Akerman has developed into one of the most comprehensive legal shops on the East Coast, particularly in the Southeast region, where it is one of the area’s dominant players. Clients cheer the “strategy, timeliness and responsiveness” of the firm’s litigation team. One specifies, “They provide great strategy in an environmental toxic tort case and product liability matters. They provide excellent advice and [they] staff matters appropriately.”
While its reputation and client base has grown well beyond its original Florida stronghold, the Sunshine State is still where many of its key litigators reign supreme. Tallahassee’s Kathi Giddings, a renowned appellate practitioner (and consistent repeat appearance in Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation) was part of a team that triumphed on behalf of Florigrown, a local player in the budding medical cannabis industry, (and, one could argue, the local industry itself) when she successfully challenged the Florida Department of Health’s and the Legislature's efforts to subject all licensed medical marijuana businesses in the state to mandatory full vertical integration, meaning that each licensee is solely responsible for all aspects of the medical marijuana supply chain, from the time that it originates as a seed until the time it is sold or delivered to the patient, as well as the state’s imposition of a strict limit on the number of medical marijuana businesses operators in the state. This integration effectively shuts out new entrants. Florigrown retained Akerman in late 2017 to assist in its stalled application for a medical marijuana license and In July 2019, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal issued a decision upholding all key aspects of a temporary injunction. The Florida Supreme Court was due to conduct oral argument via remote videoconference in May 2020. Miami’s Michael Marsh, a celebrated commercial litigator, represented Meritor, a manufacturer of automobile components for military suppliers, trucks, and trailers, and several of its subsidiaries, in a product liability and wrongful death action filed by the estate of a man killed after a braking system of a semi-tractor trailer truck allegedly malfunctioned and broke apart, striking the man while driving on a highway. The estate alleged that Meritor manufactured the braking system, which was comprised of a purportedly defective brake shoe and brake drum. The estate demanded damages in excess of $19 million dollars. Without the actual truck driver having gone MIA, the plaintiff could not prove causation and thus agreed to dismiss the claims against Meritor with prejudice. Marsh also represents E-Alternative Solutions, a company that sells vaping devices and cartridges, in a dispute with a supplier in Delaware Chancery Court. The lawsuit includes claims for fraud, breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and declaratory relief. The supplier alleges that the client intentionally sought to limit sales of the products that they supplied and preferred a separate line of products that the client also distributed. Stephen Hurlbut, domiciled in the Tyson’s Corner, Virginia office and is known as an authority in construction litigation, is counsel for CDJV in proceedings against the Navy pending before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA). The case involves claims against the Navy for damages and additional compensation of $13.5 million that the client claims are owed as a result of changes and differing site conditions associated with a contract for Airfield Vegetation Conversion and Clear Zone Restoration at Naval Air Station Boca Chica in Key West, Florida. The case is still in the discovery stage and is now scheduled to commence in January 2021.Brian Fraser, who recently joined the firm from Richards Kibbe & Orbe, provides an augmentation to the firm’s New York office. Fraser represents the designated certificate holder under a securitized trust of commercial mortgages in a case in which the plaintiff owner of a $60 million office tower in Memphis has sued the trustee, the servicer and special servicer to the trusts alleging that the defendants conspired to deprive it of the right to refinance and has obtained an injunction against a foreclosure sale in Tennessee.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is one of the few firms of its ilk to span the globe with its disputes prowess while still being a champion of cases that set precedents through its practitioners in New York and DC. “Cleary benefits from having a really broad and international book of business,” states a peer. “This drives some great work their way and they have superb people there to look after it.” The firm excels in antitrust, white-collar and investigations work, securities, bankruptcy, commercial and even some intellectual property, in addition to being known as one of the dominant forces in the international arbitration arena.
Cleary’s antitrust capacity, already considered one of the country’s strongest, got a further boost in March of 2020 when it recruited Bruce Hoffman, a former leader of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, to its DC group. A peer offers in summation, “That was a fabulous hire,” a consensus shared by many in the antitrust sphere. Hoffman is already making his presence felt in cases; he and fellow DC partner David Gelfand are representing Molson Coors in the defense of a claim by a US brewer alleging an antitrust violation affected exports to Ontario, Canada. The case is on remand from the Seventh Circuit, which dismissed the majority of plaintiff’s claims. Another DC partner, George Cary, is widely considered the firm’s antitrust figurehead and is also a near-unanimous reference among fellow practitioners in the field. One peer hyperbolically quips, “George Cary is antitrust!” Another elaborates, “George has not only an encyclopedic knowledge of antitrust law, he also just has instant credibility. He actually manages to teach the judiciary about antitrust law, and that would only happen if you’ve got the kind of clout with them that George has.” Cary and a fellow antitrust star, Leah Brannon, represent Keurig in massive multiparty monopolization litigation in the Southern District of New York. Almost two years into discovery, the litigation involves five complaints brought against Keurig by two individual competitors, two purported classes (direct and indirect purchasers), and an individual purchaser. Among other allegations, these cases allege that Keurig has unlawfully monopolized a market for Keurig-compatible single-serve coffee through a wide range of actions, from Keurig’s design and advertising of its 2.0 coffee brewer and related coffee to its contracts with suppliers, distributors, and other partners. Cary and yet another antitrust star, Jeremy Calsyn, secured federal merger clearance and won an unprecedented multi-state lawsuit as lead antitrust counsel to T-Mobile and parent company Deutsche Telekom in connection with T-Mobile’s historic merger with Sprint Corporation. The lawsuit was brought by 17 Attorney Generals and culminated in a two-week trial in December 2019 and January 2020. Brannon and Calsyn, both based in DC, are quickly risen stars who represent the younger generation of the firm.
Another area in which Cleary is routinely praised is the white-collar and enforcement area. “They have a good nucleus of a practice in DoJ and SEC and in DC and NY,” confirms a peer. Another elaborates, “Cleary is great because they have about six people I can count on who are solid. When I have a huge case that I need to refer, I need the breadth and the depth, not just one star player who may or may not be too overwhelmed to be fully engaged. The Cleary team is smart, knowledgeable and experienced, and there are a bunch of them: David Brodsky, Joon Kim, Breon Peace, Lev Dassin, Victor Hou – these people are all a solid team.” Hou represents embattled Brazilian engineering and construction firm Odebrecht and related entities in two private securities actions in the Southern District of New York. At the heart of the matters is the defendants’ involvement in the biggest bribery scandal in history (the investigation of which resulted in the well-publicized “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) action), which resulted in a guilty plea and $2.6 billion settlement with the US DoJ as well as settlements with other foreign governments. “Victor is not just a white-collar guy, though,” insists a peer, speaking to Hou’s broad-based practice. “He kind of does it all, commercial and securities work, and he’s great with all of it. Plus he’s got relative youth and energy going for him, which you don’t often see with someone with his level of experience.”
The firm’s international muscle is frequently on display in cases managed by Jeffrey Rosenthal and Howard Zelbo, two long-established figures in the global arbitration arena, as well as Ari MacKinnon, a future star who is increasingly moving to the fore in cases of his own. Another future star, Lisa Vicens, makes her debut in this edition on the strength of vibrant peer review. “Lisa has developed a fabulous South American practice,” confirms one competitor. “She is a homegrown talent, an unusual person in that respect.” The international team at Cleary frequently attends to cases touching on securities enforcement, white-collar crime and bankruptcy issues. Lisa Schweitzer is a practitioner engaged in bankruptcy specifically. Schweitzer represents bedding products company Tempur Sealy International in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases of one of its regional retailers, preserving the client’s litigation claims and other rights through the bankruptcy. In a recent development, Schweitzer is leading a team representing LATAM Airlines Group and its affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and the US in the voluntary reorganization and restructuring of their debt under Chapter 11 protection in the US. Under the Chapter 11 financial reorganization process, LATAM and its affiliates will have the opportunity to resize their operations to the new demand environment, given the effects of COVID-19, and reorganize their balance sheets. The group will continue passenger and cargo operations as conditions permit throughout the process. This cross-border procedure, which highlights unprecedented challenges faced by the industry in the face of the global pandemic, also involves Luke Barefoot, a rising star in the bankruptcy arena, as well as securities-focused star, Roger Cooper.
Debevoise & Plimpton has etched itself a position of prestige in the legal market among peers, many of whom laud the firm’s approach as well as its practitioners’ proven skills across the board. “Debevoise is a very classy bunch,” opines one peer. “Always has been. The lawyers there all are very respectable.” It is also noted that Debevoise “has one of the more genuinely diverse benches around,” and that the firm “is not just playing catch-up. They put their money where their mouth is a long time ago.” Indeed, the firm has one of the highest percentages of women appearing as lead counsel on matters and nominated as star players, a metric that has quantified since
Benchmark’s first edition in 2008.
Several sources credit Mary Beth Hogan with fostering this dynamic atmosphere, particularly in its New York office, the larger of the two. A commercial litigator who is also recognized for her investigations work, Hogan is also the co-chair of litigation. “Mary Beth deserves a lot of praise for making Debevoise what it is today.” Maeve O’Connor, an authority in the securities area, represents the Mamaroneck, New York-based Winged Foot Golf Club, along with certain present and former members of the Board of Directors of the Winged Foot Holding Corporation, in several shareholder derivative and securities class action lawsuits in the Southern District of New York. O’Connor is also noted for an insurance practice (a practice for which she is the firm’s Chair.) She secured a victory for six insurers in a qui tam lawsuit alleging over $14.5 billion in damages. The plaintiff, an audit firm, brought the action on behalf New York in 2010, alleging that the clients knowingly failed to report and escheat abandoned life insurance policy proceeds. A judge granted O’Connor’s motion to dismiss with prejudice and denied plaintiff’s request to re-plead. Susan Gittes, a quickly rising star in both the securities and insurance spheres, worked with O’Connor on these matters. Shannon Selden is a commercial litigator with a specialty in asset management and private equity. Selden represents Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, as well as four of the client’s funds and the general partner of those funds in connection with a putative securities class-action lawsuit relating to the funds’ sale of more than $4 billion of stock in Envision Healthcare Corporation, which the client took public in 2013. Plaintiffs allege that the client violated Section 20A of the Exchange Act by selling their Envision stock while in possession of material adverse non-public information regarding purportedly improper billing practices. In November 2019, the court dismissed claims against the defendants in their entirety, while allowing certain other claims to proceed against the company and certain individual defendants. Maura Monaghan, a commercial litigator with a niche in product liability matters, represents certain former directors and shareholders of Purdue Pharma, regarding prescription opioid litigation, including a federal multi-district litigation and actions brought by states attorneys general. Monaghan also represents Hospital Corporation of America and its affiliated hospital systems and subsidiaries in several high-profile, complex class action matters involving alleged overbilling practices and other violations. “Once clients meet Maura, they can’t get enough of her,” enthuses a peer. Ted Hassi, in the firm’s DC office, acts with Monaghan on the latter case. Hassi, an antitrust authority, receives unanimous acclaim. “Ted is one of the tops in antitrust,” extols a peer. “He is currently the lead on a merger challenge between two of the biggest coal mining entities in the US!” Hassi also represents Toyota in a multi-district litigation concerning rail fuel surcharges, which were the subject of a long-running class action, which was denied class certification in 2017. Toyota subsequently filed its own suit, alleging that it overpaid hundreds of millions of dollars for rail transport in the US and Canada due to collusion on the part of the defendants to artificially inflate prices via the surcharges.
Debevoise has long been a leader in the white-collar and enforcement area, with a team that has historically been acknowledged with reverence by the community. “With Mary Jo White and Andrew Ceresney coming back on board a few years ago [both left the firm to serve in government during the Obama administration before rejoining the firm in 2017,] an already great team got a further invigoration. It’s basically an all-star cast there now,” extols a peer. Bruce Yannett is advising Royal Dutch Shell and serving as global coordinating counsel in connection with a criminal prosecution of Shell and four former employees in Milan, Italy. In September 2019, the DoJ informed Shell that it was closing its investigation of the matter without bringing any charges. The SEC has also closed its investigation without taking any action against the company. Yannett continues to represent Shell in connection with a criminal prosecution and four former employees in Italy as well as in an active investigation by the Dutch Public Prosecution Services. Another area in which the firm has historically held a dominant position is the international arbitration capacity. “I would guess Debevoise contains the highest percentage of multi-linguists of any firm in New York,” asserts a peer. Indeed, the firm’s international office count outnumbers that of its Stateside locations. Longtime stalwart Donald Donovan, along with “next-generation” stars Dietmar Prager, Mark Friedman and Natalie Reid, represented Tethyan, a company jointly owned by Antofagasta Minerals S.A. of Chile and Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada, in a multibillion-dollar investment dispute arising out of a mining project in Pakistan, winning nearly $6 billion in a July 2019 decision, the second-largest award ever rendered from a World Bank arbitration tribunal. Donovan and Catherine Amirfar prevailed on behalf of the State of Qatar with respect to two proceedings against the United Arab Emirates on provisional measures before the International Court of Justice in a high-profile and complex set of international disputes arising out of a multitude of measures, including a blockade, imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on Qatar.
