangladesh Bank in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York relating to the alleged cyber-hacking of the Bangladesh Bank in February 2016. More recently, Perry scored in another hotel-related matter when he led a team that in June 2020 obtained, on behalf of plaintiff D2 Mark, a preliminary injunction stopping the imminent foreclosure involving interests in The Mark Hotel, a luxury hotel in New York, which shut down in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the client to miss its interest payments in May on certain mezzanine and mortgage loans. During negotiations, the client was led to believe that the defendant would agree to a 90-day forbearance. Without warning, in May, in the midst of the finalization of the negotiations, the defendant purported to notice a UCC sale of the Collateral for June 24. Perry was also involved in representing Citigroup in a class action in which holders and beneficial owners of American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”) for which Citibank served as the depositary bank, allege that Citibank charged impermissible fees when converting dividends and payments associated with the ADRs from foreign currencies into US Dollars, harming the investors. A settlement was approved in July 2019. New York’s Scott Edelman is working with Perry on this matter. Edelman, one of the firm’s most active commercial litigators, has long represented client music licensing entity Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), a client Edelman continues to provide lead counsel to in several rate-setting proceedings. The New York office is also home to George Canellos, an all-purpose securities enforcement and white-collar practitioner who is one of the most widely admired in the profession. “George has unquestioned credibility from both the bar and the bench.” Canellos’s broad-ranging practice finds him acting on behalf of entities, individuals and, in at least one example, entire industries. He is representing Société Générale Americas Securities in class-action litigation concerning alleged price fixing of unsecured debt securities issued by government sponsored entities between 2009 and 2016. The court has preliminarily approved settlements between plaintiffs and defendants. Canellos also represents one of five individuals that were the target of a September 2018 complaint filed by the SEC claiming that this group orchestrated three highly profitable “pump-and-dump” schemes from 2013 to 2018. The complaint charged the defendants with violating antifraud, beneficial ownership disclosure, and registration provisions of the federal securities laws and sought monetary and equitable relief. In October 2019, the client and his company reached a preliminary settlement with the SEC, wherein they did not admit or deny liability and agreed to pay a small civil fine plus restitution. Canellos also represents the client in a number of civil suits relating to similar allegations, all of which are currently pending.
In the DC office, the firm boasts a marquee player in the bankruptcy capacity in
Andrew Leblanc, a specialist practitioner that is unique in his trial acumen. “Most restructuring lawyers have to bring in a commercial litigator when bankruptcy turns into a food fight,” explains one peer. “That’s not the case with Andy – he is a real bankruptcy litigator, one of the ones in this area I’m nervous about going up against. He and his team [which often also includes
Dennis Dunne in the New York office] represent bondholders and creditors committees, and they are very tough. You don’t want Andy Leblanc cross examining you!” The DC office is also home to Michael Nolan, another unique practitioner, acting in the international arbitration capacity. Nolan is representing the owner of Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels and Sureste Properties in a nearly $1 billion breach of contract dispute related to the “Solaire,” the first integrated casino resort to open in Entertainment City in Manila. The dispute arises from the termination of a management services agreement pursuant to which Global Gaming Asset Management was to provide management and technical services in the development, construction, and operation of the integrated resort. The dispute involves an 8.7% equity stake in the owner’s company. A client hails Nolan as “a broadly experienced litigator and has very good communication skills as well as deep legal knowledge.”
The firm has doubled down on its intellectual capacity as of late, making the strategic hire of David Gindler, formerly with Irell & Manella, to its Los Angeles office in 2019. “That was a real coup,” ventures a peer. “David was a real star at Irell and will no doubt be given a greater platform at Milbank.” Another peer elaborates, “David is very intellectual but yet very congenial and plain-spoken – that is the best of both worlds when you’re litigating complex IP disputes.” Gindler represents a Chinese manufacturer of base station antennas, Rosenberger Asia Pacific, and related companies in defense against a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit filed by a larger US-based competitor. In addition to damages, the plaintiff has sought injunctive relief that would preclude Rosenberger from selling antennas in the US. In the New York office, Chris Gaspar represents Fujitsu Network Communications in defense of a patent infringement complaint filed in March 2020 in the Eastern District of Texas concerning Wavelength Selective Switches used in FNC’s Reconfigurable Optical Add Drop Multiplexer devices used in optical telecommunications systems. Errol Taylor, leader of the firm’s biopharma patent litigation practice, is identified as “a leader in the Hatch-Waxman area.” Taylor currently leads several patent cases for Tris.
Starting as a New England-centric shop, with roots in Boston stretching back more than 80 years, Mintz has since expanded both its geographic reach and its reputation considerably since that time. The firm has also grown its international footprint, with an office in London, as well as making a substantial push into California in 2003, with three offices in the state. “Mintz is definitely not just the firm that people in Boston are going to know,” insists one local peer. “In fact, although they’re definitely still a big name here, you’re more likely to see them in the big cases outside of Boston.”
Supporting this claim, Frank Earley, in the firm’s New York office, has been generating an increased level of profile for his securities and commercial practice. Earley led a team that represented longtime firm client, XpresSpa Group and several of its directors and former directors in a securities fraud case, in which the team achieved a decisive victory in securing a motion for summary judgment in its entirety, dismissing the plaintiffs’ federal securities claims and related breach-of-contract claim. This team also recently won a securities matter for this same client when it became embroiled in litigation with its founders after they sold the business to an earlier incarnation of the firm client in 2016 and got sellers’ remorse. In early 2019 the Mintz team won the dismissal of this litigation, which asserted various common law and securities violations, on summary judgment. The firm additionally won dismissal of further similar claims asserted by an investor friend of the founders who was persuaded to file suit. Earley also led a team representing Equitable Life & Casualty Insurance Company in a case against AXA Equitable, a direct competitor in the annuity marketplace. Equitable sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin AXA from using the name Equitable without the prefix “AXA” or another dynamic qualifier. On the day prior to the hearing, AXA rang the bell on the NYSE and implemented a major media blitz announcing its name change. A few days later, the court ordered AXA to effectively “un-ring” the bell after the Mintz team successfully argued on behalf of Equitable to secure the injunction. Also in New York, Peter Chavkin, head of the firm’s white-collar practice, is a recipient of peer plaudits. “If I were under investigation for any crime, I could call him,” insists one peer, who goes on to assert, “You may not know about him because he does so well in taking care of getting his clients out of trouble.” Chavkin led a team that represented Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, in connection with his appearances before Special Counsel Mueller’s office, and various congressional bodies, including the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and a potential obstruction of justice by Trump. Chavkin was also retained by Ruth Madoff in the well publicized implosion of her husband Bernard’s long-running Ponzi scheme. In the past year, Chavkin and his team counseled Ruth Madoff through a settlement with Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee in charge of liquidating her husband’s estate. Picard initially sought $44.8 million but settled for a tiny fraction of that claim and also guaranteed express acknowledgement that the arrangement should not be construed as any evidence that Ruth admitted to “participating in or knowing of Bernard Madoff’s fraud.” Ruth Madoff was also dismissed from every civil lawsuit in which she was named, was never charged criminally or administratively, was allowed to keep almost all of the money she had.
Arguably the most visible and auspicious acquisition to come from Mintz’s California expansion was its addition of Ralph Campillo, a Los Angeles-based national-level star in the mass tort and product liability space who joined from the now-defunct Sedgwick. “Ralph is based in California, but he is a nationally known trial lawyer,” testifies one peer. In one of many examples of Campillo’s prowess, he triumphed for Illinois Tool Works Food Equipment Group, who was sued by a meat department worker at a local supermarket, who suffered a catastrophic injury to her left arm while grinding meat using a Hobart meat mixer-grinder. The plaintiff alleged that her injuries were caused by known design defects with the machine’s operational safeguards. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that the client was liable for punitive damages because it had prior knowledge of the alleged defects yet failed to recall, retrofit or warn customers of the known defects. At an October 2018 jury trial, a decision was rendered that both the market and plaintiff were ultimately responsible for this avoidable accident.
While the firm has proven its successful expansion beyond Boston, this flagship office still hosts the highest concentration of its star talent. Keith Carroll, who was part of the team on the aforementioned matter for Equitable, attends to a unique practice that blends investigation work with a comprehensive sports litigation component. The Boston office has also been noted as “an insurance powerhouse.” Kim Marrkand is identified as “a trusted advisor to Liberty Mutual,” by a peer, who testifies, “when I have a conflict on the insurance side, I call her.” Another peer raves, “There’s a guy at Mintz I regard as the BEST litigator there, [commercial and criminal litigator] Michael Gardener. Pound for pound, just the best, the guy I would go to if I had an issue. [He is} Very tough, very smart, very sophisticated, endlessly resourceful.”
A litigation boutique with offices in New York, Chicago and DC, MoloLamken has quickly become a favorite among the crowded field of litigation shops. The firm earns rave reviews from clients and peers. One client succinctly sums up the firm’s appeal: “MoloLamken has a strong reputation as being effective litigators, without the inefficiencies of a large firm.”
New York’s Steven Molo remains its most recognized and revered trial lawyer. “Steven Molo delivers the goods,” crows one peer. “I’ve worked with him and I’ve worked against him. Either position provides a learning opportunity.” Another peer makes the observation, “I’m seeing them doing a lot more plaintiff work!” Lending support to this assertion, Molo is representing a hedge fund dealing in distressed debt, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit concerning $500 million of Venezuelan sovereign debt. Molo also represented directors of PetSmart and Argos Holdings in a $900 million dispute over their payment of dividends in the form of 20% of outstanding common stock of a PetSmart subsidiary. The dispute was with a group of bond holders who claimed the company was insolvent at the time of the transaction. The case was pending in the US District Court in Manhattan before it settled.
In the DC office Jeffrey Lamken, an appellate practitioner, has been in equal demand. Lamken represents VirnetX as lead appellate counsel in defending two judgments for patent infringement against Apple for $440 million and $500 million, respectively—which are on appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal circuit. Also in the DC office, Robert Kry is enjoying a steady ascent in profile. Kry represents Carpatsky in a dispute with its former joint venture partner Ukrnafta concerning efforts to develop oil and gas fields in Ukraine. Ukrnafta is Ukraine’s largest oil and gas company and is indirectly majority owned by the Ukrainian government. After a dispute over profits from the joint venture arose, Carpatsky initiated arbitration proceedings in Stockholm that resulted in a $150 million arbitral awardagainst Ukrnafta. In contested proceedings in federal court in Texas, Carpatsky obtained recognition of its $150 million award and defeated Ukrnafta’s claims of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and misappropriation of trade secrets that sought $80 million in damages from Carpatsky. In April 2020, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Acting in tandem, Kry and Molo represent the lead plaintiffs in a securities fraud class action against Alibaba and its senior officers concerning a September 2014 $25 billion IPO, subsequent to which it emerged that Alibaba had been the subject of a regulatory proceeding in which it had received stern “administrative guidance” from Chinese regulators over the prevalence of counterfeits and other illegal goods on its online marketplaces. The regulators threatened to impose billions of dollars of fines unless Alibaba took costly remedial measures that would reduce its revenues and earnings. When the administrative guidance was revealed to the public, the company’s stock dropped substantially, and lost over $10 billion in market value. The case was settled in 2019 for $250 million.
Despite operating from just one New York office, Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello’s reputation as a premier white-collar and investigations powerhouse transcends jurisdictions and its client base often traverses borders. “You won’t be involved in the white-collar world without having at least heard of Morvillo,” attests a peer. “Especially if you are in the business of representing individuals.” Although white-collar crime is the firm’s most celebrated business, the firm has expanded into cases that touch on high-end commercial as well as labor and employment issues, largely involving executives. The cases coming through the firm, while as sensitive, and often confidential, in nature as always, have become noticeably more centered around novel and cutting-edge issues such as the #MeToo movement, cryptocurrency, politically-motivated prosecutions, and social protests.
Arguably the most celebrated name on the firm’s current roster is Elkan Abramowitz, who “commands name-level recognition.” A reverent client addresses Abramowitz as “a superb lawyer,” and adds, “He is very knowledgeable and experienced and has great judgment and a terrific personality.” Abramowitz and Richard Albert led the representation of the CEO of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer, in connection with a high-profile Southern District of New York investigation relating to the well-publicized Michael Cohen scandal. Albert has his own fan base, with one peer calling him “an heir apparent to the more senior level partners.” Robert Anello is also heralded for his “unflinching approach to highly sensitive individual matters.” Anello leads the representation of a former Platinum Partners employee charged by the DoJ and SEC in connection with allegations that hedge fund assets were overvalued and that misrepresentations were made to investors. Anello resolved the criminal case by securing a deferred prosecution agreement with the government in which the government agreed to dismiss the indictment against the client with prejudice after the expiration of a two-year deferral period. Anello and Catherine Foti also handled a recent #MeToo-related case, which was particularly novel in that proceedings were conducted via ZOOM. The pair mediated the case and got it resolved. Foti is especially engaged in the #MeToo capacity, in which she acts on cases as plaintiff as well as defendant. Foti and Jodi Peikin, another practitioner operating in this space, are working together on a #MeToo case for a well-known newscaster. Foti’s practice also includes labor and employment matters. The firm is commended by peers for its development of its “next-generation” bench strength. Benjamin Fischer, a partner of younger vintage who has garnered a nearly annual increase in peer acclaim, acts (with Jonathan Sack) in the representation of the Spanish media company Imagina Group, a leading global content, production, and sports media provider, in connection with the Company's resolution of a multi-year investigation by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York into improper payments made by one-time managers of the company to obtain media and marketing rights to certain World Cup soccer qualifying matches in the Central American and Caribbean regions. Fischer also acts with another younger star, Brian Jacobs in advising more than 100 individuals addressing issues relating to undisclosed offshore accounts. The firm also got another boost of young star power in 2019 with a pair of recruits that have been dubbed “the Fraud Twins” by others within the firm for their specific focus. Telemachus Kasulis, who joined the firm in January 2019 from his post at the Southern District of New York, has been attending to criminal matters primarily in the health care industry. Christopher Harwood, another relatively recent recruit, manages a diverse practice that includes commercial and civil fraud work, as well as the criminal work typical of the firm.
With origins in the Southeast, a region the firm still maintains its largest footprint in, Nelson Mullins has since expanded strategically and found success in terms of geographic reach, market share and distribution of talent. In the product liability space, the firm has even staked itself a national presence, with several trial luminaries taking the lead on high-stakes cases for a “who’s who” of pharmaceutical industry household names.
