Proskauer

United States (National)

Review

Dispute resolution

With seven of its 12 global offices situated strategically throughout the US, Proskauer provides a wide range of services to clients across a broad spectrum of practices ranging from commercial to intellectual property to securities, to white-collar crime and investigations, as well as its near-unparalleled status in specialty areas of employment, entertainment and sports law.
     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 to oversee the restructuring of Puerto Rico's finances, 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. In January 2020, the Proskauer team notched a watershed win before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. This action involved 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.
     A newly listed star this year, New York’s Peter Sherwin heads up the firm’s burgeoning international arbitration practice and dedicates a high percentage of his practice to cross-border actions. Sherwin successfully represented Bed Bath & Beyond in an action in Delaware Chancery Court to enforce an agreement by 1-800-Flowers to purchase a business line for $252 million. 1-800-Flowers sought to void the agreement, pointing to the unexpected impact of COVID-19.  After engaging in discovery, 1-800-Flowers settled and agreed to move forward with its purchase for $245 million. Another newly listed New York star, Hadassa Waxman is championed by a competitor as “an absolute superstar, a true leader in the area of white-collar litigation.” 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 US. Summary judgment briefing was completed in April 2021.
     Proskauer’s California presence has been steadily increasing and the local market is taking notice. “We never saw them on our radar before but now we are monitoring their progress closely,” admits a peer from a local competing firm. In another action exemplifying Proskauer’s dominant position in sports law, Los Angeles’s 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. Williams also, along with Mungovan, represents Shamrock Capital Advisors, a private equity firm that was one of the principal investors in FanDuel, a bookmaker and fantasy sports provider. The litigation was brought by FanDuel’s founders and other minority shareholders against the client after a merger and alleges breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment. 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 nonHodgkin’s lymphoma. The case settled weeks before trial in January 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. Williams is also defending Gilead Sciences in various Northern California state and federal product liability actions related to Gilead’s HIV prevention and treatment drugs. The cases allege that Gilead failed adequately to warn about the increased risk of potential kidney disease and bone injury that could result from its highly effective and FDA-approved HIV medications. The plaintiffs also allege that Gilead held back safer drugs that it could have brought to market sooner. Further exemplifying his all-purpose versatility, Williams represents Ellen DeGeneres and her loan-out company Monkey Business in connection with the investigation by WarnerMedia into work environment issues on the Ellen DeGeneres Show reported to involve claims that the show’s producers verbally abused staff and made racist and demeaning comments regarding the show’s guests. Williams is a universally revered trial lawyer, with peers offering unanimous support. “I have tremendous respect for him. He is one who just shines in front of a jury,” offers one peer.
     Proskauer continues to make strides in its 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. The trajectory of the case wound its way to the Federal Circuit, where the Proskauer team defeated Genentech’s motion for an injunction pending appeal and ultimately prevailed on the merits.

Labor and employment

Full-service firm Proskauer is nationally recognized for its deep bench of labor and employment lawyers. The firm is lauded by peers as “one of the great law firms” and “obviously [a] terrific labor and employment focused firm”. The labor and employment practice handles some of the most complex disputes for high-profile clients. The team is capable of handling all types of employment matters from single-plaintiff disputes to class and collective actions that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars for clients. In addition to its prominent litigation practice, one peer says that the firm’s internal investigations team “stands out in my mind as very prominent”.

The New York office houses several heavy hitters in labor and employment litigation. Bettina Plevan and Elise Bloom are highlighted in this year’s edition as Top 20 Lawyers in Labor & Employment. Plevan is a master at handling high-stakes employment disputes that often play out beyond the walls of the court room. In a recent contentious matter for Charter Communications, she faced additional litigation in the press and media where plaintiffs sought political and public support in their case. She successfully resolved the matter, both in court and publicly, and obtained a settlement following a partially granted motion to dismiss in favor of the client.

Bloom is also an expert at handling high-profile matters. In a case of first impression for the Court of Appeals, she successfully defended Michael Bloomberg against plaintiffs who argued that the client was vicariously liable as an “employer”.

Neil Abramson handled one of the first matters that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. The New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA] filed a motion for injunctive relief at the Southern District of New York against Montefiore in April of 2020. The NYSNA sought the court’s assistance in compelling the hospital to take steps to mitigate the nurse’s risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. However, Abramson obtained a motion to dismiss and continues to represent the hospital in an ongoing bargaining agreement.

Joseph Baumgarten and Adam Lupion are representing two major sports leagues. In one case, the team (along with Bloom) is defending the MLB in a racial-bias case brought by a current umpire for the league. At the Second Circuit, the team successfully won the case on summary judgment in its entirety for the league. Lupion and Baumgarten are also defending the NHL in a lawsuit filed by two former players who alleged that the client negligently increased their risk of brain damage, drug addiction and depression by permitting and promoting fighting during games and additionally misrepresented and failed to warn the effects of concussions over time. The firm’s employment practice has previously and successfully represented the NHL in similar cases that straddle tort law and federal labor law.

Lloyd Chinn defended Macquarie Holdings against an employee alleging hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment in relation to a sexual relationship with a former manager. Chinn favorably resolved the matter in a AAA proceeding. The arbitrator rejected all claims filed by the plaintiff, awarded monetary sanctions and damages, and confirmed the breach of contract counterclaim filed by Chinn against the plaintiff. 

California-based partner Anthony Oncidi has been involved in employment matters for clients in the entertainment industry. In a dispute that was closely watched by the entertainment industry,Oncidi represented Viacom in dispute with Netflix, asserting claims against the competitor for poaching high-level executives and interfering with employment contracts. Earlier this year, he obtained an injunction against Netflix that enjoined the competitor from interfering with the client’s employment agreements. Kate Gold is also in California and in November of last year, at the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, she obtained a published, favorable decision on behalf of Aerospace Corporation ending an age discrimination matter that involved both class and individual litigation. The appellate court affirmed the summary judgment ruling obtained by Gold and affirmed her argument that plaintiffs failed to administratively exhaust class and disparate impact claims.

Boston’s Mark Batten handles employment litigation that involves class and collective actions and complex multi-plaintiff disputes. He recently represented Planet Fitness, as well as the current CEO and the company’s General Counsel, in a 16-day jury trial in Massachusetts Superior Court. After obtaining a settlement agreement in a previous lawsuit, the former CEO sued again, claiming that she was fraudulently induced into the original settlement agreement. Batten had several motion wins prior to trial, thus limiting the company’s possible exposure. The trial resulted in a verdict that was less than the plaintiff’s high-dollar settlement demands.

In Illinois, Nigel Telman is representing McDonald’s in multiple lawsuits. One is in the Northern District of Illinois in which plaintiffs, senior leaders and senior managers, allege that the company engages in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination, among other claims. Additionally, Telman and the team also represent the company against franchise employees who are asserting that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer that can be held liable for race discrimination and sexual harassment at the franchise establishments.