Greenberg Traurig is a full-service law firm with a global presence in a variety of practice areas. The firm hosts more than 2,000 attorneys in 41 offices across the world, which positions them to effectively serve both domestic and international clients. New York-based star Alan Mansfield is part of the lead national counsel team representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the arbitration of payment adjustment disputes arising under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement ("MSA") between certain tobacco manufacturers and 52 states, districts, and territories of the U.S. The firm also represents the client in all related disputes arising under the MSA, as well as disputes arising under R.J. Reynolds' settlements with four previously settled states. Additionally, the firm has served as lead trial and appellate counsel in state court proceedings before the courts of Florida, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, and New Mexico, and before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, including appeals before the Florida and New Mexico courts of appeal.
William Goines is co-managing partner of the firm’s Silicon Valley office and dedicates his practice to complex commercial litigation and business disputes. Goines, along with New York-based vice-chair Richard Edlin were co-lead counsel to KT Engcore Corporation in a case against Moneual, an up-and-coming South Korean computer manufacturer that arose out of one of the largest corporate frauds ever prosecuted in South Korea. The client was positioned as an intermediary, providing certain financing support and acting as the computer manufacturer's exporter. After the two companies had worked together for several years, the Korean Customs Department and the Seoul Central District Prosecutors revealed that they had undertaken a large-scale investigation in which the founder of Moneual and his longtime associate were convicted of having run a massive scheme. It was determined that the computers that were supposed to have been shipped for seven years were, in fact, never shipped, and the entire scheme was a fraud. This matter is the first case of its kind to be tried in the United States and, after a five-week jury trial, Goines and Edlin scored a $32 million verdict and full damages awarded. In all, more than a dozen high-ranking business executives and government employees went to jail on the matter. Most recently, Goines and Edlin successfully dismissed the defendants appeal.
Operating for nearly a quarter of a century, Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney now occupies a unique space in the crowded New York market, taking on cases spanning several practice areas and servicing them with a more personalized, hands-on approach. While several of their founding partners come armed with “big law” credentials, the firm itself enjoys a maverick reputation as a smaller boutique taking on some of the largest litigation shops. One peer notes, “they are making a mark as ‘giant killers.’ They go up against, and beat, some of the big brand-name shops all the time.” The firm is noted especially for its commercial, insurance and labor and employment capacity, and the cases it takes on are often of a novel nature.
One such example involves an ownership dispute concerning New York’s iconic Palm steakhouse, in which firm founder Frederic Newman scored several consecutive wins. An all-purpose commercial trial generalist, Newman won a $120 million award at trial in a dispute over the iconic Palm steakhouse. Newman represented the plaintiffs, who own a 20% stake in the entity and alleged that the grandsons of the founders, who own the other 80% of the entity, cheated the plaintiffs out of the financial rewards of the Palm's expansion by creating a series of companies, which the two grandsons own exclusively, to hold the new restaurants. In December 2019, a judge ordered defendants in the long-running battle to pay $4.6 million in attorney’s fees and expenses to HNRK for its successful prosecution of the case and, in May 2020, the New York Appellate Division, First Department unanimously affirmed the February 2019 judgment. Dorothea Regal attends to a robust insurance coverage practice that includes ongoing representation of Syngenta Crop Protection in insurance coverage disputes. Andrew Bourne is another partner earning accolades for his insurance acumen. A client cheers, “Andrew is masterful at insurance coverage disputes generally, and D&O coverage disputes specifically; [he offers] tremendous advisory services with respect to ex ante policy evaluation, and he has impeccable appellate advocacy.” Bourne and Regal represented China Merchants Bank in connection with an alleged claim of employment discrimination. This matter involves the interplay of two employment practices liability insurance carriers, both of which denied insurance coverage. The pair convinced the insurance companies to provide coverage without resorting to litigation, and the matter then settled without contribution by the bank. Bourne and Newman secured complete dismissal in a high-profile litigation concerning statements made by Former Fox News star Bill O'Reilly in a litigation alleging that he defamed a former producer and breached a settlement agreement with her related to non-sexual harassment allegations. Damian Cavaleri, who attends to a hybrid commercial and employment practice, represented Montefiore Medical Center in a six-week employment-related trial in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, which took place between November and December 2017. The matter was settled partially in the client’s favor in 2019. Cavaleri also acts for individual clients; one voices appreciation, stating, “Damian counsels his clients, and helps with perspective when clients are upset. [He worked on a] separation agreement after I was terminated. He drove the conflict to conclusion, explained everything, and kept me realistic.”
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, securities, and antitrust, which 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. Among the many residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) “putback” actions the firm has been engaged in, they represent HSBC Bank USA as plaintiff trustee in multiple cases against financial institutions that securitized residential mortgage loans. The cases collectively seek billions of dollars. Other partners involved in these matters include Daniel Goldberg, Avi Israeli, and Daniel Sullivan, all of whom also receive the nod from peers. Shuster and Goldberg also were brought in to represent US Bank, 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 cases 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 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 Holwell 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. Levy is a future star generating an increasing level of peer acclaim. “Vince is fantastic and has a bright future ahead of him. He used to be at Wachtell, where he got some superb training, and he knows!”
Litigation boutique Kaplan Hecker & Fink is viewed by peers as “the place to be” at the moment. “They chose the right moment to form that firm,” opines one. “Their model is superb, and their approach dovetails perfectly with so many of the issues of this time in history.” The firm’s partners continue to demonstrate the fierce commitment to social justice that has been in its DNA since its 2017 founding, and its partners, all formerly with “big” law firms, boast a remarkably trial-tested résumé for their relatively young vintage. Historically a New York-based shop, the firm recently expanded, opening a DC office and welcoming back
Joshua Matz, who is returning to the firm after serving as counsel to the US House Judiciary Committee, as a partner in February 2020. The New York office also got a new infusion of talent within the past year with the recruit of
Marshall Miller, a white-collar star who joined the firm from Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz. “That’s a great addition,” offers a peer. “Marshall is a capable lawyer with a stellar track record.”
Founder and all-purpose trial lawyer Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan, who initially launched this firm as Kaplan & Company, continues to earn plaudits for her role as a mentor and driver of the firm’s culture as well as for her unwavering commitment to pursuing cases dedicated to progressive causes. “Robbie Kaplan is our adversary most of the time,” testifies one peer, conceding, “and it’s tough to be on the other side of her.” Kaplan grabbed headlines in October 2017, when she was one of two partners retained by nonprofit Integrity First for America to represent 11 plaintiffs from Charlottesville against 26 defendants implicated in the white nationalist/neo-Nazi rally that took place in Charlottesville that August and culminated in violence and other shameful turns of events. The defendants include named people and several organizations, such as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Nationalist Front. On a more business-oriented (and local) level, Kaplan triumphed for Airbnb, a longtime client of hers, in challenging a New York City Council law that, if passed, would have required the client to produce massive amounts of private business records to city officers with no procedural or privacy protections, doing irreparable harm to Airbnb’s business in New York City. Sean Hecker joined the firm from his previous post at Debevoise & Plimpton. Hecker, a securities enforcement and white-collar star, has a particularly vocal fan base as well. “Like I predicted, Sean Hecker really went on to great things,” confirms a peer. “He is terrific and I like working with him. He is good with juries and judges and is very analytical and is a good presence. It’s funny because he was never a Titanic presence at Debevoise, he kind of just quietly did his own thing, but you could tell he had something, and now he has really come into his own. That win he had for the Barclays trader out in California was a substantial white-collar trial win, in front of a judge, no less, which is very rare.” This alluded-to victory was on behalf of a former trader at Barclays, who was charged with manipulating the price of foreign currency options to defraud the bank's customer, Hewlett-Packard. Hecker secured an acquittal for his client from a federal judge in San Francisco in March 2019.
Kasowitz Benson Torres has continued apace with its bold strategy of exclusively pursuing aggressive litigation, often with a more trial-ready approach and often in areas with a high risk/reward ratio. “Litigation is their business - they are experts in this field,” asserts a client, summing up the firm’s hard-charging approach. A peer quips, “They get down in the trenches, in the dirt, and that’s exactly where they want to be.”
The firm, mostly through its flagship New York office, has made a name for itself in areas such as commercial real estate, bankruptcy, antitrust and securities, and its practitioners have been at the forefront of novel areas such as cryptocurrency, litigation funding and cannabis. The latter three categories in particular have been a focus of Mike Hanin, who comments, “They’re all a bit similar in that it’s all kind of the Wild West. There is a lot of money to be made, there are many ambiguous contracts, and often, no rules.” Hanin is part of a team representing investors in over $1.4 billion in notes issued by the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts in various actions concerning the management and control of the Trusts. Hanin is working on these matters in tandem with Sheron Korpus, who is most frequently addressed by peers as “the firm’s top commercial and antitrust person now, and the most active.” Korpus also represents Israeli generic drug manufacturer Teva and its US subsidiary Actavis in defending many antitrust class actions brought by private plaintiffs, as well as an antitrust action brought by 48 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which are consolidated in an MDL in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that allege price-fixing of over 100 pharmaceuticals. Paul “Tad” O’Connor is especially engaged in the commercial real estate sector, a specialty also shared by Jennifer Recine, who recently returned to Kasowitz after leaving for a brief stint at Stroock. O’Connor represents InterContinental Hotels Group in an ongoing case with a hotel owner involving damages in excess of $100 million and claims for breach of contract arising from a license agreement relating to the flagship 795-room Crowne Plaza Times Square in New York City. O’Connor also represents this client in a contract dispute with the owners of Times Square Intercontinental Hotel. This dispute relates to a hotel management agreement involving damages in excess of $100 million. In both cases, he obtained significant preliminary injunctions preventing the owners from terminating the agreements and the owners’ motions to dismiss were denied. Both cases are proceeding in the trial court, with the injunctions in place and in force. Stephen Tountas is elevated from future star status in this edition on the strength of his rising profile in the securities area. A client notes, “Stephen implements innovative strategies; communicates effectively to achieve goals; works well with co-counsel and clients and has an excellent understanding of the market.” Tountas, on behalf of prominent hedge funds affiliated with Axon Capital, filed a direct securities fraud action against certain officers and directors of Adeptus Health and Sterling Partners (the company’s private equity sponsor), following Adeptus’s multi-billion-dollar bankruptcy. Facing a bankruptcy plan that would award next to no recovery for equity shareholders, Tountas led the filing of the only opt-out in the federal class action, securing a confidential settlement in 2019. A new future star, Uri Itkin, represented Astra Asset Management, a London-based asset manager, in a trust instruction proceeding against Goldman Sachs involving Astra’s investment in an Abacus CDO sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Astra, which was seeking to require the distribution of $55 million in collateral appreciation to investors, rather than to Goldman, won two dispositive motions; Goldman Sachs settled with Astra on the eve of trial.
King & Spalding is an internationally lauded law firm with a network of 22 offices worldwide, 11 of which are outside the US. Peers are quick to highlight the firm’s obvious strengths; one being its global presence. “King & Spalding was way ahead of the curve in terms of establishing an international scope. That firm has as many tentacles internationally as it does in the US.” Another area in which the firm reigns supreme is the energy sector. One competitor confirms, “King & Spalding is very DEEP in the life sciences world, and in energy - forget it. No other big national firm can touch them on the litigation side.” The firm is also said to be “the best in the world when it comes to representing the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms.”
Already one of the strongest and globally comprehensive of national firms, King & Spalding has been on an expansion spree, a phenomenon that has not gone unnoticed by peers. “King & Spalding is clearly in growth mode,” observes one peer. “They are adding people left and right.” Some of these bold additions have fortified the firm’s bench strength across several practice areas and jurisdictions. In February 2020 alone, the firm added product liability and mass tort trial lawyer Morty Dubin to its New York office and international arbitration star Javier Rubinstein to its Chicago office. Dubin, who joined the firm from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, boasts a book of business containing industry heavyweights such as Dow Chemical and Johnson & Johnson, the latter of which he (acting with Ali Brown of Skadden) triumphed for in a March 2019 defense victory regarding claims concerning the company’s talc powder product. Rubinstein, who joined the firm from Kirkland & Ellis “adds a nice new element of strength to an already great practice led by [Houston international arbitration star] Doak Bishop, particularly in the Latin American component.” In addition to these two auspicious recruits, the firm also doubled down on its California practice, scooping a sizeable haul of almost 20 partners from the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices of Boies Schiller in a double-dip of hires in April and June 2020.
In the firm’s initial home base of Atlanta, the firm is regarded as “the 800-pound gorilla,” with one local peer summarizing, “Whether they care to admit it or not, in Atlanta, it’s King & Spalding and then everybody else. You can’t be a huge national firm in this market that represents Coca-Cola and not be the dominant player at the table.” Atlanta-based trial lawyer David Balser was lead counsel to SCANA in criminal and SEC investigations. The dispute was related to the abandonment of SCANA’s new nuclear development at the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina, including defense of ratepayer class actions, derivative claims, federal securities class actions, and state and federal governmental investigations. Additionally, an expedited federal court injunction proceeding seeking to block implementation of confiscatory legislation targeting SCANA was also at stake. A multi-practice, cross-office team, led by Balser, were involved in a multi-week evidentiary hearing before the South Carolina Public Service Commission that sought to block SCANA’s proposed $14.6 billion merger with Dominion Energy. A complete victory for the client was obtained, leading to the closing of the Dominion merger in January of 2019. “We have a lot of litigation against King & Spalding,” testifies a peer, “and we think very highly of them, and David Balser in particular. When you’re against him, you know it’s going to be a tough fight but it’s going to be a fair fight.” Balser and fellow Atlanta partner Michael Smith were members of the lead counsel team representing Equifax in numerous high profile putative class actions arising from the cyber security incident announced in September 2017. The client is involved in more than 250 consumer and financial institution class actions from the data breach. Trial and global disputes practice group leader Andy Bayman successfully obtained a reversal of a $3 million jury verdict in favor of his client GlaxoSmithKline in a wrongful death lawsuit. Bayman was co-lead counsel in this matter, the first lawsuit ever tried under the “innovator liability” theory. “Andy Bayman got excellent training with [now retired product liability leader] Chilton Varner,” opines a peer, “and now he is running the show and putting that experience to excellent use.