One of the most buzz-worthy and undeniably successful expansions the firm has made of late was its 2019 entry into the Baltimore market, a move which netted the firm 30 partners from a more local firm. One of these, Michael Brown, is viewed by all Baltimore peers familiar with him as a substantial coup. Brown, a trial lawyer who is particularly in demand in the product liability arena, receives resounding praise. “The biggest news in Baltimore right now is Nelson Mullins getting started here, and by recruiting Michael Brown, they made a grand entrance. They are getting into product liability in a big way,” insists one local peer. Another confides, “One of our partners actually just left us to go work for Michael Brown! But I can’t blame them, because it’s a great opportunity. Michael is dynamite and has a direct line to J&J, who he now does a lot of work for.” Brown’s successes for this particular client, especially regarding its talc litigation, have made headlines and won him acclaim. However, Brown’s acumen is not limited to product liability. He worked with fellow Baltimore partner Michael Blumenfeld, who acts as lead partner on a commercial matter for Westminster Properties stemming from a 2017 property contract dispute in which five current and former tenants of Westminster-managed properties filed a putative class action lawsuit seeking to certify a class of tenants who have allegedly been charged improper and/or excessive fees related to the late payment and/or non-payment of rent. The court dismissed the class action motion, after which the plaintiffs proceeded with individual claims. Deborah St. Lawrence Thompson, who is on the lead counsel in defense of thousands of asbestos-related personal injury and wrongful death cases, is also recognized for her work in complex disputes around the country, with notable strengths in the commercial, mass tort, product liability, toxic torts, and labor and employment areas.
Another of the firm’s trial aces with a flair for product liability, David Dukes in the Columbia, South Carolina office plays a prominent role in Bayer’s defense of its anticoagulant medication Xarelto (rivaroxaban) against claims that it caused excessive bleeding. After victories in the first 2 MDL bellwether trials in early 2017, Dukes and his team has been on the trial team for every Xarelto defense verdict, of which there have been a series. Dukes and his team was also instrumental in the workup of approximately 75 cases pending in the MDL and Philadelphia Court of Common Please litigations during the latter half of 2018 through global resolution of the Xarelto litigation in early 2019.
Mark Clouatre, the managing partner of the firm’s Denver office, has been particularly active in commercial litigation. Clouatre represented FCA in a matter involving the bankruptcy proceedings of three FCA dealerships located in Gallup, New Mexico, Holbrook, Arizona, and Winslow, Arizona. These dealerships filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2019. Additionally, the dealer principals are being prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission for potentially falsifying consumer loan documents. In the bankruptcy proceedings, FCA learned that the dealerships had been selling vehicles “out of trust,” or selling vehicles without paying back their floor plan lenders. The dealerships had also engaged in “double flooring” for a number of vehicles, receiving loan funds from two different floor plan lenders for the same vehicle. The bankruptcy court eventually entered an order prohibiting the dealerships from using their cash collateral, forcing the dealerships to discontinue business operations. In light of the bankruptcy, the abrupt end of the dealership’s business, the issues with the dealer’s floor plan lenders, and the FTC lawsuit, FCA was forced to seek termination of its dealership agreements with the dealerships through the bankruptcy proceedings. FCA was successfully able to obtain an order from the bankruptcy court granting the termination, enabling FCA to protect its business interests and to move forward with finding a business solution to its lack of representation in these important markets.
O’Melveny & Myers is yet another national firm that got its start in the Golden State. Originally based in Los Angeles, where it remains a coveted institution, the firm’s office in that city houses some of its most esteemed trial lawyers, several of whom are known and famed nationally for the cope of their work.
Dan Petrocelli is not only the firm’s most celebrated trial lawyer, but is also arguably one of the nation’s most revered. “He deserves all the accolades, not that he’s wanting for any more.” Petrocelli rides the crest of a nearly uninterrupted series of wins in 2019 with several more this year. He led a team that succeeded for Fox in securing an injunction blocking Netflix from poaching executives who agreed to fixed-term employment contracts. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued the injunction after finding that Netflix engaged in unfair competition by inducing two Fox executives to breach their fixed-term contracts. The streaming giant had also approached 14 other Fox employees under contract. Petrocelli also led a team representing Agilent as plaintiff in a lawsuit in which it alleges, among other things, that defendant Twist Bioscience, its founder, and former Agilent employees breached their employment agreements and duty of loyalty, and used Agilent's trade secrets to develop Twist's competing technology that relates, generally, to oligonucleotide synthesis. In December 2018, the O’Melveny team prevailed on a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint adding two additional individual defendants to this ongoing trade secrets case. Adding to that success, in May 2019, the court overruled defendants’ demurrer to a second amended complaint. In February 2020, Petrocelli and the team obtained a US$22.5 million settlement on the eve of the court hearing. Petrocelli is far from the only O’Melveny partner to claim headline-making victories, however. Los Angeles-based securities partner Seth Aronson secured a major victory for all class action defendants when the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of client China Agritech, holding that courts cannot extend statutes of limitations to permit endless follow-on class actions. This win also shows the firm flexing its muscle in the China-focused space, an area also attended to by William Pao, a commercial litigator also based in LA. Another LA partner, Richard Goetz, is currently representing Hill’s Pet Nutrition, owned by firm client Colgate-Palmolive, in more than 21 putative class actions brought by more than 300 plaintiffs in cases currently pending before 15 judges in 11 different courts. The allegations relate to a voluntary Hill’s recall of certain pet foods that, due to a supplier error, contained potentially elevated levels of vitamin D, an otherwise essential nutrient. Goetz is also actively representing a well publicized defendant in the nationwide opioid class actions. Intellectual property partner Ryan Yagura has mined a sizeable profile in the patent arena, particularly for clients in the tech sector. Yagura led a team that won victories for Samsung against plaintiffs seeking more than $1 billion in damages and an order that would have barred Samsung from importing any of its smartphones, tablets, computers, or smart watches to the US. The plaintiffs settled with Samsung for a fraction of their original claims. O’Melveny is also noted for being one of the few major national firms with an established California-focused environmental and land use practices. In this capacity, Matt Kline secured a significant summary judgment victory in favor of client Coachella Valley Water District in a federal groundwater rights lawsuit filed by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The Agua Caliente Tribe filed suit in 2013, seeking to secure rights to groundwater in the Coachella Valley basin and to prevent the client, one of two primary agencies managing water resources in the Coachella Valley, from transporting water from the Colorado River to the Coachella Valley. This representation netted the firm an “impact case” at the West Coast ceremony for the Benchmark 2020 awards and also landed Kline the “Environmental/Land Use Litigator of the Year” award. Matthew Close recently defeated a proposed class action in California Federal Court on behalf of global real estate and investment management firm, Colony Capital. The litigation arose when the financial results, reported in March 2018, were lower than anticipated. The company announced a reduction in its projected dividend for 2018, triggering a securities class action and stockholder derivative litigation in the Central District of California, Los Angeles Superior Court, and the District of Maryland. Close and his team represents Colony and its directors and officers in these stockholder suits, including cases under the 1933 Securities Act, the 1934 Securities and Exchange Act, and state fiduciary duty law. The judge in the ’34 Act case granted all three motions to dismiss in their entirety, granting the final motion with prejudice as to all claims. The ’33 Act cases and federal derivative litigation remains pending.
The firm’s prowess is on display on the East Coast as well. New York-based appellate star Anton Metlitsky is responsible for a pro bono engagement in which the US Supreme Court will address the question of whether the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments require a jury verdict to be unanimous for a state to convict a defendant of a felony. This high-profile case is a joint project with O’Melveny and Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic representing the client. The case has attracted amicus briefs by the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, the American Bar Association, the Innocence Project, the State of New York and other states, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, among many others. Two celebrated firm securities partners, Brad Butwin and Jonathan Rosenberg, lead the firm’s long-running defense of Bank of America against claims related to its 2008 acquisition of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial. The pair recently won an important reversal in New York’s Appellate Division of an earlier New York state trial court ruling that the client should face successor-liability claims before a jury along with fraud and breach-of-contract claims against Countrywide. In September, the Appellate Division reversed that decision, severing the successor-liability claims against the client from the primary-liability claims against Countrywide. DC-based antitrust star Ian Simmons led a novel antitrust suit involving cryptocurrency for Bitcoin pioneer Roger Ver, and several other individuals and bitcoin-related entities. Simmons secured dismissal of claims brought by a competitor that alleged that the client was engaged in a conspiracy to "hijack" the Bitcoin Cash network.
Patterson Belknap has been heralded as “perhaps the most underrated firm in New York” by a peer. “They should be referenced more often as one of the very best. They are very hard workers, and yet all pleasant, very ethical, just some really smart people who are also tough litigators.” The firm has its fans among former members of the judiciary as well. The firm’s practice offering covers a diverse spectrum, spanning commercial matters, white-collar crime, antitrust, intellectual property, securities and false advertising claims, an area in which the firm is said to be one of the few major players. The firm’s hybrid model also affords it the freedom to take on cases in the plaintiff and defense roles. Patterson Belknap has also made headlines as of late for matters involving a more novel nature.
In one example of such uniqueness, Daniel Ruzumna made the news in March 2020 as one of the firm partners filing an audacious lawsuit on behalf of watchdog group American Oversight against Donald Trump and White House adviser Jared Kushner, alleging a private Trump advisory group on clemency is violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act by not filing a charter, and by keeping their meetings and documents concealed from the public. Ruzumna also represented a former trader at Premium Point Investments (PPI) who was charged by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the SEC with securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. The charges relate to the alleged mismarking of bonds in PPI’s portfolio of securities and other bond valuation practices. Trial in this matter began in June 2019 and concluded in July 2019, with a guilty verdict. Among Ruzumna’s fans in the community is a former judge [now a partner at a prestigious firm], who cheers, “Dan is phenomenal, he was the lead lawyer in the 650 5th Ave case. He was brought in at the time of trial. He had a hard case but he was always prepared, zealous and careful, just a terrific trial lawyer.” In another headline case of public interest, Muhammad Faridi has drafted amicus briefs on behalf of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council 119, a union of asylum officers in federal litigation in support of plaintiffs challenging the Trump Administration’s actions limiting asylum and refugee resettlement in the US. These filings argue that the measures promulgated by the government violate international and domestic law governing the treatment of refugees, require the union’s constituents to violate their oath to uphold the laws of the US and betray the US’ longstanding and defining tradition of providing safe haven to those who are persecuted at a time of unprecedented global displacement. Faridi is also part of a team, which includes Peter Tomlinson and Robert Lobue, representing Ambac who, in 2010, sued embattled mortgage originator Countrywide in New York Supreme Court alleging pervasive fraud and breaches of representations and warranties made by Countrywide relating to the mortgage loans underlying 12 RMBS transactions. Saul Shapiro represents Bravo Media and Realand Productions, subsidiaries of NBCUniversal, in an action brought by the former producers of the television show “Real Housewives of Orange County.” Steve Zalesin is the firm’s False Advertising authority, widely considered one of the most prominent in the field. A fellow litigator in this capacity observes, “Steve represents J&J and is constantly in these types of disputes.” Zalesin represents The Hershey Company in a putative class action in federal court in California alleging that the statement “No Artificial Flavors” on the packaging for Hershey’s Brookside Dark Chocolate products is false and misleading because malic acid, an ingredient in the products, allegedly functions as an artificial flavor. In November 2019, the court granted his motion for summary judgment dismissing the claims of the individual plaintiffs and denied plaintiffs’ class certification motion. Zalesin also represented Clorox in a Lanham Act suit against its chief competitor Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Lysol products. The suit concerned a wide range of Lysol advertisements that contained false and misleading comparisons to multiple Clorox products, including Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. The case settled on confidential terms.
Paul Weiss’s litigation department has seen no shortage of “good years” over the course of the past decade. However, it would not be an exaggeration to describe the past year as simply extraordinary. The firm has continued to go from strength to strength in building its profile through strategic hiring, mentoring, and maintaining a level of prestige among its peers. Its stable of stars, already strong and comprehensive, got a substantial upgrade in 2020 when it lured two DC-based key players, antitrust specialist Bill Isaacson and trial luminary Karen Dunn, to its bench from Boies Schiller. These recruits are unanimously viewed by the community as a material coup and, coupled with a continuing amplification of talent in its flagship New York office, have built quite a buzz around the firm. “I have even heard rumblings about them opening an office in California, and I would be shocked if this didn’t play out.” The speculation proved to be correct; the firm launched an office in the Silicon Valley in July 2020, staffed with two more Boies Schiller recruits, securing a foothold on the West Coast. It would be somewhat of an understatement to mention that the firm has also done quite well in terms of taking on – and winning – landmark cases. One peer quips in summation, “Paul Weiss is still the firm to beat – what else is new?”
Indeed the firm kicked off 2020 with a milestone win for ExxonMobil in contentious climate change litigation. Suing under New York’s infamous Martin Act, a New York Attorney General wanted $1.6 billion in damages from ExxonMobil, alleging that the energy giant made material misstatements about how it accounted for climate-related risks, which in turn had a material impact on investors. In December 2019, after a 12-day trial, a New York State Supreme Court Justice sided with the defense. This landmark climate-change lawsuit in New York state court is believed to be the first such case ever to be tried to verdict. Ted Wells, not only the firm’s most recognizable trial lawyer but arguably one of the most celebrated trial lawyers in the country, and Dan Toal led the defense. This remarkable triumph landed the firm an “impact case” award at the 2020 Benchmark awards ceremony, and further cemented Wells’ prestigious position as a ”hall of fame” award recipient at the same gala.
Jay Cohen represents Altice USA, formerly known as Cablevision Systems Corporation, as a key third-party witness and interested party in connection with T-Mobile’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of wireless carrier rival Sprint, including responding to requests for information by the DoJ’s Antitrust Division in its antitrust investigation of the proposed merger. Cohen, a commercial litigator with a niche in entertainment law, also represents the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and 14 independent music publishers in a copyright infringement action brought against Peloton Interactive, alleging that Peloton used more than 2,300 of the publishers’ musical works in Peloton workout videos in willful violation of the copyright laws. The case was resolved shortly thereafter. David Bernick is representing Dow Chemical and its corporate parent DowDupont in defending numerous class actions alleging that Dow, together with several other manufacturers and sellers, conspired to raise prices for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate, chemicals primarily used in the production of polyurethane products.Brad Karp, a securities advocate who viewed by many as the nerve center of Paul Weiss, represents Morgan Stanley in a criminal investigation by the DoJ involving alleged price fixing and collusion in the US agency bond market. In addition, Karp is representing this client in related civil litigation and several opt-out matters that was filed in March 2019 following public news reports of the DoJ investigation. A final order approving settlement of the civil case was issued in June 2020. Susannah Buergel acts with Karp on this matter. Karp also is defending Citigroup and certain affiliates in a multidistrict litigation alleging that Citi and various other banks conspired in a group boycott to reduce competition in interest-rate swap trading, raising prices for purchasers of the swaps. The action includes a putative class of purchasers of interest rate swaps, as well as individual plaintiff companies that allegedly attempted to launch interest-rate swap trading platforms.
