Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann

New York

Review

Dispute resolution

Bernstein Litowitz is an undisputed leader in the securities-focused plaintiff arena. Peers on both the same and opposite 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 recently opened an office in Wilmington and installed recruit Greg Varallo to run it. Varallo, long known to the Delaware Chancery community as a defense lawyer at a Wilmington institution, 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, hey-ho, 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 and often find him teaming up with Varallo“Mark and Greg are all over the place,” quips one peer in this space. “They’re like soulmates now, they sign every complaint together in Delaware. In a recent example of this tag-team approach, the pair took on a stockholder class action challenged a highly aggressive shareholder rights plan adopted by the board of directors of pipeline giant The Williams Companies in March 2020 at the outset of the COVID pandemic and the ensuing volatility in the energy marketsA three-day trial in this matter began in January 2021 and in February, the court issued a post-trial memorandum opinion declaring the plan unenforceable and permanently enjoining the continued operation of it due to the opinion that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties when adopting it due to a number of factors concerning the nature of the plan. It is also noted that Lebovitch “is all over the SPAC space, he is really trying to make name for himself there. He’s doing this in Delaware too!” 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 number two 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.” Robinson led a securities fraud class action that arose from the rapid decline and ultimate implosion of Adeptus, formerly the largest operator of freestanding emergency rooms in the US. The complaint asserted claims under the federal securities laws concerning misstatements made by Adeptus, its executives, underwriters, and the private equity fund that controlled the company that overstated the company’s profitability and concealed a number of serious strains on its liquidity. In May 2020, the court granted final approval of a $44 million settlement for the defrauded investors. A newly ranked partner this year, John Rizio-Hamilton led a securities fraud class action asserted claims on behalf of investors in diamond jeweler Signet arising from the company’s fraudulent course of conduct. The action alleged that, throughout the class period, Signet and its senior officers made a series of materially misleading statements and omissions about the strength of its in-house customer financing credit portfolio, and an alleged culture of severe sexual harassment at the company which, when made public, caused the company’s stock to drop precipitouslyIn March 2020, the parties disclosed that they reached a proposed settlement of $240 million, which was granted approved by the court in July. Another newly ranked partner, John Browne led a securities fraud class-action that asserted claims on behalf of investors in energy entity SCANA arising from false and misleading claims regarding construction on a failed multibillion-dollar nuclear power plant. IDecember 2019, the parties reached a settlement of $192.5 million which consisted of $160 million in cash and $32.5 million in freely tradeable stock from Dominion Energy, which acquired SCANA during the course of the litigation. The settlement was approved by the Court in July 2020.