Seasoned trial lawyer Bobby Meadows hails from the Houston office where he is recognized as a frequent fixture in trials in state and federal court, as well as arbitration proceedings. He is lead counsel to Chevron USA in multiple lawsuits arising from an explosion and fire at its Richmond, California Refinery. He has secured the dismissal of over 10,000 plaintiffs in the individual claimant actions. The firm also achieved the dismissal of two purported class actions at the pleadings stage.
King & Spalding is noted as a top performer in the securities enforcement and investigations area, a capacity it has dubbed its “Special Matters” practice. “They have been tremendously successful in this space,” observes a peer. Notably, a sizeable number of its noted stars in the white-collar practice are women. Texas-based Tracie Renfroe serves as the managing partner of the Houston office, as well as co-head of the energy practice. Her trial practice is centered on toxic tort, environmental, professional and product liability, and commercial disputes. She currently represents DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson company, in a multi-district litigation involving metal-on-metal hip implants. New York litigator Carmen Lawrence specializes in securities-related government investigations and litigation. She serves as co-lead of the firm’s Securities Enforcement and Regulation practice and often represents both public and private companies in regulatory and investigative matters. Renfroe, Lawrence, and DC litigator Dixie Johnson are also acclaimed as one of Benchmark's Top 250 Women in Litigation. Johnson is the deputy practice group leader for government matters of the firm, where she represents businesses and individuals in securities enforcement investigations and conducts internal investigations for corporate board committees and companies.
Since its inception in Chicago in 1909, Kirkland & Ellis has steadily risen from its Illinois roots to become an international powerhouse. The firm has approximately 2,200 lawyers with expertise in a number of practice areas, with notable strengths in commercial litigation, product liability, intellectual property, bankruptcy, restructuring and counseling matters and white-collar/investigations work. One client highlights the firm's bankruptcy practice, commenting, "They are preeminent in the bankruptcy space, debtors, and a lot of that comes out of their private equity. It’s pretty astounding how Kirkland managed to get to number one by a wide margin in bankruptcy."
New York-based Sandra Goldstein is a highly respected litigator and manages a diverse practice. Most notably, Goldstein and fellow partner Stefan Atkinson recently served as lead counsel for Barnes & Noble, securing an important victory concerning digital disclosure under the Video Privacy Protection Act. In addition, Goldstein serves as a member of the firm's global management executive committee. Highly-renowned litigator Dale Cendali heads the firm’s copyright, trademark, internet and advertising practice group, where she specializes in intellectual property disputes. As a nationally revered leader in the IP field, Cendali and her practice group have defended WeWork’s “HQ by WeWork” brand in a Texas trademark action, as well as shot down suits against Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive by celebrities claiming copyrights on their dance moves. Cendali has also persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to let a Ninth Circuit decision stand in favor of Nike in a dispute over a famous photograph of Michael Jordan. In addition, Cendali is actively defending Take-Two against a company that claims to control the copyrights on LeBron James and other NBA players’ tattoos. Fellow IP litigator Leora Ben-Ami focuses her practice on all areas of technology, including biotechnology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and chemistry, mechanical devices, and electronics. Ben-Ami's experience includes trying numerous cases on behalf of Pfizer including, Pfizer v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, a recent case in which she successfully defended Pfizer's patents on Celebrex.
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel has been a mainstay of the New York legal community since its inception in 1968 and, while it has since opened offices in the Silicon Valley and in Paris, that continues today. While a full-service firm, its litigation bench has been consistently championed as a small yet powerful and dynamic group. “What’s interesting about Kramer Levin is the way they just keep reinventing and reinvigorating themselves,” observes a peer. “There are people at that firm who are still legends, but they are bringing up new legends-in-waiting all the time.” The firm has historically been known for its commercial, securities, bankruptcy and white-collar work, but is also identified as one of the few leaders in the false advertising/Lanham Act space.
Kramer Levin has recently doubled down on their “hard” intellectual property capacity, emphasized by the recruit of patent star Dr. Irena Royzman, who is noted by peers to “occupy a definite presence in the pharma patent space.” In just one example of her prowess, Royzman represented Regeneron, who was sued by Novartis for $350 million for alleged patent infringement. Royzman succeeded in dismantling each of Novartis’ claims. The firm’s celebrated false advertising and Lanham Act area, historically dominated by Harold Weinberger, has more recently seen Norman Simon taking on a leading role. Simon and Weinberger secured a July 2019 dismissal of a Lanham Act case against TrueCar by 108 car dealers. Plaintiffs’ theory was that they were injured by supposedly false advertising that TrueCar provides a car-buying experience without “haggling.” Simon, a specialist in class-action litigation brought pursuant to consumer fraud statutes, as well as in challenges before the National Advertising Division and National Advertising Review Board, also has active matters for clients ranging from Procter & Gamble to T-Mobile. Sean Coffey concentrates on the securities area, which has benefited greatly from Coffey’s experience in both the plaintiff and defense capacities. A peer testifies, “Sean was a leader at [securities plaintiff shop] Bernstein Litowitz! He knows his way around a securities case, all the advantages and pitfalls.” Kramer Levin is also home to a prized white-collar crime group, of which Barry Berke is an undisputed leading presence. Berke was recently thrust into the limelight when he was called into service as special counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives in connection with its investigation and impeachment proceedings of Donald Trump. As of February 2020, Berke returned to Kramer Levin with newly burnished credentials. Not that he needed them; even before this engagement, Berke has been routinely identified by peers as “absolutely one of the best,” with one elaborating, “Especially at his age point, he has some of the best experience you could ask for and credibility beyond question.” Clients agree; one calls Berke “a counselor, a litigator, and a strategist,” and goes on to assert, “No one is better.”
Plaintiff shop Labaton Sucharow has been historically viewed as, 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.
One of the Labaton’s biggest developments over the past year 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 Weinberger is a real up and comer,” confirms one Wilmington peer. “He is not yet at the level of the big Delaware of the more established senior guys around [Wilmington] but he has a couple of wins under his belt and a lot of people really respect him.” Another observes, “There’s definitely something going over at Labaton in Delaware, you can feel it. And that’s Ned. He is making waves around here and is going to start making life a little more difficult for some of the more senior ‘swashbucklers’ who are used to running the show.” 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. Weinberger also served as co-lead counsel in a derivative lawsuit challenging decisions made by the board of directors of AGNC Investment, a mortgage REIT, including paying exorbitant annual fee payments to the company’s external asset manager, and then, acquiring that manager for an inflated price. A $35.5 million settlement was announced in June 2019. Weinberger is also is co-lead counsel in a class action litigation challenging the fairness of a take-private transaction involving AmTrust Financial Services. Private equity funds managed by Stone Point Capital together with AmTrust’s directors proposed to take the insurer private for $2.95 billion. The firm had been prosecuting a derivative lawsuit against the same defendants since 2014, which alleged that the controlling shareholders of AmTrust and the board of directors breached their fiduciary duties by acting to advance the interests of the controlling shareholder’s family, rather than the interests of AmTrust and its minority stockholders. In 2016, the court denied the only motion to dismiss filed in the derivative suit. The consolidated class Action Complaint filed in January 2019 alleges that members of the AmTrust board of directors’ special committee charged with reviewing the take private transaction were conflicted.
Another major development within the firm is blossoming of its whistleblower practice, an area that has received a significant level of attention from peers, opponents, and the media. The credit for this lies with New York’s Jordan Thomas. Over the past seven years, Thomas, a former SEC regulator himself, has cultivated “a very impressive space for himself in that world, and a very impressive pathway for this practice in general.” One peer insists, “He is the guy – the most renowned SEC whistleblower in the nation. He had a $13 million claim. He has a pipeline of about 30 matters that have been accepted by the SEC.” Thomas scored big in March 2018, when the SEC announced that it awarded a group of whistleblowers more than $83 million, the largest awards announced by the agency since the inception of the SEC's Whistleblower program in 2011. The firm’s clients tipped the SEC off to misconduct at Merrill Lynch, leading to a landmark enforcement action resulting in Merrill paying $415 million to settle charges that it misused customer cash to generate profits for the bank and failed to safeguard customer assets. Another New York partner, Jonathan Gardner secured a $42.5 million recovery in a securities class action against Intuitive Surgical. The action alleged that Intuitive violated federal securities fraud laws by making false and misleading statements regarding the safety and efficacy of its marquee product, the da Vinci Surgical System, and its compliance with FDA regulations.
Thomas Dubbs, one of the firm’s more senior partners, remains one of its most active litigators and, according to a peer, “is still Tom Dubbs, and will continue to be until he decides to stop being Tom Dubbs. Those who’ve seen him in action know what I mean by that.” Dubbs is co-lead counsel in a high-profile litigation based on the scandals involving Goldman Sachs’ sales of the Abacus CDO. The lawsuit alleges that Goldman made a series of false and misleading statements surrounding its sale of the Abacus CDO, and concealed conflicts of interest in several CDO transactions. Dubbs is also lead counsel in a complex securities class action against California utility PG&E related to a series of wildfires that devastated Northern California in October 2017 and subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Dubbs is also co-lead counsel in a landmark class action against seven US stock exchanges alleging that the defendant exchanges provided distinct products and services to high-frequency trading firms that manipulated the market in favor of these firms at the expense of ordinary investors. In May 2019, the Southern District of New York denied the defendant exchanges’ renewed motion to dismiss in its entirety, reasoning that plaintiffs had successfully alleged standing, reliance, scienter, and loss causation.
Historically recognized and revered as one of the largest and most comprehensive global players in the corporate and transactional capacity (a position it still enjoys), Latham & Watkins has also proven itself to be an equally dominant presence on the litigation stage. “Latham has always been a litigation powerhouse,” sums up one peer. “This might not have been mentioned as much before because their corporate practice is so celebrated, but it was always had a deep and broad litigation team, with some serious star players. And they just seem to keep getting more of them!” Another peer confirms, “Latham is definitely a destination for litigation these days. They are going from strength to strength. The ‘flight to quality’ that we’re seeing play out right now is working in their favor.” The firm’s expansive US footprint covers a host of major markets, all staffed with partners deemed as “top class” in practices spanning antitrust, white-collar crime, securities, M&A litigation, intellectual property and even more niche practices like environmental law (an area the firm is said to have a higher-than-average concentration in compared to other firms its size.)
Luminaries in the securities space include New York’s Jamie Wine and James Brandt. A peer at another of New York’s top securities firms confides, “I’m currently in a dispute with Jamie and I think she is very talented, even though she’s not wanting for accolades.” Wine scored a June 2020 win for information technology entity DXC Technology when Virginia federal judge dismissed a $2 billion proposed securities class action accusing the client and its executives of making misleading statements about revenues, causing its stock to drop by up to 16%.Another peer testifies, “I’ve been working with Jimmy Brandt a lot, and it’s rewarding to work with someone who’s been around along as he has. He’s seen everything!” Blair Connelly, another New York-based securities star, is “well known in Delaware M&A-type cases.” Along with local Delaware counsel, Connelly triumphed for Ligand Pharmaceuticals in January 2020 when the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed a Chancery Court ruling over a botched formula used in a bond indenture from Ligand, rejecting certain traders' contention that the decision disregarded investor protections by allowing Ligand to unilaterally fix its potential $3.75 billion error.
McKool Smith developed deep roots in Dallas, Texas, where it started in 1991 with 13 trial lawyers. Since then, the firm has rapidly and strategically expanded to now include 185 trial lawyers in seven offices nationwide. They are located in New York, New York; Washington D.C.; Houston, Marshall, Austin and Dallas, Texas and Los Angeles, California. Their strategic and entrepreneurial approach has won them praise from clients and peers alike. “McKool is a firm that has always put trial law first,” testifies a peer. “You can tell a lot from their culture, and you can see who they are turning out in big case. Any one of them could take a case all the way.” Known as a dominant force in the intellectual property capacity, particularly in the Eastern District of Texas, historically a hotbed for patent cases, McKool Smith has since made significant strides in other areas, most notably insurance and commercial litigation.
Exemplifying the firm’s increasing diversity, New York’s Gayle Klein, an all-purpose commercial litigator, is leading cases for investors who are in dispute over the distribution of funds received from global settlements on the part of several Wall Street banks who made the settlements in an effort to resolve exposure to the financial crisis. Also in New York, Robin Cohen is a noted trial lawyer in the insurance capacity. “Robin Cohen is just on fire,” opines a peer. “She has had several big wins lately and she loves jury trials!” Cohen recently secured a critical decision for Pfizer when the Delaware Superior Court granted Pfizer’s motion for partial summary judgment in three high-stakes insurance litigations to recover three different towers of D&O insurance for three different underlying shareholder class actions.