Ken Gallo, a prominent antitrust figure in the DC office, acts with Karp on the aforementioned matter. Gallo also led a team that defended Bumble Bee Foods against claims that it and two other companies conspired to fix prices in the US packaged tuna market. Plaintiffs include putative classes of direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and commercial food preparers, and large merchants in individual related litigations.DC’s Mark Mendelsohn is a frequent recipient of acclaim from peers in the white-collar and securities enforcement field. “Mark is a fierce advocate but he keeps it in the courtroom. He is a real boardroom lawyer – you put him in any boardroom he’s going to do exceedingly well.” Kanon Shanmugam, a “young gun” of the appellate world who recently joined the firm from Williams & Connolly, boasts a significant track record of Supreme Court appearances “particularly for someone of his vintage.” This past year alone, Shanmugam has appeared on landmark appeals (at the Supreme Court and other appeals courts) on his own, involving a variety of subject matters. One action found Shanmugam acting in concert with intellectual property partners Nicholas Groombridge and Eric Stone, with the trio securing a major appellate victory in April 2018 on behalf of Vanda Pharmaceuticals. Peers view the firm’s IP practice is another example of Paul Weiss’s prowess in “reinventing itself through development.” One peer asserts, “Paul Weiss was historically known for securities, antitrust and white-collar, sure, but IP was never their calling card. But they sure are in that space now. They have an active life sciences practice. Nick Groombridge has a really great way about him. He’s just a normal guy and he presents well to a jury, generally clients really love him, he’s really smart.”
Polsinelli has grown from its Kansas City origins and has pursued an aggressive expansion, targeting various strategic locations throughout the country and often overtaking local institutions in the process. A peer in one such location marvels, “Polsinelli just kind of showed up here one day and took over! They started attracting talent from local shops left and right, and [they] are now in all conversations.” Clients are also impressed with the service offered by Polsinelli’s personnel. “Everyone I have worked with throughout the numerous departments is always knowledgeable, professional and easy to work with,” declares one. “They respond in a very timely manner. [They provide] great communications, being on top of the situations at hand and not letting anything fall through the cracks.”
In one such example of the firm’s penetration into newer markets, Gary Hood balances his intellectual practice between the firm’s Seattle and Chicago locations. Hood’s ouvre touches on all aspects of patent, trademark and trade dress IP, and he boasts a recent trade dress and patent win for American Plastic Toy in a case against historic toy wagon manufacturer Radio Flyer. Chicago’s Mary Clare Bonaccorsi serves as Polsinelli’s Cross-Department Litigation Chair and is charged with setting the overall litigation strategy for the Firm. Ms. Bonaccorsi also heads up the Firm’s national Health Care Litigation and Disputes Practice. Mary Clare has tried cases before judges and juries in both state and federal courts throughout the United States, including a number of high-profile cases. She routinely leads high-stakes corporate internal investigations in the health care and pharmaceutical industries. In Atlanta, Brian McEvoy attends to a white-collar practice that centers largely on fraud and abuse in the health care industry. “Polsinelli has a deep bench in Atlanta,” testifies a local peer, “and they dovetail nicely with the healthcare industry here, which has always been prominent and something Polsinelli has a lot of experience with and clients in.” Farah Nicol operates out of the firm’s Raleigh and Los Angeles offices, and, as of November 2019, is the chair of the firm’s litigation department, taking over for Kansas City-based partner Russ Jones, a longtime established figure in that city’s litigation community. Nicol, who primarily focuses on product liability and toxic tort cases, is the firm’s first litigation leader not to be based in Kansas City.
A plaintiff shop with offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, covering both coasts as well as the heartland, Pomerantz is known for its prodigious capacity for cases and its tenacity to keep pursuing them. “I feel like Pomerantz is everywhere right now,” declares one peer. “They are filing everything!” The firm made heads turn and landed in national headlines when, in January and February 2018, the firm, as sole lead counsel for the class, along with lead plaintiff Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited, achieved an eye-popping $3 billion settlement with Brazil’s energy giant, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A, otherwise known as Petrobras. “That Petrobras case was just huge,” testifies a peer. “Everyone was pretty blown away when they scored that.”
The partners responsible for the Petrobras case, including New York’s Jeremy Lieberman and Emma Gilmore, has kept exceedingly busy ever since. Lieberman set an important, ground-breaking precedent for global investors in Perrigo with the first certification of parallel classes of investors, domestic and international, that purchased dually listed securities on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Perrigo, a global manufacturer of over-the-counter consumer healthcare products, generic drugs, and branded pharmaceuticals, has been alleged to have made materially false and misleading statements regarding the company’s business and competitive environment, first to defeat a hostile tender offer from its competitor Mylan, then to stem the decline in its shares after the Mylan tender offer expired unsuccessfully in November 2015. Lieberman is also part of a team (led by future star and new partner Austin Van) representing five major Israeli pension companies as lead plaintiffs against Mylan, alleging that Mylan misled investors about wide-ranging wrongful conduct, namely overcharging Medicare for the EpiPen by hundreds of millions of dollars, and engaging in anticompetitive activity to raise the price of the EpiPen. More recently, Lieberman led a team that, as of August 2020, has achieved $35 million in settlements in this ongoing antitrust litigation against multiple defendants on behalf of a class of U.S. lending institutions that suffered losses as a result of the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal, which impacted trillions of dollars in investments. This closely watched multi-district litigation alleges that the class suffered damages as a result of collusive manipulation by the LIBOR contributor panel banks that artificially suppressed the LIBOR rate during the class period, causing the class members to receive lower interest payments than they would have otherwise received.
With eight of its thirteen global offices situated strategically throughout the US, Proskauer provides a wide range of services to clients across a broad spectrum of practices including commercial, intellectual property, securities, white-collar crime and government investigations. Where Proskauer stands out from many others is its noted “near-monopoly” on the specialty areas of employment, entertainment and sports law. “No big firms can touch Proskauer in those areas,” opines one peer.
The firm has also seen a pronounced spike in its bankruptcy profile, solidly on the strength of its mammoth appointment as lead outside counsel to the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, which was created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) to oversee the restructuring of Puerto Rico's finances, the largest ever municipal restructuring in the US, valued at $125 billion. The Board's mandate is to return Puerto Rico to fiscal health with access to the capital markets, and to initiate pro-growth reforms designed to generate a free flow of capital between Puerto Rico and the US. The Oversight Board conducted a competitive process for selecting counsel, and chose Proskauer from a pool of 48 applicants. In January 2020, the Proskauer team notched a watershed win before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.This action (for which the firm received a prestigious “impact case” award at the 2020 Benchmark award ceremony) involves a team of Proskauer attorneys from numerous offices, including Boston’s Timothy Mungovan, New York’s Martin Bienenstock, Margaret Dale and Stephen Ratner, and Los Angeles’ Michael Firestein. Dale, a commercial litigator who has made a noted pivot to bankruptcy, is involved in several other Puerto Rico-related issues, primarily dealing with employee retirement issues. These issues are massive in scale, encompassing $3 billion worth of bonds at issue. Mungovan meanwhile also represents Shire in connection with a complaint filed in December 2017 by the Equityholders’ Representative for the former stockholders of FerroKin BioSciences in Delaware Chancery Court, alleging breach of contract for Shire’s failure to pay a $45 million milestone payment that was due in connection with the merger agreement. The case went to trial in October 2019 and a ruling is pending.
In another bankruptcy-related matter, Michael Mervis represented celebrity investment manager Lynn Tilton and several of her investment vehicles in an adversary proceeding brought by the Chapter 7 Trustee for now-defunct ambulance entity TransCare and pending in the Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York. The Trustee asserted several non-bankruptcy and bankruptcy claims against the defendants arising from the collapse of TransCare. At core, the case concerned whether Tilton, the sole director of TransCare, engaged in self-dealing by pursuing a restructuring plan in which TransCare’s most profitable business lines would be transferred to a new entity, also controlled by Tilton, while the less profitable business lines would be wound down. In the Summer of 2019, the court presided over a six-day bench trial. Brad Ruskin, whose practice straddles a unique intersection of antitrust and sports litigation, is defending Major League Soccer (MLS) against a lawsuit brought by the North American Soccer League (NASL) against MLS and the US Soccer Federation following US Soccer’s decision not to sanction NASL as a Division II professional league for the 2018 season. NASL alleges that MLS and US Soccer are engaged in an antitrust conspiracy to ensure that MLS is the sole Division I soccer league in the United States, and further alleges that MLS is an illegal monopoly in violation of the Sherman Act. In another action exemplifying Proskauer’s dominant position in sports law, Los Angeles trial lawyer Bart Williams represented the “Power 5 Conferences” in the trial of a high-profile class action brought by current and former NCAA Division I football and basketball players. The players filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging the limits on compensation and benefits for student-athletes. Plaintiffs sought an order removing existing limitations on compensation and benefits available to class members from schools or conferences. Following a 10-day bench trial, the court held that the challenged rules promote consumer demand for college sports by recognizing the distinction between college and professional sports. The ruling was upheld on appeal in May 2020. Having scored favorable rulings for Johnson & Johnson in talc litigation, Williams’ product liability trial acumen (as well as that of Manuel Cachan) was called into service by Monsanto and its parent company Bayer, in a California case alleging that the use of Monsanto’s herbicide, RoundUp, caused the plaintiff’s non‑Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The case settled weeks before trial in January 2020. Bayer then hired Williams and Cachan to try another RoundUp case in Missouri State Court, which is set for trial in September 2020. Williams is also lead counsel for toy company Mattel and their co-defendants in 23 separate product liability wrongful death cases in Delaware and California state courts related to the Fisher Price Rock-n-Play Sleeper. The cases allege that the toy in question was not safe for use as a sleeping device for infants.
Proskauer continues to make strides in its quickly burgeoning intellectual property arena as well. The twin pillars of Los Angeles’ Sige Gutman and Boston’s Steven Bauer represent Amgen in a high-profile life sciences patent matter concerning Amgen’s development and commercialization of a biosimilar to Genentech’s Avastin, a monoclonal antibody cancer therapy. In February 2017, Genentech filed a complaint in Delaware federal court alleging that Amgen violated an information exchange provision of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act by withholding information about the manufacturing of its biosimilar. The Proskauer team successfully obtained a dismissal two weeks later. Genentech thereafter filed suit against Amgen in Delaware alleging that Amgen’s Mvasi infringes 24 patents. In July 2019, the US District Court denied Genentech’s motion to enjoin sales of Amgen’s biosimilar products Mvasi and Kintanj. The parties continue to litigate at the district court, and Amgen is now defending the district court’s decision denying a preliminary injunction on appeal at the Federal Circuit.
Quinn Emanuel’s maverick approach in the legal market has proven not only wildly successful, but also qualitatively transformative. “It’s hard to even remember what the litigation world was like before Quinn Emanuel,” muses one seasoned partner at a rival firm. “Whatever it was, we’re not going back to it. Quinn turned the old model upside-down and changed the game forever.” Another peer elucidates on this point; “Once upon a time, you had Big Law and you had litigation boutiques…and then you had Quinn, and suddenly here was this global white-shoe powerhouse built on nothing but high-end litigation!” Since its Los Angeles-based genesis, the firm has morphed into a global juggernaut, continuing to build on its existing strong bench with an ever-expanding stable of new recruits. “We see Quinn Emanuel a LOT,” testifies a peer, who humorously adds, “More than I’d care to! But they are doing their job keeping us with our work cut out for us. I have a joke going with [firm founder and visionary and commercial trial lawyer] John Quinn, ‘I have to root for you because when Quinn does well, we do well!’” In addition to its behemoth status as a litigation shop, more specifically it is known as an incubator for true courtroom warriors, as the “Trial Lawyers” subtitle to its branding makes sure to drive home. The firm pursues the trial-ready agenda with zeal, and indeed the firm makes a strong showing in Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers list, with no fewer than four of its partners nominated every year since the list’s inception. “Quinn breeds a reputation of ‘If you want someone who’s ready to sling mud and not just roll over and settle, call us.’”
Mike Carlinsky, in the firm’s New York office, is routinely addressed by all familiar with him as “Quinn’s big gun.” One peer testifies, “On the plaintiff side of commercial and insurance cases, he is the one I see the most, and man, is he good!” Another insists, “Mike is a cowboy but a streetwise one, he knows the ins and outs, and clients love him.” Still another jokes in summation, “I have dreams about Mike Carlinsky, and they all involve him chasing me.” Another “big gun,” Daniel Brockett, also in New York, is known as a force in the antitrust arena. “Dan Brockett is still going strong as our principal antagonist. He is a hustler and has some really impressive clients. In the antitrust space Dan is one of the biggest players, maybe the biggest. He also does securities.” Another peer elaborates, “Dan was able to pull together about 1,300 opt-outs, a mini ‘class action’ if you will.” Richard Werder, the managing partner of the New York office, is known for “just quietly going gangbusters on a number of cases involving billions.” Among his recent engagements, Werder represented Access Industries in an action by a post-bankruptcy litigation trustee seeking more than $3 billion in damages under fraudulent transfer, preference, and breach of fiduciary duty theories following bankruptcy of company formed through leveraged merger. After a three-week trial, Werder obtained a defense verdict on over $3 billion of claims. The firm’s trial prowess has been championed in bankruptcy matters as well. “They represent litigious bondholders who don’t want to settle,” notes a peer. Susheel Kirpalani is regularly identified as a standout by insolvency peers.”
The firm’s West Coast operations have also been at the forefront of headline-grabbing litigation, particularly in intellectual property and trade secret matters. One California-based peer testifies, “A lot of the players that I’ve seen over the past 20 years did not see the trade secret boom coming and so they are not positioned to handle California trade secret cases in Silicon Valley. Quinn Emanuel is an exception – they’ve gotten in, and, in particular, Charles Verhoeven. He blew it wide open.” Verhoeven, a San Francisco-based IP litigator, made national headlines in his position as lead counsel for Waymo in its well-publicized dispute with Uber. A Los Angeles-based team consisting of James Asperger and Bill Price triumphed for the California Institute of Technology in January 2020, when it scored a $1.1 billion patent infringement award against Apple and Broadcom in a case concerning error-correction technology in Wi-Fi chips. “I have witnessed Quinn lawyers in a case against a well-known major IP specialty shop,” confirms a peer, “and the Quinn lawyers were BETTER!”
In the firm’s DC office, William Burck is a celebrated white-collar crime star with dozens of high-level appointments to his credit, including several cases that have made recent national headlines such as the Odebrecht scandal, the “Varsity Blues” scandal, the “Panama Papers” affair, as well as serving as lead counsel to several key witnesses in the high-profile Robert Mueller investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Most recently, in August 2020, Burck was retained by Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former strategist, in defending criminal charges that Bannon stole from supporters of the Trump’s US-Mexico border wall. “The kind of white-collar cases Bill Burck takes on definitely require a trial lawyer, and Bill certainly is one,” insists a peer.
