Sullivan & Cromwell

United States (National)

Review

Dispute resolution

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. “They are a terrific firm with a deep bench. We view them as our primary competitors,” confirms one peer. 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 New York’s 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. More recently, the firm welcomed back Steve Peikin and Karen Seymour back to its bench in the white-collar capacity after their stints at the SEC and as Goldman Sachs’ in-house counsel, respectively. “Those are HUGE augmentations,” extols one peer, who insists, “Sullivan & Cromwell are back in the white-collar game in a big way. They need to be ranked Tier 1!” The firm also brought in James “Jamie” McDonald, formerly an enforcement director with the CTFC, to its commodities enforcement and investigations practice.
     The firm’s recruiting strategy extends beyond already-established stars; it has notably doubled down on hiring in developing talent as well. “They hired new partners Jonathan Carter and Leonid Traps as new partners,” observes one peer of a younger vintage. “They are excellent lawyers and these are great promotions. They saw talent there and they recognized it and did the right thing. I have unlimited respect for them.”
     Robert Giuffra remains one of the firm’s most established talents in the securities and class actions arenas. In one of the most closely watched securities class actions in recent years, Giuffra represents Goldman Sachs and its former senior executives in an ongoing case stemming from the SEC’s highly publicized lawsuit filed in 2010 alleging that Goldman Sachs and an employee misrepresented conflicts in the Abacus CDO. Giuffra secured Supreme Court review of a Second Circuit decision affirming class certification in December 2020 when the Supreme Court granted Goldman Sachs’ certiorari petition. The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case in March 2021, and a decision is expected by July 2021. A peer insists, “Bob Giuffra knows how to try a case! That’s not always his clients’ M.O. for sure but he can handle it if it came down to that.” Giuffra also had a leading role in the massive class action concerning Volkswagen’s well publicized use of emissions “defeat devices,” which sparked global litigation on a civil and criminal scale and found Giuffra brokering a milestone settlement several years ago.Other claims continue, however, and after more than three years of litigation, Giuffra obtained dismissal of all claims in a class action brought on behalf of almost 150,000 consumers alleging damages against Volkswagen and Audi of up to $325 million. Plaintiffs, former owners who both bought and sold their Volkswagen or Audi cars before the scandal became public, filed suit in the Northern District of California alleging that they overpaid for their cars because they were promised an environmentally friendly vehicle. Sharon Nelles has represented Standard Chartered Bank for more than a decade defending against numerous lawsuits arising from the failed brokerage firm Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC including in Chapter 15 adversary proceedings brought by foreign liquidators of the largest feeder fund to BLMIS, Fairfield Sentry, seeking claw back more than $330 million in redemption payments. Through several motions to dismiss, Nelles obtained a series of landmark decisions from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on the permissible scope of foreign-law claims brought under Chapter 15. The Bankruptcy Court’s most recent decision, issued in December 2020, resulted in dismissal of all remaining claims against Standard Chartered. Nelles and Matthew Schwartz represented Revlon and certain current and former executives in a putative securities class action brought in the Eastern District of New York on behalf of individuals or entities that purchased or acquired publicly traded Revlon securities from 2015 through 2019. The plaintiffs alleged that defendants made materially false and misleading statements regarding Revlon’s Internal Controls over Financial Reporting. In September 2020, the court dismissed all claims against all defendants. Schwartz has cultivated his own fan club as well. “He does a lot of preemption work, dealing with bank powers,” observes a peer. “He frequently represents associations, on the front lines of following some of the big issues in this area.” Richard Pepperman successfully represented Tiffany & Co. as plaintiff in litigation against LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton stemming from LVMH’s $16.2 billion acquisition of Tiffany. As relations between the parties turned less than productive. The firm also logged a novel appointment in the area concerning the intersection of antitrust and patent law, when Garrard Beeney and Marc de Leeuw where chosen to represent 15 of the nation’s leading universities in obtaining a favorable business review from the Antitrust Division of the DoJ in connection with the University Technology Licensing Program, a first-of-its-kind patent pool of non-Standard Essential Patents.