The firm’s surging growth into other practice areas has not taken away from its runaway success in the firm’s IP niche, most based in the firm’s Dallas home base. Mike McKool, a seasoned veteran of trial law and still considered the firm’s center of gravity, is universally known for his versatility and his far-reaching experience. As of late, he has been visible in several high-profile matters in the firm’s marquis IP capacity. Since 2007, McKool has represented WiLAN in securing settlement and licensing agreements with many of the world's leading technology providers.McKool Smith secured an $85 million patent damages verdict on behalf of this client against Apple. The verdict was announced in January 2020, following a jury trial. Ted Stevenson secured a unanimous December 2019 victory before the Federal Circuit on behalf of Ericsson in a closely watched FRAND licensing dispute against TCL Communications. Douglas Cawley secured a major victory on behalf of Rovi/Tivo in March 2020 before the Federal Circuit when the Court affirmed the International Trade Commission's holding that Comcast cable boxes infringe two of a TiVo subsidiary's patents covering interactive program guides, leaving intact the commission's ban on the cable and broadband company's importation of X1 boxes. Sam Baxter, who operates out of Marshall as well as Dallas, leads the representation of plaintiff Blitzsafe Texas in ongoing patent infringement lawsuits filed against multiple car manufacturers and retailers regarding infringement of Blitzsafe automotive interface technology that allow the end user to connect a third-party external audio device or multimedia device to a car stereo in order to play the content on the device through the car stereo system and speakers.
Milbank has etched itself a unique position among national firms. Its litigation capacity spans both coasts and a number of practice areas, several of which boast practitioners considered “the best in the business.” Through its offices in New York, DC and Los Angeles, the firm has a concentration of partners attending to commercial litigation, bankruptcy, white-collar, securities and intellectual property. Clients appreciate the firm’s “record of follow up, strategy cost containment and great attorneys.”
In New York, litigation practice group leader Dan Perry is representing Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels, the license holder and operator of the Solaire Resort & Casino located in Manila, Philippines, in connection with a case filed by the Bangladesh Bank in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York relating to the alleged cyber-hacking of the Bangladesh Bank in February 2016. More recently, Perry scored in another hotel-related matter when he led a team that in June 2020 obtained, on behalf of plaintiff D2 Mark, a preliminary injunction stopping the imminent foreclosure involving interests in The Mark Hotel, a luxury hotel in New York, which shut down in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the client to miss its interest payments in May on certain mezzanine and mortgage loans. During negotiations, the client was led to believe that the defendant would agree to a 90-day forbearance. Without warning, in May, in the midst of the finalization of the negotiations, the defendant purported to notice a UCC sale of the Collateral for June 24. Perry was also involved in representing Citigroup in a class action in which holders and beneficial owners of American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”) for which Citibank served as the depositary bank, allege that Citibank charged impermissible fees when converting dividends and payments associated with the ADRs from foreign currencies into US Dollars, harming the investors. A settlement was approved in July 2019. New York’s Scott Edelman is working with Perry on this matter. Edelman, one of the firm’s most active commercial litigators, has long represented client music licensing entity Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), a client Edelman continues to provide lead counsel to in several rate-setting proceedings. The New York office is also home to George Canellos, an all-purpose securities enforcement and white-collar practitioner who is one of the most widely admired in the profession. “George has unquestioned credibility from both the bar and the bench.” Canellos’s broad-ranging practice finds him acting on behalf of entities, individuals and, in at least one example, entire industries. He is representing Société Générale Americas Securities in class-action litigation concerning alleged price fixing of unsecured debt securities issued by government sponsored entities between 2009 and 2016. The court has preliminarily approved settlements between plaintiffs and defendants. Canellos also represents one of five individuals that were the target of a September 2018 complaint filed by the SEC claiming that this group orchestrated three highly profitable “pump-and-dump” schemes from 2013 to 2018. The complaint charged the defendants with violating antifraud, beneficial ownership disclosure, and registration provisions of the federal securities laws and sought monetary and equitable relief. In October 2019, the client and his company reached a preliminary settlement with the SEC, wherein they did not admit or deny liability and agreed to pay a small civil fine plus restitution. Canellos also represents the client in a number of civil suits relating to similar allegations, all of which are currently pending.
In the DC office, the firm boasts a marquee player in the bankruptcy capacity in
Andrew Leblanc, a specialist practitioner that is unique in his trial acumen. “Most restructuring lawyers have to bring in a commercial litigator when bankruptcy turns into a food fight,” explains one peer. “That’s not the case with Andy – he is a real bankruptcy litigator, one of the ones in this area I’m nervous about going up against. He and his team [which often also includes
Dennis Dunne in the New York office] represent bondholders and creditors committees, and they are very tough. You don’t want Andy Leblanc cross examining you!” The DC office is also home to Michael Nolan, another unique practitioner, acting in the international arbitration capacity. Nolan is representing the owner of Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels and Sureste Properties in a nearly $1 billion breach of contract dispute related to the “Solaire,” the first integrated casino resort to open in Entertainment City in Manila. The dispute arises from the termination of a management services agreement pursuant to which Global Gaming Asset Management was to provide management and technical services in the development, construction, and operation of the integrated resort. The dispute involves an 8.7% equity stake in the owner’s company. A client hails Nolan as “a broadly experienced litigator and has very good communication skills as well as deep legal knowledge.”
The firm has doubled down on its intellectual capacity as of late, making the strategic hire of David Gindler, formerly with Irell & Manella, to its Los Angeles office in 2019. “That was a real coup,” ventures a peer. “David was a real star at Irell and will no doubt be given a greater platform at Milbank.” Another peer elaborates, “David is very intellectual but yet very congenial and plain-spoken – that is the best of both worlds when you’re litigating complex IP disputes.” Gindler represents a Chinese manufacturer of base station antennas, Rosenberger Asia Pacific, and related companies in defense against a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit filed by a larger US-based competitor. In addition to damages, the plaintiff has sought injunctive relief that would preclude Rosenberger from selling antennas in the US. In the New York office, Chris Gaspar represents Fujitsu Network Communications in defense of a patent infringement complaint filed in March 2020 in the Eastern District of Texas concerning Wavelength Selective Switches used in FNC’s Reconfigurable Optical Add Drop Multiplexer devices used in optical telecommunications systems. Errol Taylor, leader of the firm’s biopharma patent litigation practice, is identified as “a leader in the Hatch-Waxman area.” Taylor currently leads several patent cases for Tris.
Starting as a New England-centric shop, with roots in Boston stretching back more than 80 years, Mintz has since expanded both its geographic reach and its reputation considerably since that time. The firm has also grown its international footprint, with an office in London, as well as making a substantial push into California in 2003, with three offices in the state. “Mintz is definitely not just the firm that people in Boston are going to know,” insists one local peer. “In fact, although they’re definitely still a big name here, you’re more likely to see them in the big cases outside of Boston.”
Supporting this claim, Frank Earley, in the firm’s New York office, has been generating an increased level of profile for his securities and commercial practice. Earley led a team that represented longtime firm client, XpresSpa Group and several of its directors and former directors in a securities fraud case, in which the team achieved a decisive victory in securing a motion for summary judgment in its entirety, dismissing the plaintiffs’ federal securities claims and related breach-of-contract claim. This team also recently won a securities matter for this same client when it became embroiled in litigation with its founders after they sold the business to an earlier incarnation of the firm client in 2016 and got sellers’ remorse. In early 2019 the Mintz team won the dismissal of this litigation, which asserted various common law and securities violations, on summary judgment. The firm additionally won dismissal of further similar claims asserted by an investor friend of the founders who was persuaded to file suit. Earley also led a team representing Equitable Life & Casualty Insurance Company in a case against AXA Equitable, a direct competitor in the annuity marketplace. Equitable sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin AXA from using the name Equitable without the prefix “AXA” or another dynamic qualifier. On the day prior to the hearing, AXA rang the bell on the NYSE and implemented a major media blitz announcing its name change. A few days later, the court ordered AXA to effectively “un-ring” the bell after the Mintz team successfully argued on behalf of Equitable to secure the injunction. Also in New York, Peter Chavkin, head of the firm’s white-collar practice, is a recipient of peer plaudits. “If I were under investigation for any crime, I could call him,” insists one peer, who goes on to assert, “You may not know about him because he does so well in taking care of getting his clients out of trouble.” Chavkin led a team that represented Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, in connection with his appearances before Special Counsel Mueller’s office, and various congressional bodies, including the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and a potential obstruction of justice by Trump. Chavkin was also retained by Ruth Madoff in the well publicized implosion of her husband Bernard’s long-running Ponzi scheme. In the past year, Chavkin and his team counseled Ruth Madoff through a settlement with Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee in charge of liquidating her husband’s estate. Picard initially sought $44.8 million but settled for a tiny fraction of that claim and also guaranteed express acknowledgement that the arrangement should not be construed as any evidence that Ruth admitted to “participating in or knowing of Bernard Madoff’s fraud.” Ruth Madoff was also dismissed from every civil lawsuit in which she was named, was never charged criminally or administratively, was allowed to keep almost all of the money she had.
A litigation boutique with offices in New York, Chicago and DC, MoloLamken has quickly become a favorite among the crowded field of litigation shops. The firm earns rave reviews from clients and peers. One client succinctly sums up the firm’s appeal: “MoloLamken has a strong reputation as being effective litigators, without the inefficiencies of a large firm.”
New York’s Steven Molo remains its most recognized and revered trial lawyer. “Steven Molo delivers the goods,” crows one peer. “I’ve worked with him and I’ve worked against him. Either position provides a learning opportunity.” Another peer makes the observation, “I’m seeing them doing a lot more plaintiff work!” Lending support to this assertion, Molo is representing a hedge fund dealing in distressed debt, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit concerning $500 million of Venezuelan sovereign debt. Molo also represented directors of PetSmart and Argos Holdings in a $900 million dispute over their payment of dividends in the form of 20% of outstanding common stock of a PetSmart subsidiary. The dispute was with a group of bond holders who claimed the company was insolvent at the time of the transaction. The case was pending in the US District Court in Manhattan before it settled.
In the DC office Jeffrey Lamken, an appellate practitioner, has been in equal demand. Lamken represents VirnetX as lead appellate counsel in defending two judgments for patent infringement against Apple for $440 million and $500 million, respectively—which are on appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal circuit. Also in the DC office, Robert Kry is enjoying a steady ascent in profile. Kry represents Carpatsky in a dispute with its former joint venture partner Ukrnafta concerning efforts to develop oil and gas fields in Ukraine. Ukrnafta is Ukraine’s largest oil and gas company and is indirectly majority owned by the Ukrainian government. After a dispute over profits from the joint venture arose, Carpatsky initiated arbitration proceedings in Stockholm that resulted in a $150 million arbitral awardagainst Ukrnafta. In contested proceedings in federal court in Texas, Carpatsky obtained recognition of its $150 million award and defeated Ukrnafta’s claims of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and misappropriation of trade secrets that sought $80 million in damages from Carpatsky. In April 2020, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Acting in tandem, Kry and Molo represent the lead plaintiffs in a securities fraud class action against Alibaba and its senior officers concerning a September 2014 $25 billion IPO, subsequent to which it emerged that Alibaba had been the subject of a regulatory proceeding in which it had received stern “administrative guidance” from Chinese regulators over the prevalence of counterfeits and other illegal goods on its online marketplaces. The regulators threatened to impose billions of dollars of fines unless Alibaba took costly remedial measures that would reduce its revenues and earnings. When the administrative guidance was revealed to the public, the company’s stock dropped substantially, and lost over $10 billion in market value. The case was settled in 2019 for $250 million.
Despite operating from just one New York office, Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello’s reputation as a premier white-collar and investigations powerhouse transcends jurisdictions and its client base often traverses borders. “You won’t be involved in the white-collar world without having at least heard of Morvillo,” attests a peer. “Especially if you are in the business of representing individuals.” Although white-collar crime is the firm’s most celebrated business, the firm has expanded into cases that touch on high-end commercial as well as labor and employment issues, largely involving executives. The cases coming through the firm, while as sensitive, and often confidential, in nature as always, have become noticeably more centered around novel and cutting-edge issues such as the #MeToo movement, cryptocurrency, politically-motivated prosecutions, and social protests.