Intellectual property and commercial litigation boutique Reichman Jorgensen has made a notable impression on the legal community, and has done so very quickly. Formed in 2018 upon the departure of trial figurehead
Courtland Reichman from McKool Smith in order to launch this venture, the firm has already notched itself a maverick image on the legal landscape. Despite a network of offices spanning four cities (Silicon Valley, CA; Washington, DC, Atlanta and New York), the firm is still a compact group, with only nine partners at present. It is also a majority woman-owned firm, with only three male partners, and, most notably, it has focused on fostering a trial-forward agenda. Peers address the firm as “smart and hungry,” and a client testifies, “The firm does an exceptional job preparing complex technical cases for trial before a lay jury. The firm also uses technology such as internal databases well to disseminate relevant information to the entire team quickly, which is exceedingly important in a fast-moving yet complex case.”
Reichman, based in the firm’s Silicon Valley office, is revered by peers as “a trial veteran, which is unique at his relatively young age, but not that surprising, seeing as how he got his chops through his time at McKool.” A client calls him “a strong advocate and a true trial lawyer,” and goes on to quip, “I only wish there more of him.” Reichman led a team that scored a $236 million jury verdict win in January 2020, less than two years into the firm’s existence. This victory, for Canadian client Densify against industry giant VMWare, concerned virtualization technology. Acting with Reichman on this matter was DC managing partner Christine Lehman, who has her own set of vocally appreciative clients. One calls Lehman “exceptional at separating the wheat from the chaff’ and applauds her “laser-like focus on the important stuff without sweating the small stuff.”
While it maintains four offices (two in Texas - Dallas and Austin - as well as DC and New York,) Reid Collins & Tsai has crafted a reputation as a true maverick trial boutique, taking on whatever cases it sees as suitable and desirable. The firm is often the fortunate recipient of cases that other, usually larger, firms refer or are conflicted out of, and these cases fall primarily on the plaintiff side of the ‘V.’ “These guys are definitely purveyors of an increasingly lost art,” offers one peer. “But they are not just ‘cowboys,’ they are strategic. They prepare incessantly and they are not just looking to do ‘the settlement dance’ and get out.” Another declares, “Reid Collins & Tsai is a relatively new force but they have come on the scene big-time. There is a lot to learn from Bill Reid and his bunch – they forcing other ‘trial lawyers’ to take a minute to reflect and decide whether they are really worthy of that designation.” Another peer – and frequent opponent – quips, “They are a pain to go up against because they’re so good! They’ve gotten very good at figuring out where money should come from when business deals fall apart. They approach litigation like businessmen and know quite a bit about bankruptcy!” The firm also has its fans among a dedicated and vocal client base. One such client cheers the firm lawyers as “responsive, smart and appropriately aggressive.” Another commends, “They are smart attorneys who give honest evaluations, have good judgment and experience in the certain key areas who also look to cost/benefit risks, as opposed to only looking to litigate for fees. They are also willing to be creative on arrangements for their fees.” Still another confirms, “I needed smart and efficient litigation counsel to handle one of the larger matters for a post-bankruptcy litigation/liquidation trust. I interviewed several top-tier litigation boutiques, and selected Reid Collins. It is a high-end, results-driven firm.”
Austin-based Bill Reid is an architect of the firm and an all-purpose commercial trial lawyer. “Bill is a survivor!” insists a peer. “He is hard-nosed but fair. We throw bombs at each other and then settle up afterward.” In December 2018, Reid filed a legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract action against national law firm Reed Smith on behalf of the Cayman Islands liquidators of the Bear Stearns Funds, seeking more than $500 million in damages. The claims arose out of Reed Smith’s alleged failure to meet the statute of limitations in a lawsuit it filed on behalf of the liquidators against the credit rating agencies, as well as its failure to advise and pursue, on a timely basis, hundreds of millions of dollars in residential mortgage-backed securities claims against Wall Street financial institutions. Reid also represents an LB Litigation trustee in a case involving a legal malpractice claim arising out of law firm Brown Rudnick’s alleged failed prosecution of a $300 million preference claim in Lyondell’s bankruptcy proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. “Bill gets down in the dirt!” exclaims a peer. “Together with Lisa Tsai, it’s a great one-two punch. They’re street fighters! But only after carefully mapping out what punches to throw.” The firm is also noted for its bankruptcy prowess, with Reid and Eric Madden, a future star with a more decidedly insolvency focused partner, appearing as lead counsel in two separate major cases, one of which involves nearly $1 billion in damages and which survived a motion to dismiss when this was denied by the court in March 2018.
With offices in New York, Washington, DC, and London, Richards Kibbe & Orbe is “international in scope, with customized offerings,” according to one peer and is highly regarded for its bench of talented litigators. The firm handles a variety of matters involving bankruptcy, civil, financial, regulatory, and white-collar criminal litigation. Lee Richards is a founding partner at the firm and is noted by one peer as a “legend” in the white-collar space. Among his current matters, Richards represented a public brand management company in investigations by the SEC and Department of Justice into alleged revenue recognition and accounting irregularities. Working alongside Richards is fellow star Shari Brandt, who has over 20 years of experience assisting a variety of companies and individuals in complex litigation and government investigations. “Shari Brandt runs a solid practice,” insists a peer. Brandt is counsel for former and current senior executives involved in a federal class action alleging antitrust violations arising out of a claimed conspiracy among bank defendants to stymie the growth of open access markets for interest rate swaps on swap execution facilities following implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act. Discovery was substantially completed in April 2019, and the case has now moved to the class certification stage. Daniel Zinman focuses his practice on handling complex financial disputes and government enforcement matters, as well as professional liability. ZInman served as counsel for a national law firm in a derivative lawsuit filed in New York State in which the plaintiffs seek rescission of two Stock Purchase Agreements on the grounds that they were induced by fraud. James Walker is increasingly making a name for himself for his practice that traverses commercial litigation, white-collar and government investigations, and professional liability. Walker and Zinman advised a Global AmLaw 200 firm in connection with a client’s claim that the firm had exceeded the scope of an advance conflict waiver in connection with the firm’s representation of another client in a restructuring of the client’s debt. The pair also advised the firm in connection with the ensuing litigation between the two clients.
Robins Kaplan has etched itself a unique position on the legal landscape, and it has done so through a strategy of smart, strategic expansion and a bold agenda of cultivating trial lawyers who take on cases, often in the plaintiff capacity, with a high risk/reward ratio. A peer quips, “They sue banks, they sue Big Pharma, they’re animals!” Robins Kaplan is a favorite with clients, one of whom testifies, “The firm is exceptional at legal strategy, writing briefs, and oral argument.” Another confirms, “The partners I work with are extremely responsive, dedicated to the tasks at hand and creative. They are very nice people too.” While the firm is perhaps best known for its intellectual property and antitrust capacity, focused primarily in its Minneapolis and New York offices, as of late they have been garnering more attention in the commercial arena, as well as the securities class-action space, the one practice area in which the firm is strictly defense-oriented.
Robins Kaplan’s New York office has seen a pronounced spike in its profile recently, which is largely credited to Craig Weiner and future star Lisa Coyle in the financial and commercial group. Weiner is known for “doing a lot of professional malpractice and some entertainment. He represents some celebrities, usually in their investments, including a rapper you have definitely heard of!” Coyle receives a glowing accolade from a client: “Lisa stands out as the sharpest and most brilliant lawyer in New York City. She excels at complex strategy formation and always knows the right next step. She has excellent client relationships and is an incredible leader. As a female client, I feel so fortunate to get the opportunity to work with a powerhouse female lawyer like Lisa. She is never intimidated by even the most aggressive adversary. She stands firmly in her ethical beliefs and brings an impressive level of aggressiveness and enthusiasm to her cases. She is extremely responsive, manages her practice very well and is a pleasure to work with.” Weiner and Coyle served as counsel to film, television, and gaming production company Liquid Media and several of its directors, who are being sued by the company’s former CEO and her company for $10.5 million for breach of contract, defamation and discrimination. The parties settled on terms favorable to the client. The New York office is also home to the firm’s antitrust capacity, for which Hollis Salzman is routinely acknowledges as “one of the best” by peers. “Hollis is tough but not nasty, and she is a trailblazer in the plaintiff antitrust world. She comes from a class-action firm [Labaton Sucharow] but since she got to Robins Kaplan she has a much greater platform – she does opt-outs, compliance – and she also is now in the company of trial lawyers!” Robins Kaplan has also been long known for its IP prowess, with lawyers acknowledged as “aggressive trial lawyers who do a lot of pharma patent litigation for generic companies.” A client elaborates on the firm’s IP depth and skill set: “Robins Kaplan has handled commercial litigation for me that involves IP, trademark, and copyright infringement, and overall assisted me with a dispute in which I was wrongfully cheated out of my ownership stake in the business I created.” Operating from both the Minneapolis and New York office, Chris Larus is called “the future of that firm’s strategy for sure. He’s sharp, he likes to take on ‘Big Tech,’ and in the classic Robins Kaplan style, he doesn’t shirk from trial work.”
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr is the product of a merger between the Mid-Atlantic-based regional player Saul Ewing and the Chicago outfit Arnstein & Lehr. The combined outfit brings a diverse array of practice areas to an equally diverse client base. A peer speculates, “Saul Ewing is aiming to go national, and they may just pull it off! They are making inroads into some interesting new areas, and they already have cornered the market in a few areas.”
One of the areas in which the firm holds a dominant position in is the higher education practice. Arguably the most high-profile of these is Philadelphia’s Joseph O’Dea’s representation of Penn State as lead counsel to Penn State in all civil matters brought by the sexual abuse victims of Jerry Sandusky, a former sports coach, following Sandusky’s 2011 arrest. O’Dea spearheaded the effort to resolve the majority of victim claims, and also represented the University in numerous Sandusky-related lawsuits that did not involve victims, such as lawsuits brought by former football coaches and another by University Trustees challenging certain governance issues. Baltimore partners Jason St. John and Charles Monk, lead a team representing the Maryland State of Board of Education in defense of a challenge by a class of Baltimore City plaintiffs who are the parents of Baltimore City school children. Plaintiffs are attempting to revive a lawsuit from the early 1990s and claim that the State has failed to comply with its constitutional duty to provide adequate education to Baltimore City school children, including adequate funding for Baltimore City public schools, which have been saddled with failing infrastructure, namely y broken heat systems in the winter, absence of air conditioning in the summer, and pipe leaks throughout the year. St. John leads a team representing the State of Maryland and various state agencies in a high-profile litigation matter relating to a $1.5 billion, multi-phase, mixed-use real estate project to redevelop a 28-acre state office complex in midtown Baltimore known as the “State Center Project.” A Philadelphia team led by John Stoviak and Cathleen Devlin won summary judgment on behalf of Service Corporation International, a provider of cemetery, cremation and funeral services, resulting in the dismissal of the two named plaintiffs’ individual claims in a putative nationwide class action for negligence, breach of contract and violations of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law arising from alleged burial issues. This same team represents Cyprus Amax Minerals Company in pursuing recovery of millions of dollars of environmental investigation and clean-up costs to address alleged lead, cadmium and arsenic contamination of soils associated with the early 20th century operations of two former zinc smelters in Oklahoma. Devlin is a commercial litigator with an environmental specialty. “Cathleen handled disputes arising from ‘problems in the ground,’” quips a peer. The Chicago office is noted for the young energy of its team; two-thirds of its 35 litigators are under 50. George Apostolides serves as the office’s head of litigation maintains a commercial practice with a bankruptcy niche.Nancy DePodesta, a former US Attorney in Chicago, came to the firm and became an integral part of its white-collar group at the firm. Maintaining a specialty in political corruption, DePodesta is also leading two investigations for a major university, crossing with the firm’s higher education practice. Another partner with a fluency with investigations, Boston’s Jeffrey Robbins, who joined the firm in 2018 from Mintz. “That was a great add,” offers a peer. “Jeff is battle-tested, tough, the guy you want with you in the foxhole. He’s got a bit of a defamation niche to him. And he brought some younger partners along with him!” Throughout his career, Robbins has represented a broad variety of both individuals and entities, particularly media entities.
With offices in New York and DC, Schulte Roth & Zabel is praised by peers for its “very high-quality” work, primarily in the financial services sector. “Schulte has really come to dominate in certain areas,” observes one peer. “They have always been a go-to for private equity and hedge funds, and now they have cornered the market in areas like cryptocurrency as well.” The firm’s demonstrated strengths in the securities and white-collar areas have been prominently on display in a number of matters for a diverse spectrum of clients.
In one example of the firm’s expertise in the cryptocurrency sector, a team composed of DC partner Howard Schiffman and New York partners Michael Swartz and Gary Stein advised ParagonCoin in a trailblazing settlement with the SEC that effectively put an end to the uncertainties of the legal status of cryptocurrencies. A securities-focused partner, Swartz is also advising Starboard Value in a securities class action involving Advance Auto Parts and is also advising Veritas Capital in multiple class actions. Over the last two years, Swartz has also secured multiple hard-fought victories for venBio Select Advisor in a proxy campaign that was subject to an unusual level of litigation over many novel issues. New York’s Harry Davis represented National Bank of Canada and various Canadian and US subsidiaries in a major litigation relating to the alleged manipulation of a benchmark rate known as the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (CDOR). In March 2019, Davis secured a dismissal of a putative class action alleging the manipulation of CDOR in its entirety.
The firm’s white-collar practice has seen a significant ramping up as of late as well. DC white-collar star Adam Hoffinger is representing the former Chairman and CEO of Anham, a Dubai-based government contracting and procurement company, against an indictment filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, charging violations of Iran sanctions in connection with providing food to US troops in Afghanistan.“Adam Hoffinger is quite a character,” offers a peer. “He has a certain level of aplomb that is tailor-made for the types of cases he takes on. And what cases! If you talk to him, get ready for hours of war stories!” Also based in DC, Peter White acts for Robert Jesenik, the chief executive of Oregon-based Aequitas Management (later revealed to be a Ponzi scheme) in the largest SEC enforcement case in Oregon’s history. The SEC’s complaint alleged that Aequitas defrauded over 1,500 investors nationwide by not disclosing the company’s true financial situation, using money from new investors to pay earlier investors, and not investing the money in healthcare, education, and transportation-related investments, as investors had been told, but rather using the funds in order to keep the firm afloat. The SEC sought permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and monetary penalties from all defendants, as well as bars prohibiting Jesenik and two other company officials from serving as officers or directors of any public company. Moving into 2020, the case is now a criminal one, with several Aequitas executives issuing guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. White continues to defend Jesenik in respect of the criminal probe. The New York office has a white-collar star of its own in Barry Bohrer, a celebrated figure in the community. Bohrer advised Joseph Percoco, a former senior aide and campaign manager to Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, in a well-publicized investigation involving improper lobbying and conflicts of interest. In a mixed verdict, Percoco was convicted in 2018 of three corruption charges, but cleared of four others. Percoco was found guilty of engaging in “pay-to-play” scams with two energy companies seeking to do business with and influence the state, and was convicted of soliciting bribes from Competitive Power Ventures, but acquitted of extortion. After a federal appeals court ordered Percoco to prison in March 2019 to serve six years, Bohrer continues to appeal the conviction and fight for Percoco’s release, arguing before the Second Circuit appeals court in March 2020. (Percoco, for his part, maintains his innocence.)
