Plaintiff shop Labaton Sucharow has been historically viewed, 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. Peers also advise, “Look closer – Labaton is getting more into the consumer class actions space as well, particularly with privacy and data breach work.”
A noticeable change of the guard has transformed the front lines of Labaton’s bench, with a host of younger partners making their mark with lead appointments on some of the firm’s biggest cases of late. Exemplifying this, as well as the observations about the firm taking on more privacy-related work, two New York future stars, Michael Canty and Corban Rhodes, provided co-lead counsel and secured an all-cash $650 million settlement from social media juggernaut Facebook in a case alleging Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology to extract and store user biometric identifiers without consent and as required by the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. “They were actually working this up for trial against Facebook’s very formidable team of lawyers and it settled,” testifies a peer. Another New York future star, Carol Villegas as lauded for her “grit and talent,” both of which were put on display in several cases in which she provided co-lead counsel. In one such case, and another involving privacy issues, she leads a securities class action related to a massive data breach that Marriott International disclosed in November 2018. The action, which has been consolidated with four other related actions, including the consumer class action, alleges that Marriott and certain of its executives made false and misleading statements about Marriott’s 2016 acquisition of Starwood and the security of customer data stored on the legacy Starwood guest reservation database. Villegas argued for an unsealing of a report revealing key details about the breach and triumphed in securing this in July 2020 against strong resistance from the defendants. Villegas also was appointed co-lead counsel in a securities class action lawsuit against AT&T and certain of its executives and directors. The complaint alleges that AT&T misled investors about the success of its video streaming product DirecTV Now and failed to disclose, that the product was supported by heavy promotional activity and by "ghost accounts" created by adding the product to AT&T's customer accounts without telling the customer, or without telling the customer it was a subscription product. James Johnson, a more senior partner in the New York office, lays claim to several key victories of his own. Johnson was co-lead counsel in a securities class action against regional electricity and natural gas supplier SCANA made false and misleading statements about the construction of two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina. Plaintiffs also alleged SCANA misrepresented it was acting prudently on the project when it successfully sought $1.7 billion in increased customer rates to offset construction costs. Defendants agreed to a settlement of $192.5 million in October 2019 after the court rejected SCANA’s motion to dismiss in March. Johnson is also lead counsel in a securities class action against Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, alleging that the defendant misled investors about having robust quality processes and systems in place at their manufacturing facilities. Dr. Reddy’s shares dropped after a series of disclosures by the FDA and other regulators revealed that conditions at three key Indian manufacturing facilities violated FDA regulations.
One of Labaton’s biggest developments as of late has been the rising profile of the firm’s Delaware practice. This has largely been attributed to the efforts of Ned Weinberger, a partner who has the community talking. “Ned is one of the leaders,” confirms one Wilmington peer. “There are no shortcuts in Delaware – you have to earn your way up through the peers and judiciary. Ned has gotten appointed lead counsel on several cases, important cases, over people from several other plaintiff firms that are more established in Delaware!” Another peer adds, “Courts love him, he’s an aggressive litigator who gets results.” 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. “I think Ned is still under 40,” testifies a peer, who humorously quips, “which makes me sick to my stomach – the fact that he’s gotten so far so quickly and so much younger than me!”