Arguably the most celebrated name on the firm’s current roster is Elkan Abramowitz, who “commands name-level recognition.” A reverent client addresses Abramowitz as “a superb lawyer,” and adds, “He is very knowledgeable and experienced and has great judgment and a terrific personality.” Abramowitz and Richard Albert led the representation of the CEO of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer, in connection with a high-profile Southern District of New York investigation relating to the well-publicized Michael Cohen scandal. Albert has his own fan base, with one peer calling him “an heir apparent to the more senior level partners.” Robert Anello is also heralded for his “unflinching approach to highly sensitive individual matters.” Anello leads the representation of a former Platinum Partners employee charged by the DoJ and SEC in connection with allegations that hedge fund assets were overvalued and that misrepresentations were made to investors. Anello resolved the criminal case by securing a deferred prosecution agreement with the government in which the government agreed to dismiss the indictment against the client with prejudice after the expiration of a two-year deferral period. Anello and Catherine Foti also handled a recent #MeToo-related case, which was particularly novel in that proceedings were conducted via ZOOM. The pair mediated the case and got it resolved. Foti is especially engaged in the #MeToo capacity, in which she acts on cases as plaintiff as well as defendant. Foti and Jodi Peikin, another practitioner operating in this space, are working together on a #MeToo case for a well-known newscaster. Foti’s practice also includes labor and employment matters. The firm is commended by peers for its development of its “next-generation” bench strength. Benjamin Fischer, a partner of younger vintage who has garnered a nearly annual increase in peer acclaim, acts (with Jonathan Sack) in the representation of the Spanish media company Imagina Group, a leading global content, production, and sports media provider, in connection with the Company's resolution of a multi-year investigation by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York into improper payments made by one-time managers of the company to obtain media and marketing rights to certain World Cup soccer qualifying matches in the Central American and Caribbean regions. Fischer also acts with another younger star, Brian Jacobs in advising more than 100 individuals addressing issues relating to undisclosed offshore accounts. The firm also got another boost of young star power in 2019 with a pair of recruits that have been dubbed “the Fraud Twins” by others within the firm for their specific focus. Telemachus Kasulis, who joined the firm in January 2019 from his post at the Southern District of New York, has been attending to criminal matters primarily in the health care industry. Christopher Harwood, another relatively recent recruit, manages a diverse practice that includes commercial and civil fraud work, as well as the criminal work typical of the firm.
Patterson Belknap has been heralded as “perhaps the most underrated firm in New York” by a peer. “They should be referenced more often as one of the very best. They very hard workers, and yet all pleasant, very ethical, just some really smart people who are also tough litigators.” The firm has its fans among former members of the judiciary as well. The firm’s practice offering covers a diverse spectrum, spanning commercial matters, white-collar crime, antitrust, intellectual property, securities and false advertising claims, an area in which the firm is said to be one of the few major players. The firm’s hybrid model also affords it the freedom to take on cases in the plaintiff and defense roles. Patterson Belknap has also made headlines as of late for matters involving a more novel nature.
In one example of such uniqueness, Daniel Ruzumna made the news in March 2020 as one of the firm partners filing an audacious lawsuit on behalf of watchdog group American Oversight against Donald Trump and White House adviser Jared Kushner, alleging a private Trump advisory group on clemency is violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act by not filing a charter, and by keeping their meetings and documents concealed from the public. Ruzumna also represented a former trader at Premium Point Investments (PPI) who was charged by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the SEC with securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. The charges relate to the alleged mismarking of bonds in PPI’s portfolio of securities and other bond valuation practices. Trial in this matter began in June 2019 and concluded in July 2019, with a guilty verdict. Among Ruzumna’s fans in the community is a former judge [now a partner at a prestigious firm], who cheers, “Dan is phenomenal, he was the lead lawyer in the 650 5th Ave case. He was brought in at the time of trial. He had a hard case but he was always prepared, zealous and careful, just a terrific trial lawyer.” In another headline case of public interest, Muhammad Faridi has drafted amicus briefs on behalf of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council 119, a union of asylum officers in federal litigation in support of plaintiffs challenging the Trump Administration’s actions limiting asylum and refugee resettlement in the US. These filings argue that the measures promulgated by the government violate international and domestic law governing the treatment of refugees, require the union’s constituents to violate their oath to uphold the laws of the US and betray the US’ longstanding and defining tradition of providing safe haven to those who are persecuted at a time of unprecedented global displacement. Faridi is also part of a team, which includes Peter Tomlinson and Robert Lobue, representing Ambac who, in 2010, sued embattled mortgage originator Countrywide in New York Supreme Court alleging pervasive fraud and breaches of representations and warranties made by Countrywide relating to the mortgage loans underlying 12 RMBS transactions. Saul Shapiro represents Bravo Media and Realand Productions, subsidiaries of NBCUniversal, in an action brought by the former producers of the television show “Real Housewives of Orange County.” Steve Zalesin is the firm’s False Advertising authority, widely considered one of the most prominent in the field. A fellow litigator in this capacity observes, “Steve represents J&J and is constantly in these types of disputes.” Zalesin represents The Hershey Company in a putative class action in federal court in California alleging that the statement “No Artificial Flavors” on the packaging for Hershey’s Brookside Dark Chocolate products is false and misleading because malic acid, an ingredient in the products, allegedly functions as an artificial flavor. In November 2019, the court granted his motion for summary judgment dismissing the claims of the individual plaintiffs and denied plaintiffs’ class certification motion. Zalesin also represented Clorox in a Lanham Act suit against its chief competitor Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Lysol products. The suit concerned a wide range of Lysol advertisements that contained false and misleading comparisons to multiple Clorox products, including Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. The case settled on confidential terms.
Paul Weiss’s litigation department has seen no shortage of “good years” over the course of the past decade. However, it would not be an exaggeration to describe the past year as simply extraordinary. The firm has continued to go from strength to strength in building its profile through strategic hiring, mentoring, and maintaining a level of prestige among its peers. Its stable of stars, already strong and comprehensive, got a substantial upgrade in 2020 when it lured two DC-based key players, antitrust specialist Bill Isaacson and trial luminary Karen Dunn, to its bench from Boies Schiller. These recruits are unanimously viewed by the community as a material coup and, coupled with a continuing amplification of talent in its flagship New York office, have built quite a buzz around the firm. “I have even heard rumblings about them opening an office in California, and I would be shocked if this didn’t play out.” The speculation proved to be correct; the firm launched an office in the Silicon Valley in July 2020, staffed with two more Boies Schiller recruits, securing a foothold on the West Coast. It would be somewhat of an understatement to mention that the firm has also done quite well in terms of taking on – and winning – landmark cases. One peer quips in summation, “Paul Weiss is still the firm to beat – what else is new?”
Indeed the firm kicked of 2020 with a milestone win for ExxonMobil in contentious climate change litigation. Suing under New York’s infamous Martin Act, a New York Attorney General wanted $1.6 billion in damages from ExxonMobil, alleging that the energy giant made material misstatements about how it accounted for climate-related risks, which in turn had a material impact on investors. In December 2019, after a 12-day trial, a New York State Supreme Court Justice sided with the defense. This landmark climate-change lawsuit in New York state court is believed to be the first such case ever to be tried to verdict. Ted Wells, not only the firm’s most recognizable trial lawyer but arguably one of the most celebrated trial lawyers in the country, and Dan Toal led the defense. This remarkable triumph landed the firm an “impact case” award at the 2020 Benchmark awards ceremony, and further cemented Wells’ prestigious position as a ”hall of fame” award recipient at the same gala.
Jay Cohen represents Altice USA, formerly known as Cablevision Systems Corporation, as a key third-party witness and interested party in connection with T-Mobile’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of wireless carrier rival Sprint, including responding to requests for information by the DoJ’s Antitrust Division in its antitrust investigation of the proposed merger. Cohen, a commercial litigator with a niche in entertainment law, also represents the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and 14 independent music publishers in a copyright infringement action brought against Peloton Interactive, alleging that Peloton used more than 2,300 of the publishers’ musical works in Peloton workout videos in willful violation of the copyright laws. The case was resolved shortly thereafter. David Bernick is representing Dow Chemical and its corporate parent DowDupont in defending numerous class actions alleging that Dow, together with several other manufacturers and sellers, conspired to raise prices for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate, chemicals primarily used in the production of polyurethane products.Brad Karp, a securities advocate who viewed by many as the nerve center of Paul Weiss, represents Morgan Stanley in a criminal investigation by the DoJ involving alleged price fixing and collusion in the US agency bond market. In addition, Karp is representing this client in related civil litigation and several opt-out matters that was filed in March 2019 following public news reports of the DoJ investigation. A final order approving settlement of the civil case was issued in June 2020. Susannah Buergel acts with Karp on this matter. Karp also is defending Citigroup and certain affiliates in a multidistrict litigation alleging that Citi and various other banks conspired in a group boycott to reduce competition in interest-rate swap trading, raising prices for purchasers of the swaps. The action includes a putative class of purchasers of interest rate swaps, as well as individual plaintiff companies that allegedly attempted to launch interest-rate swap trading platforms.
Ken Gallo, a prominent antitrust figure in the DC office, acts with Karp on the aforementioned matter. Gallo also led a team that defended Bumble Bee Foods against claims that it and two other companies conspired to fix prices in the US packaged tuna market. Plaintiffs include putative classes of direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and commercial food preparers, and large merchants in individual related litigations.DC’s Mark Mendelsohn is a frequent recipient of acclaim from peers in the white-collar and securities enforcement field. “Mark is a fierce advocate but he keeps it in the courtroom. He is a real boardroom lawyer – you put him in any boardroom he’s going to do exceedingly well.” Kanon Shanmugam, a “young gun” of the appellate world who recently joined the firm from Williams & Connolly, boasts a significant track record of Supreme Court appearances “particularly for someone of his vintage.” This past year alone, Shanmugam has appeared on landmark appeals (at the Supreme Court and other appeals courts) on his own, involving a variety of subject matters. One action found Shanmugam acting in concert with intellectual property partners Nicholas Groombridge and Eric Stone, with the trio securing a major appellate victory in April 2018 on behalf of Vanda Pharmaceuticals. Peers view the firm’s IP practice is another example of Paul Weiss’s prowess in “reinventing itself through development.” One peer asserts, “Paul Weiss was historically known for securities, antitrust and white-collar, sure, but IP was never their calling card. But they sure are in that space now. They have an active life sciences practice. Nick Groombridge has a really great way about him. He’s just a normal guy and he presents well to a jury, generally clients really love him, he’s really smart.”
A plaintiff shop with offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, covering both coasts as well as the heartland, Pomerantz is known for its prodigious capacity for cases and its tenacity to keep pursuing them. “I feel like Pomerantz is everywhere right now,” declares one peer. “They are filing everything!” The firm made heads turn and landed in national headlines when, in January and February 2018, the firm, as sole lead counsel for the class, along with lead plaintiff Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited, achieved an eye-popping $3 billion settlement with Brazil’s energy giant, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A, otherwise known as Petrobras. “That Petrobras case was just huge,” testifies a peer. “Everyone was pretty blown away when they scored that.”
The partners responsible for the Petrobras case, including New York’s Jeremy Lieberman and Emma Gilmore, has kept exceedingly busy ever since. Lieberman set an important, ground-breaking precedent for global investors in Perrigo with the first certification of parallel classes of investors, domestic and international, that purchased dually listed securities on the New York Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Perrigo, a global manufacturer of over-the-counter consumer healthcare products, generic drugs, and branded pharmaceuticals, has been alleged to have made materially false and misleading statements regarding the company’s business and competitive environment, first to defeat a hostile tender offer from its competitor Mylan, then to stem the decline in its shares after the Mylan tender offer expired unsuccessfully in November 2015. Lieberman is also part of a team (led by future star and new partner Austin Van) representing five major Israeli pension companies as lead plaintiffs against Mylan, alleging that Mylan misled investors about wide-ranging wrongful conduct, namely overcharging Medicare for the EpiPen by hundreds of millions of dollars, and engaging in anticompetitive activity to raise the price of the EpiPen. More recently, Lieberman led a team that, as of August 2020, has achieved $35 million in settlements in this ongoing antitrust litigation against multiple defendants on behalf of a class of U.S. lending institutions that suffered losses as a result of the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal, which impacted trillions of dollars in investments. This closely watched multi-district litigation alleges that the class suffered damages as a result of collusive manipulation by the LIBOR contributor panel banks that artificially suppressed the LIBOR rate during the class period, causing the class members to receive lower interest payments than they would have otherwise received.
Quinn Emanuel’s maverick approach in the legal market has proven not only wildly successful, but also qualitatively transformative. “It’s hard to even remember what the litigation world was like before Quinn Emanuel,” muses one seasoned partner at a rival firm. “Whatever it was, we’re not going back to it. Quinn turned the old model upside-down and changed the game forever.” Another peer elucidates on this point; “Once upon a time, you had Big Law and you had litigation boutiques…and then you had Quinn, and suddenly here was this global white-shoe powerhouse built on nothing but high-end litigation!” Since its Los Angeles-based genesis, the firm has morphed into a global juggernaut, continuing to build on its existing strong bench with an ever-expanding stable of new recruits. “We see Quinn Emanuel a LOT,” testifies a peer, who humorously adds, “More than I’d care to! But they are doing their job keeping us with our work cut out for us. I have a joke going with [firm founder and visionary and commercial trial lawyer] John Quinn, ‘I have to root for you because when Quinn does well, we do well!’” In addition to its behemoth status as a litigation shop, more specifically it is known as an incubator for true courtroom warriors, as the “Trial Lawyers” subtitle to its branding makes sure to drive home. The firm pursues the trial-ready agenda with zeal, and indeed the firm makes a strong showing in Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers list, with no fewer than four of its partners nominated every year since the list’s inception. “Quinn breeds a reputation of ‘If you want someone who’s ready to sling mud and not just roll over and settle, call us.’”