Founded in 2018 and operating out of a single location in New York, Selendy & Gay is a litigation boutique that spans well beyond the city’s borders and has generated buzz among fellow litigators from all corners of the country. This is undoubtedly due to the star power of its personnel; partners Philippe Selendy
and Faith Gay were both “dynamos” at their former firm Quinn Emanuel before decamping to forge what peers now address as “one of the most talked-about litigation shops.” The firm’s compact size and lack of bureaucracy allows it freedom to experiment with “cases that fall outside the boundaries of the ‘traditional’ cases that bigger firms deal with” as well as greater flexibility on rates. “They have been taking on some interesting work, like public interest cases, which they couldn’t have done before,” observes a peer.
Gay, known for a diverse practice that combines commercial and white-collar matters, is representing a class of public servants in a sweeping federal class-action suit against the student loan servicer Navient for misleading borrowers as to their eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a federal program adopted in 2007 to help bridge the gap between the cost of higher education requirements for public service positions and the lower salaries those positions offer. Since then, 28,000 public servants have applied under the program, but only 96 people have actually received loan forgiveness. Effectively, according to recently released data, 98% of borrowers who submitted applications for this program have been rejected since October 2017.
Selendy, who generated celebrity status through his nearly uninterrupted series of eye-popping settlements with a “who’s who” of banks while at his former firm, has continued to enjoy a strong profile as a “creative and forward-thinking securities and commercial litigation star,” particularly on the plaintiff side of the “V.” Supporting this claim is Selendy’s prominence in the burgeoning cryptocurrency area, a field in which he is engaged in several cases. In one, he represents National Public Finance Guarantee against eight major banks to hold them accountable for alleged inequitable conduct in Puerto Rico's municipal bond market, which contributed to Puerto Rico's economic collapse. The clients, bond insurers that have been presented with, and fully honored, over a billion dollars in claims after the municipal debt underwritten by the banks became unsustainable on their terms for the Commonwealth and its agencies and they defaulted on their obligations. In another case, Selendy represents cryptocurrency investors in a putative class action alleging that the controllers of the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex falsely represented that their purportedly “stable” cryptocurrency Tether was backed by US Dollars in order to control the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in an elaborate market-manipulation scheme that cost investors hundreds of billions of dollars. Working with the latter case with Selendy is Caitlin Halligan, an appellate star formerly with Gibson Dunn who peers view as a significant augmentation to the firm’s bench. Halligan handled an appeal in a lawsuit filed by a former New York police officer on behalf of hundreds of thousands of New York City public employees and retirees, alleging that health insurance company Group Health Incorporated violated New York’s consumer protection law by disseminating marketing materials that misrepresented critical aspects of out-of-network coverage. The New York Court of Appeals found in Halligan’s client’s favor, a significant victory for consumers. Halligan also, along with David Elsberg, represents the BVI Liquidator of the Fairfield Funds, the largest feeder funds into the Madoff Ponzi scheme, in prosecuting over 250 clawback actions in the Southern District of New York commenced against Funds’ redeemers, including many major financial institutions. The clawback actions, pending in the Bankruptcy Court, seek the return to the Funds of over $6 billion in overpaid redemptions. In December 2018, the Bankruptcy Court dismissed claims seeking restitution under BVI common law and contract theories. Halligan and Elsberg are in the process of appealing those decisions in the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
A fully-integrated international law firm, Shearman & Sterling has been at the forefront of some headline-making litigation on a global basis and is routinely recognized as a leading legal entity by lawyers from Europe to Southeast Asia. With most of its 20 offices being based in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, some would even argue it would not due the firm justice to be assessed on just a one-country level given its global reach. Nonetheless, within the States the firm is called upon most often for its experience and acumen with matters of the securities and white-collar and FCPA enforcement variety and is quickly developing a leading profile in the antitrust space as well.
New York’s Adam Hakki remains a perennial peer favorite, with glowing reviews offered on a unanimous basis. “Adam is just dynamite,” offers one peer. “He’s just exceptionally hard-working and just shows up everywhere. He also is just consistently pleasant, which may not sound like a big deal but when you consider the amount of work he takes on, it’s somewhat remarkable.” Further exemplifying Hakki’s weighty remit, in addition to his own litigation practice he also holds the position of the firm’s Global Managing Partner. Hakki maintains his “sweet spot” with a “huge presence” in the securities capacity but of late has been noted for a good deal of antitrust work as well. Hakki recently achieved a victory on behalf of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in a putative antitrust class action. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had conspired to manipulate LIBOR, despite the highly publicized LIBOR scandals in recent years, the numerous reforms of the rate submission process, and intense regulatory scrutiny. Hakki also achieved a victory for US- and Mexico-based Bank of America entities in a putative class action alleging that that Bank of America, among other financial institutions, conspired to manipulate the prices at which defendants bought Mexican government bonds at auction and the prices at which defendants sold Mexican government bonds in the secondary market. In September 2019, the Southern District of New York granted Hakki’s motion to dismiss in the Mexican Government Bonds class action, where billions in damages were alleged.
In the securities practice for which he is routinely celebrated, Hakki has demonstrated not only his own litigation acumen but has also highlighted the skill sets of his colleagues. Hakki and Agnès Dunogué achieved a significant litigation victory in a putative securities class action brought in the Southern District of New York related to the infamous “Volpocalypse,” in which the VIX (volatility index) collapsed in February 2018, with billions of dollars in resulting investor losses. The suit was brought by purchasers of the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF, who alleged the Registration Statement for the ETF contained misstatements and omissions in violation of the Securities Act of 1933, and generally alleged that the ETF was highly leveraged and unable to adequately hedge its risks because of historically low market volatility and competition from other investment vehicles for the hedging contracts the ETF needed to carry out its investment objections. Hakki and Dunogue represented multiple entities that entered into an Authorized Participant Agreement to create and redeem shares of the ETF on behalf of those who traded the ETF on the secondary market. These Authorized Participants were alleged to be underwriters subject to liability under the Securities Act. In January 2020, the class action was dismissed in its entirety and with prejudice. Dunogué is called out by peers as “someone who is coming up fast and deserves more notice. She is very sophisticated in securities and does a lot of work with Adam Hakki.” Another frequent teammate of Hakki’s, Jeffrey Resetarits, is also generating a good deal of traction. “Keep your eye on him,” advises a colleague at one of New York’s top firms. “We’ve been seeing more of him lately and we are very impressed. He and Adam Hakki just had a nice win [in March 2019] in a matter involving CDOR [Canadian Dollar Offered Rate.]”
Commercial and white-collar star Stephen Fishbein, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, successfully represented fintech software and services company SS&C as lead trial counsel in trade secret litigation against Clearwater Analytics alleging misappropriation of trade secrets. Clearwater recruited an SS&C sales executive, who brought with him to Clearwater sales pipelines, client lists and other confidential information. At a two-week trial, Fishbein argued that SS&C was entitled to a “reasonable royalty” based on the value of the information at the time of theft, and that Clearwater should also pay punitive damages. The jury returned a verdict of $44 million, consisting of $16 million in compensatory damages and $28 million in punitive damages. Fishbein and fellow white-collar and enforcement star John Nathanson conducted a high-profile trial for Christopher Worrall, a federal government employee. Worrall was charged with conversion of government property and insider trading in the DoJ’s criminal case relating to leaks of information from his employer, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The client was acquitted of 14 out of the 16 counts against him, including all of the conspiracy and securities fraud counts. In the antitrust space, Fishbein is also representing 1-800 Contacts, an online retailer of contact lenses, in a matter that claims the client unlawfully orchestrated a web of anticompetitive agreements with rival online contact lens sellers that suppress competition in certain online search advertising auctions and that restrict internet advertising to consumers. Acting with Fishbein on this matter is Todd Stenerson, a DC-based antitrust practitioner that is steadily gaining more notice. “Todd is an incredibly smart and thoughtful trial lawyer,” testifies one peer. “With these big mega-cases, you think about trial or settlement, but Todd is taking depositions, making decisions, really thinking about how this is going to play out in trial. That’s not something you see every day.”
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett boasts a long history as one of New York’s, and the country’s, most esteemed full-service legal brands. Its litigation and disputes capacity enjoys access to a blue-ribbon client base that is generated entrepreneurially as well as spun off from the firm’s globally ranging corporate stock, which runs the gamut of everything from brand name pharmaceutical entities to online giants to hedge funds. Simpson Thacher is also noted as being one of the classic white-shoe firms that is more comprehensive in terms of national coverage, with partners in its DC and Palo Alto offices playing increasing roles in litigation individually or in tandem with the New York team. A dominant presence in the areas of securities, antitrust and insurance, the firm has also made more recent entries into other areas, such as intellectual property, with proven success. “Simpson Thacher is a go-to firm for any type of legal dispute,” offers a client in summation. “Any individual or entity that retains them is going to get the best counsel possible.”
An area of particular note that the firm has doubled down on is its white-collar and investigations area, a relatively recent development that has taken root with astonishing momentum, which not gone unnoticed by peers and clients. An impressed New York peer chirps, “Simpson Thacher has really come up! If you would have asked me three years ago about their white-collar group, I would have told you ‘they don’t really have one.’ But they have really reinvigorated it. Steve Cutler knows how boards operate, he gets the dynamic between management and boards, which is valuable. Brooke Cucinella is really strong overall, in criminal and in more securities enforcement. Nick Goldin seems like he would be the trial lawyer of the bunch. Between them, they now have a really meaningful group.” Another peer testifies, “My relationships with Simpson are primarily on the white-collar side. I have worked on multiple matters with [DC-based partner] Jeffrey Knox, Joshua Levine and Nick Goldin. They are all very effective white-collar defense lawyers and they all bring slightly different skill sets. Jeff is a very-plugged-in, highly strategic former DoJ Fraud Section lawyer (he ran the FCPA Unit), Josh is a very smart, very effective lawyer's lawyer, who has tremendous judgment, no ego, and real credibility. Nick is a very dynamic, very smart lawyer as well. The trio are really exceptional and standout in a market crowded with great lawyers. The relatively recent additions of Steve Cutler (who chairs the practice) and Brooke Cucinella who has real trial chops, just strengthen an already very strong crew. Steve is exceptional smart, strategic and experienced. Brooke is a trial jock with a lot of charisma. [They are a] Very good team with complementary skills.” Clients are also vocally appreciative; “In particular, the firm's government and internal investigations practice is at the very top of that field,” declares one. “[They have] Tremendous strategic sense, real inside knowledge of how DoJ/Main Justice operates, and are very good at navigating complex investigations.” Speaking to the individual partners, a client comments on Goldin: “Nick is the complete package. [He is] Analytically gifted and rigorous, attune to business and personal needs, practical and aggressive. Based on his experience and skill set, Nick has the ability to see the entire field and anticipate where investigations and litigation are headed.”
Mary Beth Forshaw and Lynn Neuner, two figureheads in the firm’s famed insurance practice, remain active in representing two major excess property insurers, XL Insurance America and QBE Insurance Group Limited, in hard-fought disputes arising from hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage and business interruption claims at St. Thomas’ largest hotel property. These claims arose from major damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, which ultimately resulted in a rebuild of the property costing in excess of $300 million. The policyholder commenced litigation in the Virgin Islands, and the Firm’s insurance clients commenced a competing action in New York. The outcome of the case hinged on application of Virgin Island building codes, the scope of permitted renovation, and the resolved shortly before trial. Both partners have been appointees to
Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation since its inception, and Neuner appears for the second consecutive year as one of Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers. Beyond insurance, Neuner also keeps busy with commercial and securities cases and has also emerged as one of New York’s few major players in the false advertising capacity.
Neuner represented Bayer in defending its advertising for Claritin-D against a challenge brought by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Flonase, an allergy spray. Glaxo challenged whether Bayer has reasonable substantiation for the claim that based on label indications, Claritin-D relieves eight symptoms, but Flonase relieves only six. In April 2019, it was concluded that Bayer provided a reasonable basis for its claim. In March 2020, Neuner logged another win for this client when the National Advertising Review Board reversed a September 2019 decision of the National Advertising Division and found that Bayer provided reasonable and reliable scientific support for the claims that Aleve is “proven better on pain than Tylenol Extra Strength” and that Aleve is “proven better on pain than Tylenol” for the first six hours post-dosing.
New York-based securities figurehead Jonathan Youngwood and Palo Alto-based Jim Kreissman have kept busy in a range of actions concerning ubiquitous online juggernauts such as Twitter and Alibaba. In addition to his role as one of the firm’s most active securities practitioners, Youngwood has also pursued a zealous pro bono agenda, which last year saw him scoring a big win in a matter concerning racial profiling among police in Mississippi. The firm’s antitrust practice, largely based out of DC, has also seen a spike in prominence as of late. The bulk of this work falls into the buckets of cartel work, regulatory defense and criminal matters, and also includes a good deal of work in the class-action space, in which John Terzaken, the global co-chair of the practice, dedicates a good deal of his time. Peter Guryan focuses more on merger work, and Sara Razi is known for assisting private equity clients in strategic transactions, many of which are outside the US, as well as clients in industries ranging from energy to healthcare.
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has etched itself a coveted position as one of the nation’s most ubiquitous, recognized and prized legal brands. Having already firmly entrenched itself a dominant position in the New York legal market, Skadden has since expanded to penetrate the West Coast as well as markets like DC, Boston and Wilmington, Delaware. “Skadden is clearly everywhere,” sums up a peer, “and they are pretty universally recognized as best-in-class. They deserve it, though. In my experience with their lawyers as part of teams, they always just seem to be a notch above the rest.”
