Holwell Shuster & Goldberg

United States (National)

Review

Dispute resolution

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 and securities or antitrust, and it 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. “Michael Shuster is a trial lawyer! Look closer at him for some trial awards,” advises a peer, who concedes, “I went against him a couple of times and by the second time I was ready to cry ‘Uncle!’” Among the many residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) “putback” actions the firm has been engaged on are multiple cases in which it represents HSBC Bank USA as plaintiff trustee, against financial institutions that securitized residential mortgage loans. The cases collectively seek billions of dollars. Other partners involved in these matters include Daniel GoldbergAvi Israeli, and Daniel Sullivan, all of whom also receive the nod from peers. Shuster and Goldberg also were brought in to represent first US Bank, and 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 actions 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 the 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 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.  “Vince is fantastic and has a bright future ahead of him. He used to be at [a competitor], where he got some superb training, and he knows!” Levy worked with Shuster representing Travelport, a travel technology company that was unsurprisingly roiled by the COVID pandemic, in a dispute with its lenders under a $3 billion credit agreement. Levy, Shuster and Ordway represent Valassis, owned by Ron Perelman’s private equity fund MacAndrews & Forbes, in a massive antitrust action against News Corp. and affiliates over practices in the “in-store promotions” market. Valassis claims that News has taken a host of actions, including strategically staggering the expiration dates of its long-term exclusive contracts with retailers, to prevent Valassis from gaining access to a significant share of the ISP market at any given time. The action in which Valassis is seeking approximately $700 million in damages as well as injunctive relief, was scheduled to go to trial in June 2021. A firm team composed of Shuster, Kaminsky and Sullivan were called into service in late 2020 to represent Chubb as nationwide lead trial counsel and appellate counsel in Chubb’s docket of opioid coverage cases regarding whether certain insurance policies cover opioid manufacturer, distributor, and retailer’s liability in connection with the opioid epidemic.