Mike Carlinsky, in the firm’s New York office, is routinely addressed by all familiar with him as “Quinn’s big gun.” One peer testifies, “On the plaintiff side of commercial and insurance cases, he is the one I see the most, and man, is he good!” Another insists, “Mike is a cowboy but a streetwise one, he knows the ins and outs, and clients love him.” Still another jokes in summation, “I have dreams about Mike Carlinsky, and they all involve him chasing me.” Another “big gun,” Daniel Brockett, also in New York, is known as a force in the antitrust arena. “Dan Brockett is still going strong as our principal antagonist. He is a hustler and has some really impressive clients. In the antitrust space Dan is one of the biggest players, maybe the biggest. He also does securities.” Another peer elaborates, “Dan was able to pull together about 1,300 opt-outs, a mini ‘class action’ if you will.” Richard Werder, the managing partner of the New York office, is known for “just quietly going gangbusters on a number of cases involving billions.” Among his recent engagements, Werder represented Access Industries in an action by a post-bankruptcy litigation trustee seeking more than $3 billion in damages under fraudulent transfer, preference, and breach of fiduciary duty theories following bankruptcy of company formed through leveraged merger. After a three-week trial, Werder obtained a defense verdict on over $3 billion of claims. The firm’s trial prowess has been championed in bankruptcy matters as well. “They represent litigious bondholders who don’t want to settle,” notes a peer. Susheel Kirpalani is regularly identified as a standout by insolvency peers.”
With offices in New York, Washington, DC, and London, Richards Kibbe & Orbe is “international in scope, with customized offerings,” according to one peer and is highly regarded for its bench of talented litigators. The firm handles a variety of matters involving bankruptcy, civil, financial, regulatory, and white-collar criminal litigation. Lee Richards is a founding partner at the firm and is noted by one peer as a “legend” in the white-collar space. Among his current matters, Richards represented a public brand management company in investigations by the SEC and Department of Justice into alleged revenue recognition and accounting irregularities. Working alongside Richards is fellow star Shari Brandt, who has over 20 years of experience assisting a variety of companies and individuals in complex litigation and government investigations. “Shari Brandt runs a solid practice,” insists a peer. Brandt is counsel for former and current senior executives involved in a federal class action alleging antitrust violations arising out of a claimed conspiracy among bank defendants to stymie the growth of open access markets for interest rate swaps on swap execution facilities following implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act. Discovery was substantially completed in April 2019, and the case has now moved to the class certification stage. Daniel Zinman focuses his practice on handling complex financial disputes and government enforcement matters, as well as professional liability. ZInman served as counsel for a national law firm in a derivative lawsuit filed in New York State in which the plaintiffs seek rescission of two Stock Purchase Agreements on the grounds that they were induced by fraud. James Walker is increasingly making a name for himself for his practice that traverses commercial litigation, white-collar and government investigations, and professional liability. Walker and Zinman advised a Global AmLaw 200 firm in connection with a client’s claim that the firm had exceeded the scope of an advance conflict waiver in connection with the firm’s representation of another client in a restructuring of the client’s debt. The pair also advised the firm in connection with the ensuing litigation between the two clients.
Robins Kaplan has etched itself a unique position on the legal landscape, and it has done so through a strategy of smart, strategic expansion and a bold agenda of cultivating trial lawyers who take on cases, often in the plaintiff capacity, with a high risk/reward ratio. A peer quips, “They sue banks, they sue Big Pharma, they’re animals!” Robins Kaplan is a favorite with clients, one of whom testifies, “The firm is exceptional at legal strategy, writing briefs, and oral argument.” Another confirms, “The partners I work with are extremely responsive, dedicated to the tasks at hand and creative. They are very nice people too.” While the firm is perhaps best known for its intellectual property and antitrust capacity, focused primarily in its Minneapolis and New York offices, as of late they have been garnering more attention in the commercial arena, as well as the securities class-action space, the one practice area in which the firm is strictly defense-oriented.
Robins Kaplan’s New York office has seen a pronounced spike in its profile recently, which is largely credited to Craig Weiner and future star Lisa Coyle in the financial and commercial group. Weiner is known for “doing a lot of professional malpractice and some entertainment. He represents some celebrities, usually in their investments, including a rapper you have definitely heard of!” Coyle receives a glowing accolade from a client: “Lisa stands out as the sharpest and most brilliant lawyer in New York City. She excels at complex strategy formation and always knows the right next step. She has excellent client relationships and is an incredible leader. As a female client, I feel so fortunate to get the opportunity to work with a powerhouse female lawyer like Lisa. She is never intimidated by even the most aggressive adversary. She stands firmly in her ethical beliefs and brings an impressive level of aggressiveness and enthusiasm to her cases. She is extremely responsive, manages her practice very well and is a pleasure to work with.” Weiner and Coyle served as counsel to film, television, and gaming production company Liquid Media and several of its directors, who are being sued by the company’s former CEO and her company for $10.5 million for breach of contract, defamation and discrimination. The parties settled on terms favorable to the client. The New York office is also home to the firm’s antitrust capacity, for which Hollis Salzman is routinely acknowledges as “one of the best” by peers. “Hollis is tough but not nasty, and she is a trailblazer in the plaintiff antitrust world. She comes from a class-action firm [Labaton Sucharow] but since she got to Robins Kaplan she has a much greater platform – she does opt-outs, compliance – and she also is now in the company of trial lawyers!” Robins Kaplan has also been long known for its IP prowess, with lawyers acknowledged as “aggressive trial lawyers who do a lot of pharma patent litigation for generic companies.” A client elaborates on the firm’s IP depth and skill set: “Robins Kaplan has handled commercial litigation for me that involves IP, trademark, and copyright infringement, and overall assisted me with a dispute in which I was wrongfully cheated out of my ownership stake in the business I created.” Operating from both the Minneapolis and New York office, Chris Larus is called “the future of that firm’s strategy for sure. He’s sharp, he likes to take on ‘Big Tech,’ and in the classic Robins Kaplan style, he doesn’t shirk from trial work.”
With offices in New York and DC, Schulte Roth & Zabel is praised by peers for its “very high-quality” work, primarily in the financial services sector. “Schulte has really come to dominate in certain areas,” observes one peer. “They have always been a go-to for private equity and hedge funds, and now they have cornered the market in areas like cryptocurrency as well.” The firm’s demonstrated strengths in the securities and white-collar areas have been prominently on display in a number of matters for a diverse spectrum of clients.
In one example of the firm’s expertise in the cryptocurrency sector, a team composed of DC partner Howard Schiffman and New York partners Michael Swartz and Gary Stein advised ParagonCoin in a trailblazing settlement with the SEC that effectively put an end to the uncertainties of the legal status of cryptocurrencies. A securities-focused partner, Swartz is also advising Starboard Value in a securities class action involving Advance Auto Parts and is also advising Veritas Capital in multiple class actions. Over the last two years, Swartz has also secured multiple hard-fought victories for venBio Select Advisor in a proxy campaign that was subject to an unusual level of litigation over many novel issues. New York’s Harry Davis represented National Bank of Canada and various Canadian and US subsidiaries in a major litigation relating to the alleged manipulation of a benchmark rate known as the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (CDOR). In March 2019, Davis secured a dismissal of a putative class action alleging the manipulation of CDOR in its entirety.
The firm’s white-collar practice has seen a significant ramping up as of late as well. DC white-collar star Adam Hoffinger is representing the former Chairman and CEO of Anham, a Dubai-based government contracting and procurement company, against an indictment filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, charging violations of Iran sanctions in connection with providing food to US troops in Afghanistan.“Adam Hoffinger is quite a character,” offers a peer. “He has a certain level of aplomb that is tailor-made for the types of cases he takes on. And what cases! If you talk to him, get ready for hours of war stories!” Also based in DC, Peter White acts for Robert Jesenik, the chief executive of Oregon-based Aequitas Management (later revealed to be a Ponzi scheme) in the largest SEC enforcement case in Oregon’s history. The SEC’s complaint alleged that Aequitas defrauded over 1,500 investors nationwide by not disclosing the company’s true financial situation, using money from new investors to pay earlier investors, and not investing the money in healthcare, education, and transportation-related investments, as investors had been told, but rather using the funds in order to keep the firm afloat. The SEC sought permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and monetary penalties from all defendants, as well as bars prohibiting Jesenik and two other company officials from serving as officers or directors of any public company. Moving into 2020, the case is now a criminal one, with several Aequitas executives issuing guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. White continues to defend Jesenik in respect of the criminal probe. The New York office has a white-collar star of its own in Barry Bohrer, a celebrated figure in the community. Bohrer advised Joseph Percoco, a former senior aide and campaign manager to Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, in a well-publicized investigation involving improper lobbying and conflicts of interest. In a mixed verdict, Percoco was convicted in 2018 of three corruption charges, but cleared of four others. Percoco was found guilty of engaging in “pay-to-play” scams with two energy companies seeking to do business with and influence the state, and was convicted of soliciting bribes from Competitive Power Ventures, but acquitted of extortion. After a federal appeals court ordered Percoco to prison in March 2019 to serve six years, Bohrer continues to appeal the conviction and fight for Percoco’s release, arguing before the Second Circuit appeals court in March 2020. (Percoco, for his part, maintains his innocence.)
Founded in 2018 and operating out of a single location in New York, Selendy & Gay is a litigation boutique that spans well beyond the city’s borders and has generated buzz among fellow litigators from all corners of the country. This is undoubtedly due to the star power of its personnel; partners Philippe Selendy
and Faith Gay were both “dynamos” at their former firm
Quinn Emanuel before decamping to forge what peers now address as “one of the most talked-about litigation shops.” The firm’s compact size and lack of bureaucracy allows it freedom to experiment with “cases that fall outside the boundaries of the ‘traditional’ cases that bigger firms deal with” as well as greater flexibility on rates. “They have been taking on some interesting work, like public interest cases, which they couldn’t have done before,” observes a peer.
Gay, known for a diverse practice that combines commercial and white-collar matters, is representing a class of public servants in a sweeping federal class-action suit against the student loan servicer Navient for misleading borrowers as to their eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a federal program adopted in 2007 to help bridge the gap between the cost of higher education requirements for public service positions and the lower salaries those positions offer. Since then, 28,000 public servants have applied under the program, but only 96 people have actually received loan forgiveness. Effectively, according to recently released data, 98% of borrowers who submitted applications for this program have been rejected since October 2017.
Selendy, who generated celebrity status through his nearly uninterrupted series of eye-popping settlements with a “who’s who” of banks while at his former firm, has continued to enjoy a strong profile as a “creative and forward-thinking securities and commercial litigation star,” particularly on the plaintiff side of the “V.” Supporting this claim is Selendy’s prominence in the burgeoning cryptocurrency area, a field in which he is engaged in several cases. In one, he represents National Public Finance Guarantee against eight major banks to hold them accountable for alleged inequitable conduct in Puerto Rico's municipal bond market, which contributed to Puerto Rico's economic collapse. The clients, bond insurers that have been presented with, and fully honored, over a billion dollars in claims after the municipal debt underwritten by the banks became unsustainable on their terms for the Commonwealth and its agencies and they defaulted on their obligations. In another case, Selendy represents cryptocurrency investors in a putative class action alleging that the controllers of the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex falsely represented that their purportedly “stable” cryptocurrency Tether was backed by US Dollars in order to control the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in an elaborate market-manipulation scheme that cost investors hundreds of billions of dollars. Working with the latter case with Selendy is Caitlin Halligan, an appellate star formerly with Gibson Dunn who peers view as a significant augmentation to the firm’s bench. Halligan handled an appeal in a lawsuit filed by a former New York police officer on behalf of hundreds of thousands of New York City public employees and retirees, alleging that health insurance company Group Health Incorporated violated New York’s consumer protection law by disseminating marketing materials that misrepresented critical aspects of out-of-network coverage. The New York Court of Appeals found in Halligan’s client’s favor, a significant victory for consumers. Halligan also, along with David Elsberg, represents the BVI Liquidator of the Fairfield Funds, the largest feeder funds into the Madoff Ponzi scheme, in prosecuting over 250 clawback actions in the Southern District of New York commenced against Funds’ redeemers, including many major financial institutions. The clawback actions, pending in the Bankruptcy Court, seek the return to the Funds of over $6 billion in overpaid redemptions. In December 2018, the Bankruptcy Court dismissed claims seeking restitution under BVI common law and contract theories. Halligan and Elsberg are in the process of appealing those decisions in the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
A fully-integrated international law firm, Shearman & Sterling has been at the forefront of some headline-making litigation on a global basis and is routinely recognized as a leading legal entity by lawyers from Europe to Southeast Asia. With most of its 20 offices being based in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, some would even argue it would not due the firm justice to be assessed on just a one-country level given its global reach. Nonetheless, within the States the firm is called upon most often for its experience and acumen with matters of the securities and white-collar and FCPA enforcement variety and is quickly developing a leading profile in the antitrust space as well.