In the firm’s flagship New York office, Skadden hosts a securities team that is namechecked on a near-unanimous basis by peers in the field. Indeed, in early 2020 alone, the firm lays claim to an eyebrow-raising number of headline wins in this area. Seasoned partner Jay Kasner, named as a first-call securities leader for decades, is still a prominent figure. However, it is noted that others are stepping up to take the baton. Most notably, Scott Musoff is championed on a near-unanimous basis. “Scott is kind of ‘the man’ at Skadden in this space now,” observes a peer, who goes on to call Musoff a “class act.” Another peer confides, “I cleaned Scott Musoff’s clock one time…but I was very lucky, and I knew it. He was great, fought hard, was prepared and thoughtful. I went in fully preparing to lose.” Musoff and Kasner prevailed before the Second Circuit in March 2020 on behalf of the management and directors of Republic Airways, which operates flights on behalf of several major airlines, including Delta. The regional airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016, which allowed it to negotiate new arrangements with its airline partners including. Two distressed debt funds that had invested in Republic objected. They argued that Delta’s unsecured claim was an overpayment. The Second Circuit disagreed, handing a victory to the Skadden team. Musoff was also part of a multi-office team (which also included John Carroll in the firm’s Boston office) that won dismissal of a securities fraud class action on behalf of Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company sued in the Southern District of New York by shareholders who claimed Intercept made material misrepresentations and omissions about its drug Ocaliva, a medication is used to treat a rare liver disease. In 2017, the FDA issued a safety alert warning about the drug in the wake of a number of patients having died after taking it, after which the company’s share price took a precipitous drop and plaintiff firms moved in to file suit. The case was dismissed in March 2020. Musoff was also part of team that secured yet another win for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company that, along with some of its officers were sued in the District of Massachusetts, is alleged to have made false or misleading statements about the efficacy and marketability of a new drug to treat a rare condition known as hereditary ATTR amyloidosis. The gene mutation causes a potentially harmful build-up of certain proteins in the body’s nerves and organs. The case was tossed in March 2020. Susan Saltzstein is another routinely acknowledged securities star. “She is really tremendous,” insists one, who goes on to opine, “There are still not nearly enough elite women securities lawyers, but the number is growing – but even among that growing number, Susan really stands out.” Another peer observes, “Something I’m seeing more of right now is new 10b-5 securities class actions that are not your standard stock-drop cases and RMBS type work from the 2008 era. These are more cases alleging that a company failed to disclose #MeToo issues at the management or executive level, issues with individuals that would clearly have a material impact on the company’s value. When these things go public and people demand scalps to be claimed, and those scalps are of the guys who publicly run the company…there are allegations of failure to have policies in place, proper compliance, etc. Susan Saltzstein is someone I know that has had a bunch of these cases in the defense role.”
Beyond securities, the firm is also a considered a go-to for antitrust matters. “I got to see a lot of big firms in the rate cases,” states one antitrust peer. “They were all good but the Skadden team really impressed me as being a cut above.” Kasner made news in this capacity as well when he was part of a team that secured a March 2020 dismissal of an antitrust class action in the Southern District of New York against Citigroup and three affiliates. The lawsuit alleged a conspiracy between several major banks to restrain trade in the US dollar-denominated market for supranational, sub-sovereign and agency bonds in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Boris Bershteyn is also noted as a “real up-and-comer in the antitrust space” by a peer, who goes on to insist, “He does a lot of litigation, he’s very active and he’s fabulous, a very smart guy. The firm made a considerable augmentation to its product liability bench over the past year when it recruited Allison Brown to its bench from Weil Gotshal. Brown, a noted standout trial lawyer in the product liability space, brings a wealth of experience in talc litigation and a client relationship with Johnson & Johnson. Brown has scored numerous wins for this client in 2019 alone.
Founded in 1879, Sullivan & Cromwell has grown from a small firm in New York’s Financial District to a 12-office international powerhouse routinely sought by clients for their most complex and pressing cases. Peers address the firm in tones of reverence. “Sullivan & Cromwell is where the biggest companies in the world look to when they need their biggest problems solved - not garden-variety headaches but literal bet-the-company issues.” A client cheers, “S&C simply has the best bench strength of any law firm supporting financial institutions in the myriad matters in which they become involved, and this has been the case for a long time. The level of service, in terms of expertise, efficient use of partner/associate/other professionals for tasks, cost, responsiveness and client management is unparalleled in my 35 years of litigation management.” Boasting a decades-long pedigree in the securities, commercial, white-collar and antitrust areas, Sullivan & Cromwell has recently doubled down on the bankruptcy capacity, luring James Bromley to its bench from Cleary Gottlieb in 2019. Bromley comes equipped with a considerable level of experience as of late; while at his former firm, he held a lead position in the complex and novel cross-border bankruptcy proceedings concerning now-defunct Canadian legacy telecom giant Nortel.
Matthew Porpora, a swiftly risen New York-based star in the antitrust and criminal investigations group, was part of a team that scored a big win on behalf of automobile seat manufacturer Adient, obtaining the dismissal of all claims in a putative securities fraud class action in the Southern District of New York. In 2019, investors filed a class-action suit against the client, alleging that the company and certain of its executives made false and misleading statements concerning Adient’s projected growth and certain improvements it planned to make in one of its core business segments. In April 2020, the Sullivan team secured a dismissal. A multi-office team conisting of New York’s Sharon Nelles and Steven Holley and Washington, DC’s Amanda Davidoffobtained dismissal on behalf of Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and their US subsidiaries of two class actions in the Northern District of California. Plaintiffs in the case filed complaints on behalf of putative classes of indirect and direct purchasers of German vehicles against several German automobile manufacturers asserting claims under the US Sherman Antitrust Act, state unfair competition and consumer protection statutes, and common law unjust enrichment. The complaints alleged that since the 1990s, defendants engaged in a conspiracy to unlawfully increase the prices of German vehicles by agreeing to share commercially sensitive information and to reach unlawful agreements regarding technology, costs, and suppliers. In June 2019, the court dismissed the complaints. Plaintiffs filed amended complaints in August 2019; those complaints were dismissed in March 2020.
New York’s David Braff represented Bank Hapoalim in an investigation by the DoJ, Federal Reserve, and New York Department of Financial Services relating to tax evasion by US customers. In April 2020, the bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement for Bank Hapoalim, B.M., entered a plea agreement for its Swiss subsidiary, Hapoalim (Switzerland) Ltd., and was the subject of a cease and desist order by the Federal Reserve and a consent order by the New York Department of Financial Services, resolving investigations by all three government agencies. Jeffrey Scott and Marc de Leeuw represented Barclays in a two-day bench trial victory decided in December 2018 by the Commercial Division of the New York Supreme Court and a 2019 appeal to the Appellate Division, in a case brought by hedge fund BDC Finance. In its complaint, BDC alleged that Barclays was liable for nearly $300 million for defaulting under a Total Return Swap agreement by failing to pay or dispute a $40 million BDC collateral call, and also sought interest and attorneys’ fees. Summary judgment motions were litigated to the Court of Appeals, which concluded that the only remaining issue was whether Barclays complied with its obligation to pay the undisputed amount of BDC's collateral call. In October 2019, the First Department unanimously affirmed the trial court’s decision. Richard Pepperman, along with Davidoff, obtained dismissals in full of two putative class actions against BP and a host of other oil producers. The plaintiffs brought claims under the Commodity Exchange Act, the Sherman Act, and state law alleging overseas manipulation of physical Brent crude oil that purportedly harmed futures traders in the US. The plaintiffs asserted an immense putative class: all individuals and entities who traded futures pegged to Brent crude oil on two commodities exchanges over a 13-year period. The district court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims as impermissibly extraterritorial and for failure to plead antitrust injury. The Sullivan team successfully defended those rulings on appeal, with Pepperman arguing on behalf of all defendants before the Second Circuit. The Sullivan team is now leading the charge on behalf of all defendants in opposing Supreme Court review of the Second Circuit’s decision.
The firm’s intellectual property capacity has made considerable strides of late, largely on the strength of New York partner Garrard Beeney. Beeney is representing Columbia University in litigation against Symantec regarding inventions used to detect malware in computer systems. The case also includes claims that Symantec misappropriated inventions disclosed to it by Columbia and sought to patent those Columbia inventions in the name of Symantec. In July 2019, Columbia was granted a motion for partial summary judgment and, as a result, the patent trial will focus on Columbia's claims for infringement as it seeks compensation for Symantec's use of machine-learning computer security technology developed by Columbia professors. In November, the court rejected Symantec’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that Columbia’s Section 101 patent claims are not invalid. The case was scheduled for trial in Virginia in July 2020 and Columbia is seeking nine figures in damages.
Thompson Hine has made a name for itself representing entities primarily in the fields of business litigation and product liability. Initially a pure Cleveland institution, the firm has since branched out into other venues such as Atlanta and DC with relative success.
In the Atlanta office, Marla Butler attends to a commercial litigation practice that centers largely on clients in the medical and tech sectors. Butler is a member of the Litigation Counsel of America and one of the firm’s leading female trial and arbitration partners.
Elizabeth “Missy” Wright is another star litigator and operates in the firm’s flagship Cleveland office but enjoys a national reputation in the product liability field, having tried cases as national counsel for household name clients in the food, automotive and pharmaceutical industries. Wright garners unanimous praise from peers and has been a consistent repeat appearance in Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation since its first edition in 2013. Another member of the Cleveland product liability team, Timothy Coughlin represents PolyOne Corporation, a manufacturer of a plastic compound, in a novel claim in California. The plaintiff claimed pulmonary fibrosis from occupational exposure to plastics. PolyOne took the lead of an industry-wide joint defense group in confronting these first-of-a-kind claims. The plaintiff was claiming over $1 million, including a lung transplant. Coughlin also represents PPG Industries, a global coatings and paint company, in a putative class action matter in pending in Federal court in Newark, New Jersey. The class representatives initially sought a class covering tens of thousands of current and former residents of Jersey City, New Jersey for property damage for properties around over 150 sites in Jersey City. The class representatives claim that PPG and the former co-defendant are responsible for contamination generated from almost 100 years of chromate production (to make chromium) in Jersey City. Coughlin and his team have been successful in having the claims narrowed to one former main plant site (from 150 sites) and from tens of thousands of residents and former residents to 200-300 homes. The putative class claims for property damage and diminution in value arising from trespass and nuisance claims will be tested through Daubert motions and hearings.
Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz operates out of its one and only office in New York, but the firm’s prestige is undeniably national, and increasingly, international in scope. “Everyone knows Wachtell, or knows about them, and for very obvious reasons. They are masters at what they do.” The “what they do” is a reference to the firm’s famed M&A dispute practice, which, coupled with its transactional corporate practice, has allowed Wachtell do nothing short of corner a market. “Wachtell has decided that they want to pivot to doing work that is strictly focused around public company M&A work – that is where you get the premium work.” However, peers are quick to note, “They are not only about Delaware corporate disputes, although they obviously occupy a huge space in that world.” One peer marvels, “Increasingly, when I look at Wachtell, I am stunned by the growing level of diversity. I’m seeing a lot more international arbitration, which was never considered Wachtell’s forté, but with cross-border deals falling into dispute, [the firm’s services] are more in demand.” Another peer offers in summation, “Wachtell is obviously great, we view them with great admiration.”
Wachtell has seen increased activity in antitrust work as of late, mainly related to deals. The most recent and public of these concerns the firm’s representation of Altria in the wake of an April 2020 complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning formerly competing vape entities Altria and Juul. The FTC viewed Altria’s exit from the e-cigarette market and subsequent investment in 35% of Juul as anticompetitive and brought a suit to undo the deal. The firm is also said to be doing more work related to a new wave of 10-B(5) securities suits that are being brought by plaintiffs against financial institutions concerning the banks’ alleged mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis.
One of the litigation group’s heads, William Savitt is increasingly addressed by peers as “Wachtell’s main guy.” One extols, “Bill Savitt is the best in the business. His judgment is exquisite.” Another peer, based in Delaware, confirms, “Bill is constantly in Delaware, and he has exactly the right tone for the Chancery court. He’s sort of become the go-to here. Wachtell of course has a really good core, but Bill is omnipresent.” Savitt, along with another celebrated younger partner, Steve DiPrima, is litigating for Cigna regarding its merger transaction with Anthem, which did not go forward on antitrust grounds, regarding the question as to whether or not Cigna can obtain a breakup fee, estimated to be roughly $1.5 billion. Savitt and DiPrima are being assisted in this case by future stars Steven Winter and Graham Meli, and the firm is waiting on an opinion. Savitt is also representing a regional bank in Minneapolis in litigation dealing with a hostile takeover of the bank by its own majority stockholder. Ryan McLeod, another future star, is championed by peers as “incredibly smart. He clerked in Delaware and is very strategic in his thinking.” Another peer observes, “Steve Winter and Ryan McLeod have gotten more standup experience in court, they have done more preliminary injunction motions.” The litigation group’s other head, Jonathan Moses, is also addressed regularly, with one peer noting, “Jon has really developed an international arbitration practice. Corporate guys will many times have arbitration clauses in these agreements, and Jon has developed kind of a niche with dealing with these.”
Peers also voice an ever-increasing level of enthusiasm for Marc Wolinsky. “He’s becoming a leader in the M&A world, following in the footsteps of those Wachtell lawyers of an older vintage. I see a lot of him in cases and it’s always a pleasure. He comports himself in a very professional manner, in the classic Wachtell style, yet never makes things unnecessarily difficult or uptight. In this field of law, you’d be surprised how rare and appreciated that is.” Wolinsky is leading a dispute regarding the valuation of casual dating app Tinder, which was purchased by Match Group. Elaine Golin, in a litigation brought by ResCap Liquidating Trust against over 60 mortgage originators, not only serves as lead trial for PNC Bank, but also as one of the leaders of the Joint Defense Group responsible for coordinating an overall defense strategy. Golin also has represented Cardinal Health in matters pertaining to the opioid epidemic, providing strategic and governance advice on litigation and potential resolutions, and related matters. Bankruptcy-focused Emil Kleinhaus has been exceptionally active as of late. “Emil is a superstar, he is as busy as one could be right now,” insists a peer. “He is tremendously in demand for the workout situation. He is careful with courtrooms and with clients.” Jeff Wintner is called “someone who clients come to with some of their most complicated legal liability problems. He was one of the architects of the landmark tobacco settlement. Has really emerged as a go-to person for companies facing almost existential threats.”
Weil Gotshal & Manges enjoys a reputation as a firm whose litigation bench is one of the most comprehensive in terms of practice depth. “They have all the based covered,” confirms a peer. “A nice wide spectrum. And they have the depth and breadth in their personnel to cover it.” The firm’s national reach is spread among offices on the East Coast in New York, New Jersey and DC, one location in California, two outposts in Texas, one in Boston and an office in Miami. Its practice area portfolio also covers a lot of ground, with product liability, bankruptcy, antitrust, commercial, intellectual property, securities and white-collar crime all playing prominent positions in the overall composition of the firm’s litigation service offerings.
New York-based litigation co-chair David Lender is an all-purpose commercial trial lawyer who peers attest “is just killing it.” One even goes as far as to quip, “I would say David Lender is the lawyer I want to be when I grow up, but he’s younger than me!” Lender has been particularly active in the antitrust capacity as of late. He represents H&R Block in connection with antitrust lawsuits that allege the company conspired to implement agreements between franchisees not to solicit or recruit other franchisees’ personnel, thereby causing lower employee wages and stifling career advancement. Six potential class actions over the “no poach” agreements were filed in the Northern District of Illinois and the Western District of Missouri. All cases have now been voluntarily dismissed except for one that was successfully compelled to arbitration, which the plaintiffs have not yet initiated. Lender also triumphed for C&S Wholesale Grocers as lead trial counsel in a significant antitrust class action after the court granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs, encompassing more than 300 retail grocers alleged that the New England-based C&S and a Midwest-based competitor entered into a conspiracy to allocate the New England and Midwest territories between themselves for a period of five years, resulting in inflated grocery prices. The other defendant settled before trial. At the 2018 trial, the jury returned a complete defense verdict. The Eighth Circuit subsequently affirmed. Future star Luna Barrington was part of the team acting with Lender on the C&S case. Barrington also acted with David Yohai in representing Farmers Insurance and various affiliates in an MDL consolidated in Florida federal court comprising dozens of cases across the country brought by auto repair shops, alleging that Farmers and dozens of other insurers artificially suppress reimbursement rates for auto body repairs, in violation of antitrust, RICO, and other statutes. Yohai also acts with Adam Hemlock in yet another antitrust action, representing Panasonic in connection with numerous governmental investigations and a related multi-district litigation comprising dozens of class and individual actions pertaining to alleged industry-wide price fixing in the market for cathode-ray tubes and finished products containing these tubes. Hemlock has his own fan base in the antitrust community; one peer calls him “fantastic,” and advises, “Keep an eye on him, he is going to start getting more leads.”
Weil holds a leading position in debtor-side bankruptcy disputes. “Weil is and always has been one of two big firms that always appeared as debtor counsel on any major bankruptcy.” New York’s Theodore Tsekerides led a team representing California energy company PG&E in bankruptcy proceedings necessitated by thousands of claims resulting from the catastrophic and tragic wildfires that occurred in Northern California in 2017 and 2018. The Weil team has managed and litigated various claims in the bankruptcy proceeding concerning billions of dollars in power purchase agreements, tort-related claims arising from the fires involving both personal injury and property damage and a multitude of other claims. The Weil team also has filed and will be defending in court PG&E’s plan of reorganization that seeks to satisfy PG&E’s liabilities in full and provide a path forward for the reorganized entity and its stakeholders.
The firm’s securities and white-collar capacity is spearheaded by Jonathan Polkes, a near-unanimous favorite among peers in the practice. “Jonathan is great, and he will try a case. In fact, he has done so a couple of times recently, which is rare among people in that practice and especially at his age group.” For many years, Polkes has partnered with Willis Towers Watson and its predecessor, Willis Group Holdings, to successfully defend several different securities litigations, including approximately 15 securities class and individual actions arising out of the heavily publicized, $8 billion Ponzi scheme orchestrated by R. Allen Stanford and his Houston-based Stanford Financial Group. The complaints in these actions generally alleged that Willis actively and materially aided Stanford’s fraud by providing Stanford with certain letters regarding insurance coverage that contained untruths and omitted material facts, and that Willis knew the letters would be used to help retain or attract actual or prospective Stanford investors. In the aggregate, the plaintiffs in these actions sought in excess of $4 billion in damages. More recently, Polkes scored a significant victory for Carlyle Group in a billion-dollar deal litigation in Delaware Chancery Court arising out of a proposed investment by a Carlyle-led group for a stake in AmEx Global Business Travel, which experienced significant losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Carlyle’s triggering of a material adverse effect clause to abandon the deal. In March 2020, a Vice Chancellor denied selling the shareholders’ motion to expedite a trial of claims seeking to force Carlyle to close on the transaction. Meanwhile, Polkes’ partner, John Neuwirth, has been representing Willis Towers Watson in connection with a number of high-profile, multi-jurisdictional shareholder disputes arising out of the 2016 $18 billion merger that created the newly combined entity and which have raised a number of complex conflict of interest allegations.
Whiteford Taylor Preston has deep roots in litigation, dating back to its inception in 1933. “The firm is outstanding regarding its expertise, efficiency, responsiveness and strategic thinking,” a client lauds about the firm. Another client highlights its bankruptcy practice, saying Whiteford Taylor Preston is “my go-to bankruptcy litigation firm,” characterizing the group as “highly efficient, incredibly responsive” and displaying “cutting-edge awareness of specialized bankruptcy-related issues.” In addition to its strong bankruptcy practice, the firm also handles business, product liability, intellectual property, labor and employment, construction, real estate, e-discovery, health care, administrative law and regulatory litigation.
While the firm operates from a network of 16 offices, it is best known for its footprint in Maryland, particularly in Baltimore, where it hosts its highest concentration of litigation talent. Kevin Hroblak is the subject of much praise from clients and serves as co-chair of the firm’s litigation department. An authority in bankruptcy and general commercial litigation, Hroblak is currently representing mineral rights owners of over 143 million tons of coal reserves in West Virginia in claims arising out of the breach of a coal mining lease against the largest privately held coal mining company in the US. The lawsuit, valued at $42 million, sought accrued and lost royalty damages, transfer of mining permits and specific performance for sale or lease of surface rights, and other monetary damages. A week-long trial in the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia was completed in April 2019. Hroblak also represents a party in a $10 million suit for breach of contract and related causes of action arising from the purchase and liquidation of numerous nursing homes and senior care facilities contained within the two individuals' investment venture. The initial trial took place in January 2019 in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County to recover damages due to non-payment of the defendant's share of the partnership debts. The initial case was nonsuited under Virginia rules during trial, and the subsequent case was scheduled to be filed in April 2019. The matter was refiled in the Maryland District Court, where discovery is proceeding. Another frequently mentioned all-purpose commercial partner and fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, William Ryan, represented Landry’s in commercial litigation against a subsidiary of Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, a commercial property/shopping center owner, obtaining a verdict in Landry’s favor following two-week trial in Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland and defending subsequent appeal before Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which affirmed in part and remanded in part the verdict in December 2019. Ryan and Paul Nussbaum represented an SEC Receiver in prosecuting professional liability claims relating to eight public bond offerings for the acquisition and operation of eight assisted living facilities located in Georgia and Alabama. The matter concluded in February 2020 following the US District Court’s approval of a $10 million settlement secured by the team and then recommended by the SEC. Ryan and Aaron Casagrande are currently defending USALCO in the multi-district litigation, consolidated in the District Court of New Jersey, consisting of multiple class-action and individual lawsuits brought against numerous suppliers of water treatment chemicals in various federal courts by direct and indirect purchasers of liquid aluminum sulfate, alleging violations of federal antitrust and numerous state laws, as well as separate state court qui tam actions currently pending in Illinois and Virginia.
While it operates from offices in Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles, Wilkinson Stekloff remains the essence of “litigation boutique.” More specifically, a litigation boutique with a uniquely pronounced emphasis on high-end trial work. Formed in 2016 by veteran DC trial celebrity Beth Wilkinson, Wilkinson Stekloff has been arguably the most buzz-worthy of law firms, and the appearance of Wilkinson and other firm partners at the forefront of a series of high-stakes trials has more than justified the hype. “Four years on, [the firm] is still knocking them dead,” observes a peer. Even the departure of two partners (former name partner Sean Eskovitz and Brant Bishop) as well as the obvious impact of COVID-19 on jury trials (the firm’s go-to calling card) have done little to affect either [the firm's] internal mojo or dim the firm’s lustre in the eyes of peers. One peer at another litigation shop confides, “It’s the place we’re watching and wishing we could be more like.”
Wilkinson remains one of the most in-demand trial lawyers in the country. “Still one of the best,” sums up one peer, while another confirms, “Beth is all over the place, just running from trial to trial.” Wilkinson’s dance card has been consumed with cases ranging from antitrust to white-collar to bet-the-company commercial cases but most recently, Wilkinson has been in demand for crisis management on a political level. In May 2020, she was retained to help guide US District Judge Emmet Sullivan as a federal appeals court questions his plan to probe the US DoJ’s decision to dismiss the case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, despite his admission that he lied to the FBI. In 2018 she was hired by Brett Kavanaugh, then a US Supreme Court nominee, to help shepherd him through confirmation proceedings at which he had been accused of a decades-old sexual misconduct allegation. More recently, Wilkinson was retained by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, in a defamation suit against Donald Trump in New York state court that accuses Trump of lying in his denials that he did not grope and kiss her without consent in 2007. The case is pending.
While Wilkinson is undoubtedly the firm’s center of gravity, she has developed a team that is quickly making a name for themselves individually. A team led by name partner Brian Stekloff, Tamarra Matthews-Johnson and Rakesh Kilaru, served as trial counsel for Monsanto in the first federal court trial addressing allegations that Roundup causes Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The jury returned a roughly $81 million verdict for the plaintiff, which was reduced to just over $25 million in post-trial proceedings. Wilkinson and Kilaru represent National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in an antitrust class action involving claims by current and former NCAA college football and basketball student athletes challenging NCAA rules limiting the level of athletics-based financial aid and benefits that student athletes may receive. The district court’s opinion enjoined certain limitations on benefits that student-athletes may receive but rejected plaintiffs’ broader-ranging efforts to transform college athletics and reaffirmed the procompetitive value of the NCAA’s rules. The case is currently on appeal.
Williams & Connolly is a preeminent DC-based litigation law firm. Recognized as one of Benchmark’s Top 20 Trial Firms, Williams & Connolly is home to an array of skilled, trial-tested lawyers who specialize in securities, antitrust, intellectual property, product liability, white collar, and First Amendment disputes.
Enu Mainigi returns to Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list for the fifth consecutive year for her fierce representation of clients in false claims act and qui tam proceedings. She led the trial and strategy team on behalf of CVS Health Corp. in antitrust hearings before the District of Columbia concerning the $69 billion merger between CVS and Aetna. Fellow DC partner and Top 250 star Heidi Hubbard was described by a competitor as “someone who has worked tremendously hard over the course of her career and deserves all of the recognition she receives” adding, “Heidi does not miss.” Lisa Blatt has argued and won more cases before the Court than any other woman in history. A peer describes her as “instrumental in paving the way for future generations of female lawyers, and lawyers in general.” Ana Reyes represents foreign government officials and international organizations, among others, in international actions. She recently represented nine individual asylum seekers, including three children who challenged the ruling issued by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security barring refugees crossing between ports of entry from seeking asylum, finding that the rule was inconsistent with federal immigration law. Hubbard, Blatt, and Reyes were also selected to this year’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list by Benchmark.
Joseph Petrosinelli was lead national counsel in a complete victory for Pfizer in connection with federal multidistrict litigation originally established in 2016, involving cases alleging that Pfizer’s Viagra caused the exacerbation of plaintiffs’ melanoma. Petrosinelli presented both opening and closing arguments and cross-examining one of plaintiffs’ lead experts in a four-day Daubert evidentiary hearing in October 2019, which, in January 2020 the court issued an order excluding plaintiffs’ general causation experts under Daubert, finding the experts’ opinions unreliable and inadmissible. This decision made it impossible for plaintiffs to proceed on their claims, and in April 2020, the court granted summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of Pfizer and its co-defendant Eli Lilly. Robert Van Virk obtained injunctive relief for Lockheed Martin after the district court granted a temporary restraining order on an ex parte basis prior to ordering the briefing. The case, which raised significant questions of first impression, succeeded on the merits. Ryan Scarborough successfully represented First Federal Bank of Kansas City and a certain number of its directors in connection with a class action lawsuit filed by depositors seeking to hold them liable for not distributing to depositors excess capital that had been built up over more than a century. The case threatened the foundation underpinning mutual bank associations, given their inability to raise capital other than through gradually amassing capital from surplus earnings each year. After the firm filed a motion to dismiss, which was subsequently appealed, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, and plaintiffs elected not to seek certiorari from the Supreme Court. IP litigator David Berl successfully represented ION Geophysical Corporation in proceedings before the Federal Circuit on remand from the US Supreme Court where WesternGeco accused ION of patent infringement based on ION’s sales of devices in the marine seismic survey market. Continuing the IP strengths of the firm is Bruce Genderson who serves as co-lead counsel to Google and YouTube in consolidated patent infringement actions pending in the Southern District of New York in which YouTube’s Content ID system is accused of infringing three patents assigned to Network-1. The cases are currently in discovery, and no trial date has been set.
Winston & Strawn has blossomed into one of the nation’s most prominent and prolific litigation hubs. It is also recognized as one of the country’s most trial-centric. “Of all the ‘big-law’ firms, Winston really seems like the one that is focused on building out a bench stocked with true trial lawyers,” observes a peer. “They are also attracting stars in the making, undoubtedly with the agenda of giving them the platform to hone their trial skills further.” Clients are equally appreciative, with several stepping forward to offer accolades. One client insists, “Communication and strategic planning are key strengths. Brief writing and oral advocacy are exceptional as well.” Another declares, “Their written product is excellent. [They also demonstrate] solid legal product, strategy and performance.” Still another testifies, “[Winston provides] Excellent client service and strategic advice; their work delivered quickly and efficiently, with good cheer.” The firm has also chosen wisely with its expansion strategy, shying away from going all-in with any particular market and instead maintaining a geographically even roster of trial talent, which is spread among its offices in New York, DC, Texas, Illinois, and California.
The most obvious example of the firm’s trial star power is Chicago’s Dan Webb, long a figurehead within the firm. “Once upon a time, I thought that Winston wouldn’t have the light bulbs changed without consulting Dan Webb first, so big was his gravitas,” quips one peer. “Nowadays, there are plenty of other great trial lawyers at Winston with their own skills and reputations…but I still think they would not change the light bulbs without Dan Webb’s blessing!” Webb represents Illinois Café & Services Company and Laredo Hospitality Ventures in a constitutional and administrative law challenge to a legislative licensing scheme and Illinois Gaming Board rule that arbitrarily burden the clients to the benefit of their competitors. The matter was originally dismissed by Cook County Circuit Court, and Webb and his team appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Circuit Court to review the Gaming Board’s adoption process and rulemaking procedures. Another Chicago star, Robert Sperling earns plaudits for his securities and financial institution-focused practice. A client applauds Sperling’s “leadership and communication,” and goes on to elaborate, “You are never left in the lurch, and Robert has tremendous ability to drive matters forward in a sensible way. He has a great team that would jump through any hoop, and he provides answers without the need for creating endless memos that aren't useful.” Sperling is representing Goldman Sachs in several False Claims Act matters involving its municipal bond underwriting. These matters have potential exposure of billions of dollars. Sperling and his team obtained a dismissal of one of the matters, which was pending in California, and also represents Goldman in a related antitrust action regarding variable rate demand obligation bonds used to fund municipal projects. Sperling’s team includes future star Joe Motto, who is also seeing his profile rise. A client acknowledges Motto’s “great client service” and goes on to confirm, “[He is} very strategic, and he cares about the outcome.”
New York’s Jeffrey Kessler attends to a unique hybrid of sports and antitrust law. While his work in the latter practice often depends on keeping his clients out of the limelight, the former practice lands Kessler squarely in the headlines. The sports practice also finds Kessler acting as a plaintiff, while in antitrust he is strictly defense. A plaintiff-side antitrust practitioner testifies, “Jeff is pretty much our mirror in antitrust cases. We can pretty much count on him turning up on the other side of us when we bring a big antitrust case, especially if it’s one where there is a possibility of it going to trial. I always hope that it won’t be him, but it always is, which means we’re going to have our work cut out for us.” Beyond Kessler, Susannah Torpey is noted as someone who is “getting a lot more active on the plaintiff side of antitrust. She just filed two major cases in this capacity. Keep an eye on her.”