New York’s Adam Hakki remains a perennial peer favorite, with glowing reviews offered on a unanimous basis. “Adam is just dynamite,” offers one peer. “He’s just exceptionally hard-working and just shows up everywhere. He also is just consistently pleasant, which may not sound like a big deal but when you consider the amount of work he takes on, it’s somewhat remarkable.” Further exemplifying Hakki’s weighty remit, in addition to his own litigation practice he also holds the position of the firm’s Global Managing Partner. Hakki maintains his “sweet spot” with a “huge presence” in the securities capacity but of late has been noted for a good deal of antitrust work as well. Hakki recently achieved a victory on behalf of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in a putative antitrust class action. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had conspired to manipulate LIBOR, despite the highly publicized LIBOR scandals in recent years, the numerous reforms of the rate submission process, and intense regulatory scrutiny. Hakki also achieved a victory for US- and Mexico-based Bank of America entities in a putative class action alleging that that Bank of America, among other financial institutions, conspired to manipulate the prices at which defendants bought Mexican government bonds at auction and the prices at which defendants sold Mexican government bonds in the secondary market. In September 2019, the Southern District of New York granted Hakki’s motion to dismiss in the Mexican Government Bonds class action, where billions in damages were alleged.
In the securities practice for which he is routinely celebrated, Hakki has demonstrated not only his own litigation acumen but has also highlighted the skill sets of his colleagues. Hakki and Agnès Dunogué achieved a significant litigation victory in a putative securities class action brought in the Southern District of New York related to the infamous “Volpocalypse,” in which the VIX (volatility index) collapsed in February 2018, with billions of dollars in resulting investor losses. The suit was brought by purchasers of the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF, who alleged the Registration Statement for the ETF contained misstatements and omissions in violation of the Securities Act of 1933, and generally alleged that the ETF was highly leveraged and unable to adequately hedge its risks because of historically low market volatility and competition from other investment vehicles for the hedging contracts the ETF needed to carry out its investment objections. Hakki and Dunogue represented multiple entities that entered into an Authorized Participant Agreement to create and redeem shares of the ETF on behalf of those who traded the ETF on the secondary market. These Authorized Participants were alleged to be underwriters subject to liability under the Securities Act. In January 2020, the class action was dismissed in its entirety and with prejudice. Dunogué is called out by peers as “someone who is coming up fast and deserves more notice. She is very sophisticated in securities and does a lot of work with Adam Hakki.” Another frequent teammate of Hakki’s, Jeffrey Resetarits, is also generating a good deal of traction. “Keep your eye on him,” advises a colleague at one of New York’s top firms. “We’ve been seeing more of him lately and we are very impressed. He and Adam Hakki just had a nice win [in March 2019] in a matter involving CDOR [Canadian Dollar Offered Rate.]”
Commercial and white-collar star Stephen Fishbein, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, successfully represented fintech software and services company SS&C as lead trial counsel in trade secret litigation against Clearwater Analytics alleging misappropriation of trade secrets. Clearwater recruited an SS&C sales executive, who brought with him to Clearwater sales pipelines, client lists and other confidential information. At a two-week trial, Fishbein argued that SS&C was entitled to a “reasonable royalty” based on the value of the information at the time of theft, and that Clearwater should also pay punitive damages. The jury returned a verdict of $44 million, consisting of $16 million in compensatory damages and $28 million in punitive damages. Fishbein and fellow white-collar and enforcement star John Nathanson conducted a high-profile trial for Christopher Worrall, a federal government employee. Worrall was charged with conversion of government property and insider trading in the DoJ’s criminal case relating to leaks of information from his employer, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The client was acquitted of 14 out of the 16 counts against him, including all of the conspiracy and securities fraud counts. In the antitrust space, Fishbein is also representing 1-800 Contacts, an online retailer of contact lenses, in a matter that claims the client unlawfully orchestrated a web of anticompetitive agreements with rival online contact lens sellers that suppress competition in certain online search advertising auctions and that restrict internet advertising to consumers. Acting with Fishbein on this matter is Todd Stenerson, a DC-based antitrust practitioner that is steadily gaining more notice. “Todd is an incredibly smart and thoughtful trial lawyer,” testifies one peer. “With these big mega-cases, you think about trial or settlement, but Todd is taking depositions, making decisions, really thinking about how this is going to play out in trial. That’s not something you see every day.”
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett boasts a long history as one of New York’s, and the country’s, most esteemed full-service legal brands. Its litigation and disputes capacity enjoys access to a blue-ribbon client base that is generated entrepreneurially as well as spun off from the firm’s globally ranging corporate stock, which runs the gamut of everything from brand name pharmaceutical entities to online giants to hedge funds. Simpson Thacher is also noted as being one of the classic white-shoe firms that is more comprehensive in terms of national coverage, with partners in its DC and Palo Alto offices playing increasing roles in litigation individually or in tandem with the New York team. A dominant presence in the areas of securities, antitrust and insurance, the firm has also made more recent entries into other areas, such as intellectual property, with proven success. “Simpson Thacher is a go-to firm for any type of legal dispute,” offers a client in summation. “Any individual or entity that retains them is going to get the best counsel possible.”
An area of particular note that the firm has doubled down on is its white-collar and investigations area, a relatively recent development that has taken root with astonishing momentum, which not gone unnoticed by peers and clients. An impressed New York peer chirps, “Simpson Thacher has really come up! If you would have asked me three years ago about their white-collar group, I would have told you ‘they don’t really have one.’ But they have really reinvigorated it. Steve Cutler knows how boards operate, he gets the dynamic between management and boards, which is valuable. Brooke Cucinella is really strong overall, in criminal and in more securities enforcement. Nick Goldin seems like he would be the trial lawyer of the bunch. Between them, they now have a really meaningful group.” Another peer testifies, “My relationships with Simpson are primarily on the white-collar side. I have worked on multiple matters with [DC-based partner] Jeffrey Knox, Joshua Levine and Nick Goldin. They are all very effective white-collar defense lawyers and they all bring slightly different skill sets. Jeff is a very-plugged-in, highly strategic former DoJ Fraud Section lawyer (he ran the FCPA Unit), Josh is a very smart, very effective lawyer's lawyer, who has tremendous judgment, no ego, and real credibility. Nick is a very dynamic, very smart lawyer as well. The trio are really exceptional and standout in a market crowded with great lawyers. The relatively recent additions of Steve Cutler (who chairs the practice) and Brooke Cucinella who has real trial chops, just strengthen an already very strong crew. Steve is exceptional smart, strategic and experienced. Brooke is a trial jock with a lot of charisma. [They are a] Very good team with complementary skills.” Clients are also vocally appreciative; “In particular, the firm's government and internal investigations practice is at the very top of that field,” declares one. “[They have] Tremendous strategic sense, real inside knowledge of how DoJ/Main Justice operates, and are very good at navigating complex investigations.” Speaking to the individual partners, a client comments on Goldin: “Nick is the complete package. [He is] Analytically gifted and rigorous, attune to business and personal needs, practical and aggressive. Based on his experience and skill set, Nick has the ability to see the entire field and anticipate where investigations and litigation are headed.”
Mary Beth Forshaw and Lynn Neuner, two figureheads in the firm’s famed insurance practice, remain active in representing two major excess property insurers, XL Insurance America and QBE Insurance Group Limited, in hard-fought disputes arising from hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage and business interruption claims at St. Thomas’ largest hotel property. These claims arose from major damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, which ultimately resulted in a rebuild of the property costing in excess of $300 million. The policyholder commenced litigation in the Virgin Islands, and the Firm’s insurance clients commenced a competing action in New York. The outcome of the case hinged on application of Virgin Island building codes, the scope of permitted renovation, and the resolved shortly before trial. Both partners have been appointees to
Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation since its inception, and Neuner appears for the second consecutive year as one of Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers. Beyond insurance, Neuner also keeps busy with commercial and securities cases and has also emerged as one of New York’s few major players in the false advertising capacity.
Neuner represented Bayer in defending its advertising for Claritin-D against a challenge brought by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Flonase, an allergy spray. Glaxo challenged whether Bayer has reasonable substantiation for the claim that based on label indications, Claritin-D relieves eight symptoms, but Flonase relieves only six. In April 2019, it was concluded that Bayer provided a reasonable basis for its claim. In March 2020, Neuner logged another win for this client when the National Advertising Review Board reversed a September 2019 decision of the National Advertising Division and found that Bayer provided reasonable and reliable scientific support for the claims that Aleve is “proven better on pain than Tylenol Extra Strength” and that Aleve is “proven better on pain than Tylenol” for the first six hours post-dosing.
New York-based securities figurehead Jonathan Youngwood and Palo Alto-based Jim Kreissman have kept busy in a range of actions concerning ubiquitous online juggernauts such as Twitter and Alibaba. In addition to his role as one of the firm’s most active securities practitioners, Youngwood has also pursued a zealous pro bono agenda, which last year saw him scoring a big win in a matter concerning racial profiling among police in Mississippi. The firm’s antitrust practice, largely based out of DC, has also seen a spike in prominence as of late. The bulk of this work falls into the buckets of cartel work, regulatory defense and criminal matters, and also includes a good deal of work in the class-action space, in which John Terzaken, the global co-chair of the practice, dedicates a good deal of his time. Peter Guryan focuses more on merger work, and Sara Razi is known for assisting private equity clients in strategic transactions, many of which are outside the US, as well as clients in industries ranging from energy to healthcare.
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan is a multidisciplinary firm known for providing legal services to some of the nation’s leading corporations, investment funds, entrepreneurs, and financial institutions. The firm, and particularly co-managing partner Alan Klinger, is particularly noted for its niche in representing labor unions and its work in the labor and employment capacity. “Alan Klinger is well known as a leader in the labor area, and he also does a good deal of ERISA work too,” confirms a peer. Long known for its position as a New York institution, the firm has of late made additional inroads in markets such as Los Angeles, where Julia Strickland is renowned for her acuity with class actions, and Miami, where Laura Besvinick has made her mark in the insurance litigation field.
James Bernard, one of the firm’s leading commercial and securities litigators in New York, represented HSBC in a purported class-action litigation concerning fees charged for various inspections performed on properties that fell into default on mortgage payments and whether those fees were necessary. After moving to dismiss, which was granted in part and denied in part, the parties proceeded to class discovery, including experts. There were numerous discovery disputes and related issues addressed by the District Court Judge and the Magistrate Judge, and eventually the parties mediated the case. Bernard also represents a group of individuals who obtained judgments against Iran for aiding and abetting terrorist activity that resulted in the deaths of their family members. Bernard engaged to help located Iranian assets in the US and obtain those assets to satisfy these judgments.
Besvinick has recently secured a string of wins for client ZTE USA and its Chinese parent corporation, ZTE Corporation, in federal courts across the United States stemming from an earlier victory she obtained for ZTE in a weeks-long international arbitration case tried in Florida. ZTE’s five wins in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington demonstrate successful strategies for defending against creative attempts by claimants to avoid confirmation of an unfavorable arbitration award or limit the award’s dispositive effect on future court cases arising out of the same dispute. Besvinick is also representing an affiliate of AIG in a matter on remand from a December 2016 ruling from the Florida Supreme Court related to coverage for losses with multiple covered and excluded causes. Besvinick has been representing AIG since April 2019 in the matter, replacing predecessor counsel. Daniel Fliman, a bankruptcy partner that the firm had recently recruited from Kasowitz Benson Torres, represented secured prepetition and DIP lenders in the bankruptcy of Waypoint Leasing Holdings, helicopter leasing companies headquartered in Ireland, and its subsidiary.
Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz operates out of its one and only office in New York, but the firm’s prestige is undeniably national, and increasingly, international in scope. “Everyone knows Wachtell, or knows about them, and for very obvious reasons. They are masters at what they do.” The “what they do” is a reference to the firm’s famed M&A dispute practice, which, coupled with its transactional corporate practice, has allowed Wachtell do nothing short of corner a market. “Wachtell has decided that they want to pivot to doing work that is strictly focused around public company M&A work – that is where you get the premium work.” However, peers are quick to note, “They are not only about Delaware corporate disputes, although they obviously occupy a huge space in that world.” One peer marvels, “Increasingly, when I look at Wachtell, I am stunned by the growing level of diversity. I’m seeing a lot more international arbitration, which was never considered Wachtell’s forté, but with cross-border deals falling into dispute, [the firm’s services] are more in demand.” Another peer offers in summation, “Wachtell is obviously great, we view them with great admiration.”
Wachtell has seen increased activity in antitrust work as of late, mainly related to deals. The most recent and public of these concerns the firm’s representation of Altria in the wake of an April 2020 complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning formerly competing vape entities Altria and Juul. The FTC viewed Altria’s exit from the e-cigarette market and subsequent investment in 35% of Juul as anticompetitive and brought a suit to undo the deal. The firm is also said to be doing more work related to a new wave of 10-B(5) securities suits that are being brought by plaintiffs against financial institutions concerning the banks’ alleged mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis.