The Dallas office hosts another of the firm’s often-mentioned partners, Tom Melsheimer. “Tom is just awesome,” chirps one peer. “He is a true trial lawyer.” Another peer marvels, “I’ve seen Tom just devastate opponents at trial, and he seems to do it so naturally.” Melsheimer’s practice frequently touches on the commercial, antitrust, and intellectual property capacities. Melsheimer represents several health and self-care entities in cases involving similar claimsthe entities were fraudulent and in violation of federal RICO and securities laws. In Winston’s Houston office, Paula Hinton and John Strasburger are part of team (which also includes New York’s Harvey Kurzweil) representing CPB in multiple disputes with Chevron and KBR. The disputes arise out of a project in Western Australia to construct a jetty designed for use with a liquefied natural gas facility. CPB seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in tort and other damages from Chevron and KBR. Additionally, there is an arbitration pending in Australia between the parties. The US suits have stayed pending the resolution of that arbitration.
Last year, the firm’s San Francisco office was augmented by the arrival of Sandra Edwards, a product liability specialist. Edwards is a favorite of peers, with one remarking, “I was impressed by her trial skills and her poise and strategic abilities as well.” Edwards, along with yet another Winston trial star, Chicago-based George Lombardi represents Monsanto in a number of product liability cases related to its RoundUp-related weed killer products. The plaintiffs assert strict product liability, failure to warn, and additional claims alleging that RoundUp-related products cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Winston pair were part of a three-law-firm team in the first jury trial of these cases in San Francisco Superior Court in July 2018. Following an eight-week trial, the trial team successfully reduced the verdict by $211 million. The case is currently on appeal.
Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, Bradley has grown into a leading legal institution throughout the Southeastern US, enjoying increased market share through an ever-expanding footprint and a strategic recruiting process that has allowed it to go from strength to strength. Offering a broad range of services on offer even in the litigation capacity, Bradley has also emerged as a prominent contender in the labor and employment practice, representing several management-side key players in the region as clients.
Birmingham’s John Smith represents regional grocery chain Winn-Dixie against claims that a plaintiff was terminated from her position because of her pregnancy. The plaintiff took a leave of absence in order to have a baby and called the store manager about returning to work. There was conflicting evidence about these communications and the plaintiff’s desire to return to work. The grocery store concluded that she did not want to return and ended her employment. The case was tried in front of a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Winn-Dixie. The verdict was affirmed at the 11th Circuit.
Mary Clay Morgan, operating from the firm’s Jackson, Mississippi office, represented the defendant, a hospital, in Americans with Disability Act claims brought by the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a nurse formerly employed by the hospital. The EEOC claimed that the hospital failed to accommodate the nurse’s temporary work restrictions when she returned to work after taking medical leave for a shoulder surgery. The EEOC aggressively sought extensive changes to the hospital’s policies and procedures, in addition to money damages on behalf of the individual employee. Morgan litigated the case through discovery and summary judgment, succeeded in limiting the testimony of one of the EEOC’s experts, and negotiated a consent decree to resolve the case on favorable terms shortly before trial. Morgan also represents a medical technology supplier based in Maryland as a defendant in a competitive tort lawsuit filed by another medical technology company in federal court in Mississippi. The plaintiff claims the firm’s client acted in concert with a co-defendant to hire the plaintiff’s employees in violation of non-competition agreements. The plaintiff seeks millions of dollars in recovery for alleged tortious interference with contracts between the plaintiff and the largest hospital system in Mississippi. The claims involve unique theories of liability implicating international transactions, as many of the employees at issue live in India, are employed by Indian companies, and entered into non-compete agreements in India, where those agreements are likely not enforceable.
The national labor and employment team of Hunton Andrews Kurth are active in employment, wage and hour, labor relations and public accessibility cases. Their expertise stems from routinely representing clients in class, collective, and mass actions, as well as in high-profile, high-risk matters in federal and state courts. In addition, practitioners at the firm are noted for serving as counsel for clients in hearings before enforcement agencies, mediations, and arbitrations.
The Richmond office houses a group of labor and employment lawyers who routinely represent employers in a wide range of disputes. Ryan Glasgow is active in wage and hour class and collective actions, in defeating class certification, whistleblower claims, Fair Credit Reporting Act class actions, ERISA actions, immigration litigation, single- and multi-plaintiff discrimination and harassment litigation, and prosecution and defense of breach of contract and restrictive covenant litigation. Fellow partner Kurt Larkin negotiated numerous area master collective bargaining agreements around the country. He is also active in advising clients in union organizing campaigns. Gregory Robertson has handled representation and decertification elections for employers, including numerous campaigns of 500 to 5,000 employees. Robertson, who has four decades of experience under his belt, currently serves as counsel to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
The Georgia office of the firm is home to two Atlanta-based partners in Robert Dumbacher and Kurt Powell. Powell, the office’s managing partner, successfully obtained the dismissal of a nationwide collective action against a pharmaceutical company challenging exempt status of sales representatives under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Dumbacher routinely represents clients before the National Labor Relations Board, including prosecution and defense of unfair labor practice charges. He is active in large-scale labor relations matters, restrictive covenant disputes, trade secrets and non-compete disputes and wage and hour cases.
Juan Enjamio serves as managing partner of the firm’s Miami hub. He is recognized for his work in discrimination and harassment lawsuits, wage and hour collective actions, ERISA litigation and enforcement of non-competition agreements. He is also active in international litigation, complex commercial litigation, and defense of class actions.
Texas-based litigator Scott Nelson recently joined the Houston team where he will continue to specialize in employment litigation, with an emphasis on wage and hour class and collective actions, ERISA litigation, and trade secret and restrictive covenant matters. Fellow Houston partner Holly Williamson is active as employment counsel to companies in the oil and gas industries, as well as in the restaurant, retail, financial, chemical, health care, drug testing and administration, transportation, and telecommunications industries. Amber Rogers hails from the firm’s Dallas office where she serves as the hiring partner. Her practice is dedicated to advising clients in collective bargaining, representation elections, decertification elections, unfair labor practice charges, arbitrating grievances, contract administration and interpretation, and union avoidance strategies. She routinely represents clients in wage and hour collective and class actions, trade secrets and post-employment restrictive covenant disputes, and employment discrimination cases, as well as in affirmative action work and audit defense, and advising clients on various diversity and inclusion policies and practices. Fellow Dallas partner Alan Marcuis co-heads the unfair competition and information task force. He also serves as the hiring partner for the firm’s Texas offices. His practice is dedicated to litigating trade secret and nondisclosure matters arising from employment and fiduciary relationships, including intellectual property and other proprietary information. Marcuis frequently represents clients in matters relating to contract, trade secret and post-employment restrictive covenants, EEO litigation, collective bargaining, and labor relations.
The DC office of the firm is home to trial lawyer Susan Wiltsie, whose three decades of experience before numerous courts, compliance boards, and arbitration panels make up her well-rounded practice. Ryan Bates is also a new addition to the list this year due to his nationwide practice handling complex employment litigation, including class actions, collective actions, and bet-the-company litigation. He regularly defends employers against lawsuits arising under Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and other state discrimination statutes. Kevin White chairs the national labor and employment practice group where he focuses on complex employment litigation and employment advice and counseling. His practice also includes representing clients in discrimination class action litigation, governmental agency systemic discrimination investigations, wage and hour litigation, and in conducting internal investigations. Fellow co-chair of the firm’s unfair competition and information protection task force is Bob Quackenboss, whose practice is dedicated to resolving complex labor, employment, trade secret, non-compete and related commercial disputes. He is also active in complex employment discrimination, harassment, and wage-and-hour disputes, including class and collective actions before numerous courts along the east coast.
Christopher Pardo joined the Hunton Andrews Kurth team in Boston after stints in other national and international firms. His practice involves defending clients in complex employment cases in federal and state courts, arbitration, and before administrative agencies. He also routinely defends clients in class and collective actions, wage and hour issues, trade secret litigation and restrictive covenant agreements, discrimination matters, wrongful termination, and other state law claims.
The California offices of the firm house several labor and employment litigators. Michele Beilke specializes in a wide range of labor and employment matters, including wage and hour disputes, and class and collective actions. Emily Burkhardt Vicente is part of the counsel team led by Rolando Juarez defending Katmai Government Services against class and collective action wage and hour claims under California and Federal law. The team was able to settle for approximately one-tenth of the original amount valued by the plaintiffs. Brett Burns is lead counsel to Nationstar Mortgage in a series of wage and hour class actions filed in the Superior Court of California. The dispute alleges the client failed to pay overtime and double time compensation, failed to provide meal periods, failed to authorize and permit rest breaks, and failed to provide accurate wage statements, along with alleging various derivative claims. After two years of litigation, the firm reached a favorable agreement on behalf of the client. New addition trial lawyer Julia Trankiem is recognized for her role representing employers in class, collective, and hybrid actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as state wage and hour laws. She is also active defending claims of wrongful discharge, employment discrimination and other employment-related issues.
The labor and employment practice at Proskauer consists of more than 140 lawyers across nine offices in the US and Europe. The depth of the practice, which represents clients in matters ranging from wage and hour matters to class actions to labor-management disputes, allows the firm to take part in numerus industry sectors. The firm recently adapted its practice to include high profile, high stakes matters related to #MeToo, #TimesUp, and other harassment, discrimination, and workplace related claims.
California-based litigator Anthony Oncidi represents the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (also known as the GRAMMY Organization) in the ongoing, high-profile dispute against its former President and CEO. He was also active representing the GRAMMY Organization in another recently resolved litigation matter in which a former employee claimed he was the victim of discrimination and harassment. Oncidi heads the labor and employment practice out of the Los Angeles office where he routinely represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law. Fellow partner and experienced litigator Kate Gold joined the Proskauer team in February 2019. She has spent more than two decades representing clients in a diverse range of employment law related matters. Gold acted as defense counsel of an aerospace research and development company in a putative nationwide collective and class action for age discrimination. After defeating class claims in federal and state court, she obtained summary judgment in the remaining single plaintiff cases.
Nigel Telman leads the employment practice on the Chicago office where he also co-heads the employment litigation and arbitration group. He is recognized for his significant single, collective and class action experience arising out of workplace harassment and employment discrimination issues. Telman represents the McDonald’s Corporation where he offers day-to-day counselling on its most significant and complex employment-related disputes originating at both the corporation level and the restaurant level. He is also active representing the company when such disputes turn into active litigation. For example, he currently represents all defendants in a lawsuit filed by two senior managers against McDonald’s Corporation, McDonald’s USA, and three senior leaders in the Northern District of Illinois in which plaintiffs allege, among other things, a pattern and practice of race discrimination at the company. Fellow Chicago-based partner Steven Pearlman co-heads the whistleblowing and retaliation group. His practice encompasses all aspects of employment law. He is renowned for his defense in what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the Northern District of Illinois. Pearlman has taken part in numerous confidential investigations into countless workplace issues and sexual harassment claims involving high-level executives arising from whistleblower reports involving a wide range of alleged fraud and kickbacks.
The firm maintains a significant presence in the northeast with notable trial lawyers who hail from the firm’s New York City and Boston offices. New York-based litigators Neil Abramson, Elise Bloom, Adam Lupion, Joe Baumgarten continue to represent MLB and its affiliates in ongoing, high profile litigations, including a wage and hour putative class/collective action brought by minor league baseball players alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and various state wage and hour laws, breach of contract/quasi-contract lawsuit filed by a former senior executive, and a discrimination lawsuit filed by an MLB umpire. Bloom and Bettina “Betsy” Plevan, who is active handling all types of labor and employment litigation, are recognized on Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list for 2020. Seasoned trial lawyer Joseph O’Keefe represents New York University in an ongoing multi-count complaint brought by a former NYU PhD student who alleges he was subjected to discrimination and harassment on the basis of his gender, subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment, a hostile education environment, and for retaliation for engaging in protected activity by the institution and one of its professors.
Sanford Heisler Sharp is a trusted plaintiff firm that is recognized for representing employees in individual matters and class actions related to employment and gender discrimination, wage and hour violations, complex civil litigation, criminal/sexual violence litigation, ERISA litigation, and governmental fraud recovery. The firm, founded in 2004 and home to offices scattered across the US, is described as “ahead of the curve” by a peer, who adds, “They [have] very, very sharp lawyers [and] very skilled litigators." The firm was the recipient of the Labor & Employment Employee-Side Firm of the Year award at the 2020 Benchmark Awards.
Name partner Kevin Sharp returned to private practice after serving as a judge for the Middle District of Tennessee. He currently serves as the managing partner of the firm’s Nashville office where he is presently lead counsel in the General Electric ERISA class action in which the plaintiffs assert GE violated the Federal Employee Retirement Security Act by breaching their fiduciary duties and engaging in prohibited transactions and unlawful self-dealing detrimental to the named plaintiffs and the class. Judge Sharp is also lead counsel for plaintiffs who seek injunctive relief to correct alleged discriminatory practices arising from Volkswagen’s Pact for the Future. Plaintiffs allege this pact includes an initiative to phase out older workers by disfavoring and taking discriminatory actions against workers aged fifty and over.
Firm chairman and founding partner David Sanford has paved the way in the fight for gender equality where he has emerged as a leader in representing women who have suffered discrimination at work. He is lead counsel in a class and collective action lawsuit against Western Digital Corporation and Western Digital Technologies on behalf of a plaintiff and a class of female employees. The complaint alleges discrimination against women in pay, promotions, and job placement on behalf of all women employed by the defendant in an indirect labor position at or below the senior manager level. Fellow DC partner Kate Mueting represents employees in a range of employment claims, including discrimination on the basis of gender, pregnancy, race, and sexual orientation. Mueting is part of the trial team led by New York-based partner Russell Kornblith and Maryland-based partner Deborah Marcuse that alleges Merck systematically discriminates against female sales representatives generally, and against pregnant women in particular, in pay, promotions, and other terms and conditions of employment. The parties reached a class settlement agreement after the Court found plaintiff’s allegations of discrimination in pay were valid.
Alexandra Harwin is a New York based trial lawyer who serves as co-chair of the firm’s Title VII practice. She is active as lead counsel in a suit against Giorgio Armani Corporation that alleges the company discriminated against him based on his national origin and disability and retaliated against him for complaining. The plaintiff, a Mexican immigrant to the US, was terminated from his role as General Counsel shortly after complaining of discrimination, and one day after announcing his cancer diagnosis. Michael Palmer co-chairs the firm’s wage and hour practice. He is lead counsel in a commission-based lawsuit alleging a series of California Labor Code violations under PAGA. Plaintiffs won summary adjudication motion for its failure to issue signed copies of commission contracts to sales employees. Felicia Gilbert is the managing partner of the firm’s San Francisco office, after a recent appointment in early 2020. She routinely represents employees in individual and class actions involving race, gender, and pregnancy discrimination. Gilbert is active in an individual gender discrimination and retaliation case in the Southern District of California, which is awaiting ruling on defendant’s motion for summary judgment.