One of the litigation group’s heads, William Savitt is increasingly addressed by peers as “Wachtell’s main guy.” One extols, “Bill Savitt is the best in the business. His judgment is exquisite.” Another peer, based in Delaware, confirms, “Bill is constantly in Delaware, and he has exactly the right tone for the Chancery court. He’s sort of become the go-to here. Wachtell of course has a really good core, but Bill is omnipresent.” Savitt, along with another celebrated younger partner, Steve DiPrima, is litigating for Cigna regarding its merger transaction with Anthem, which did not go forward on antitrust grounds, regarding the question as to whether or not Cigna can obtain a breakup fee, estimated to be roughly $1.5 billion. Savitt and DiPrima are being assisted in this case by future stars Steven Winter and Graham Meli, and the firm is waiting on an opinion. Savitt is also representing a regional bank in Minneapolis in litigation dealing with a hostile takeover of the bank by its own majority stockholder. Ryan McLeod, another future star, is championed by peers as “incredibly smart. He clerked in Delaware and is very strategic in his thinking.” Another peer observes, “Steve Winter and Ryan McLeod have gotten more standup experience in court, they have done more preliminary injunction motions.” The litigation group’s other head, Jonathan Moses, is also addressed regularly, with one peer noting, “Jon has really developed an international arbitration practice. Corporate guys will many times have arbitration clauses in these agreements, and Jon has developed kind of a niche with dealing with these.”
Peers also voice an ever-increasing level of enthusiasm for Marc Wolinsky. “He’s becoming a leader in the M&A world, following in the footsteps of those Wachtell lawyers of an older vintage. I see a lot of him in cases and it’s always a pleasure. He comports himself in a very professional manner, in the classic Wachtell style, yet never makes things unnecessarily difficult or uptight. In this field of law, you’d be surprised how rare and appreciated that is.” Wolinsky is leading a dispute regarding the valuation of casual dating app Tinder, which was purchased by Match Group. Elaine Golin, in a litigation brought by ResCap Liquidating Trust against over 60 mortgage originators, not only serves as lead trial for PNC Bank, but also as one of the leaders of the Joint Defense Group responsible for coordinating an overall defense strategy. Golin also has represented Cardinal Health in matters pertaining to the opioid epidemic, providing strategic and governance advice on litigation and potential resolutions, and related matters. Bankruptcy-focused Emil Kleinhaus has been exceptionally active as of late. “Emil is a superstar, he is as busy as one could be right now,” insists a peer. “He is tremendously in demand for the workout situation. He is careful with courtrooms and with clients.” Jeff Wintner is called “someone who clients come to with some of their most complicated legal liability problems. He was one of the architects of the landmark tobacco settlement. Has really emerged as a go-to person for companies facing almost existential threats.”
New York white-collar and commercial litigation boutique Walden Macht & Haran has etched itself an impressive position on the crowded pedestal of New York legal shops since its 2015 genesis. Its partners come equipped with credentials honed at “Big Law” firms as well as prominent in-house counsel positions. “They built up very quickly and have had great marketing to get that message out there,” insists a peer. “They have done really well for themselves.” Clients are equally appreciative; one testifies, “They guided me through providing testimony in a criminal lawsuit, and they held my hand and guided me through the process step by step and was by my side the entire time. They excel in client relationship and guidance.”
Although its partners pursue an agenda of “the lost art of the generalist,” its concentration of talent is particularly strong in the white-collar space. Jim Walden, a former Gibson Dunn partner, is known for “regularly suing government agencies on behalf of groups of people who have been wronged.” A peer confirms, “Jim is a very busy guy, and I know this because I have referred a couple of cases to him.” Sean Haran is cheered by a client as “excellent at managing and guiding the client through the process as well as being able to and taking the time to explain things as they are happening. He's also good at advocating for his clients and trying to achieve the best possible outcome and not just the easiest one.” Milt Wiliams, a former in-house counsel at Time, attends to a practice encompassing a hybrid of white-collar, commercial and high-level employment law matters, with his cases sometimes touching on all three elements.
Weil Gotshal & Manges enjoys a reputation as a firm whose litigation bench is one of the most comprehensive in terms of practice depth. “They have all the based covered,” confirms a peer. “A nice wide spectrum. And they have the depth and breadth in their personnel to cover it.” The firm’s national reach is spread among offices on the East Coast in New York and DC, several locations in California, two outposts in Texas, one in Boston and an office in Miami. Its practice area portfolio also covers a lot of ground, with product liability, bankruptcy, antitrust, commercial, intellectual property, securities and white-collar crime all playing prominent positions in the overall composition of the firm’s litigation service offerings.
New York-based litigation co-chair David Lender is an all-purpose commercial trial lawyerwho peers attest “is just killing it.” One even goes as far as to quip, “I would say David Lender is the lawyer I want to be when I grow up, but he’s younger than me!” Lender has been particularly active in the antitrust capacity as of late. He represents H&R Block in connection with antitrust lawsuits that allege the company conspired to implement agreements between franchisees not to solicit or recruit other franchisees’ personnel, thereby causing lower employee wages and stifling career advancement. Six potential class actions over the “no poach” agreements were filed in the Northern District of Illinois and the Western District of Missouri. All cases have now been voluntarily dismissed except for one that was successfully compelled to arbitration, which the plaintiffs have not yet initiated. Lender also triumphed for C&S Wholesale Grocers as lead trial counsel in a significant antitrust class action after the court granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs, encompassing more than 300 retail grocers alleged that the New England-based C&S and a Midwest-based competitor entered into a conspiracy to allocate the New England and Midwest territories between themselves for a period of five years, resulting in inflated grocery prices. The other defendant settled before trial. At the 2018 trial, the jury returned a complete defense verdict. Plaintiffs have since appealed to the Eighth Circuit, and oral argument was held in October 2019. Future star Luna Barrington was part of the team acting with Lender on the C&S case. Barrington also acted with David Yohai in representing Farmers Insurance and various affiliates in an MDL consolidated in Florida federal court comprising dozens of cases across the country brought by auto repair shops, alleging that Farmers and dozens of other insurers artificially suppress reimbursement rates for auto body repairs, in violation of antitrust, RICO, and other statutes. Yohai also acts with Adam Hemlock in yet another antitrust action, representing Panasonic in connection with numerous governmental investigations and a related multi-district litigation comprising dozens of class and individual actions pertaining to alleged industry-wide price fixing in the market for cathode-ray tubes and finished products containing these tubes. Hemlock has his own fan base in the antitrust community; one peer calls him “fantastic,” and advises, “Keep an eye on him, he is going to start getting more leads.”
Weil holds a leading position in debtor-side bankruptcy disputes. “Weil is and always has been one of two big firms that always appeared as debtor counsel on any major bankruptcy.” New York’s Theodore Tsekerides led a team representing California energy company PG&E in bankruptcy proceedings necessitated by thousands of claims resulting from the catastrophic and tragic wildfires that occurred in Northern California in 2017 and 2018. The Weil team has managed and litigated various claims in the bankruptcy proceeding concerning billions of dollars in power purchase agreements, tort-related claims arising from the fires involving both personal injury and property damage and a multitude of other claims. The Weil team also has filed and will be defending in court PG&E’s plan of reorganization that seeks to satisfy PG&E’s liabilities in full and provide a path forward for the reorganized entity and its stakeholders.
The firm’s securities and white-collar capacity is spearheaded by Jonathan Polkes, a near-unanimous favorite among peers in the practice. “Jonathan is great, and he will try case. In fact, he has done so a couple of times recently, which is rare among people in that practice and especially at his age group.” For many years, Polkes has partnered with Willis Towers Watson and its predecessor, Willis Group Holdings, to successfully defend several different securities litigations, including approximately 15 securities class and individual actions arising out of the heavily publicized, $8 billion Ponzi scheme orchestrated by R. Allen Stanford and his Houston-based Stanford Financial Group. The complaints in these actions generally alleged that Willis actively and materially aided Stanford’s fraud by providing Stanford with certain letters regarding insurance coverage that contained untruths and omitted material facts, and that Willis knew the letters would be used to help retain or attract actual or prospective Stanford investors. In the aggregate, the plaintiffs in these actions sought in excess of $4 billion in damages. Polkes also has been representing this client in connection with a number of high-profile, multi-jurisdictional shareholder disputes arising out of the 2016 $18 billion merger that created the newly combined entity and which have raised a number of complex conflict of interest allegations. Polkes’ latest win came in July 2019, when Polkes and his team won a motion to dismiss all claims in a stockholder class action filed in Delaware Chancery Court alleging breaches of fiduciary duty by the directors of Towers Watson. More recently, Polkes scored a significant victory for Carlyle Group in a billion-dollar deal litigation in Delaware Chancery Court arising out of a proposed investment by a Carlyle-led group for a stake in AmEx Global Business Travel, which experienced significant losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Carlyle’s triggering of a material adverse effect clause to abandon the deal. In March 2020, a Vice Chancellor denied selling the shareholders’ motion to expedite a trial of claims seeking to force Carlyle to close on the transaction.
Winston & Strawn has blossomed into one of the nation’s most prominent and prolific litigation hubs. It is also recognized as one of the country’s most trial-centric. “Of all the ‘big-law’ firms, Winston really seems like the one that is focused on building out a bench stocked with true trial lawyers,” observes a peer. “They are also attracting stars in the making, undoubtedly with the agenda of giving them the platform to hone their trial skills further.” Clients are equally appreciative, with several stepping forward to offer accolades. One client insists, “Communication and strategic planning are key strengths. Brief writing and oral advocacy are exceptional as well.” Another declares, “Their written product is excellent. [They also demonstrate] solid legal product, strategy and performance.” Still another testifies, “[Winston provides] Excellent client service and strategic advice; their work delivered quickly and efficiently, with good cheer.” The firm has also chosen wisely with its expansion strategy, shying away from going all-in with any particular market and instead maintaining a geographically even roster of trial talent, which is spread among its offices in New York, DC, Texas, Illinois, and California.
The most obvious example of the firm’s trial star power is Chicago’s Dan Webb, long a figurehead within the firm. “Once upon a time, I thought that Winston wouldn’t have the light bulbs changed without consulting Dan Webb first, so big was his gravitas,” quips one peer. “Nowadays, there are plenty of other great trial lawyers at Winston with their own skills and reputations…but I still think they would not change the light bulbs without Dan Webb’s blessing!” Webb represents Illinois Café & Services Company and Laredo Hospitality Ventures in a constitutional and administrative law challenge to a legislative licensing scheme and Illinois Gaming Board rule that arbitrarily burden the clients to the benefit of their competitors. The matter was originally dismissed by Cook County Circuit Court, and Webb and his team appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Circuit Court to review the Gaming Board’s adoption process and rulemaking procedures. Another Chicago star, Robert Sperling earns plaudits for his securities and financial institution-focused practice. A client applauds Sperling’s “leadership and communication,” and goes on to elaborate, “You are never left in the lurch, and Robert has tremendous ability to drive matters forward in a sensible way. He has a great team that would jump through any hoop, and he provides answers without the need for creating endless memos that aren't useful.” Sperling is representing Goldman Sachs in several False Claims Act matters involving its municipal bond underwriting. These matters have potential exposure of billions of dollars. Sperling and his team obtained a dismissal of one of the matters, which was pending in California, and also represents Goldman in a related antitrust action regarding variable rate demand obligation bonds used to fund municipal projects. Sperling’s team includes future star Joe Motto, who is also seeing his profile rise. A client acknowledges Motto’s “great client service” and goes on to confirm, “[He is} very strategic, and he cares about the outcome.”
New York’s Jeffrey Kessler attends to a unique hybrid of sports and antitrust law. While his work in the latter practice often depends on keeping his clients out of the limelight, the former practice lands Kessler squarely in the headlines. The sports practice also finds Kessler acting as a plaintiff, while in antitrust he is strictly defense. A plaintiff-side antitrust practitioner testifies, “Jeff is pretty much our mirror in antitrust cases. We can pretty much count on him turning up on the other side of us when we bring a big antitrust case, especially if it’s one where there is a possibility of it going to trial. I always hope that it won’t be him, but it always is, which means we’re going to have our work cut out for us.” Beyond Kessler, Susannah Torpey is noted as someone who is “getting a lot more active on the plaintiff side of antitrust. She just filed two major cases in this capacity. Keep an eye on her.”
The Dallas office hosts another of the firm’s often-mentioned partners, Tom Melsheimer. “Tom is just awesome,” chirps one peer. “He is a true trial lawyer.” Another peer marvels, “I’ve seen Tom just devastate opponents at trial, and he seems to do it so naturally.” Melsheimer’s practice frequently touches on the commercial, antitrust, and intellectual property capacities. Melsheimer represents several health and self-care entities in cases involving similar claimsthe entities were fraudulent and in violation of federal RICO and securities laws. In Winston’s Houston office, Paula Hinton and John Strasburger are part of team (which also includes New York’s Harvey Kurzweil) representing CPB in multiple disputes with Chevron and KBR. The disputes arise out of a project in Western Australia to construct a jetty designed for use with a liquefied natural gas facility. CPB seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in tort and other damages from Chevron and KBR. Additionally, there is an arbitration pending in Australia between the parties. The US suits have stayed pending the resolution of that arbitration.
Last year, the firm’s San Francisco office was augmented by the arrival of Sandra Edwards, a product liability specialist. Edwards is a favorite of peers, with one remarking, “I was impressed by her trial skills and her poise and strategic abilities as well.” Edwards, along with yet another Winston trial star, Chicago-based George Lombardi represents Monsanto in a number of product liability cases related to its RoundUp-related weed killer products. The plaintiffs assert strict product liability, failure to warn, and additional claims alleging that RoundUp-related products cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Winston pair were part of a three-law-firm team in the first jury trial of these cases in San Francisco Superior Court in July 2018. Following an eight-week trial, the trial team successfully reduced the verdict by $211 million. The case is currently on appeal.