Contributed by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Federal private securities litigation is mainly governed by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”). The Securities Act focuses on primary market offerings, while the Exchange Act generally regulates secondary market transactions.
In the context of federal securities litigation, the most frequently used provision of the securities laws is Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, which prohibits the use of “manipulative and deceptive devices” in securities transactions. Under Rule 10b-5, adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), plaintiffs can bring claims in federal court to recover investment losses allegedly caused by a material misrepresentation or an omission of a material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.
Plaintiffs use Rule 10b-5 to bring securities fraud actions targeting not only the issuer of the securities in question, but also its directors, officers, underwriters, and accountants, among other defendants. Rather than bring claims individually, plaintiffs generally file class action suits, pursuant to which a named plaintiff purports to represent all investors who suffered losses caused by the alleged fraud.
In addition to Rule 10b-5 claims, plaintiffs also frequently assert claims under Sections 11 and 12 of the Securities Act. Section 11 provides a cause of action against a limited range of defendants, including issuers and underwriters, for material misstatements or omissions in a registration statement. Section 12 provides a cause of action against any person who offers or sells a security based on a materially false or misleading prospectus or oral communication. Claims under Sections 11 and 12 differ in several important respects from Section 10(b) claims. First, only purchasers of securities, not sellers, may bring claims under Sections 11 and 12. Moreover, plaintiffs generally do not have to establish scienter (fraudulent intent), or prove reliance on the alleged misstatements to recover under Sections 11 or 12.
Congressional Efforts to Reform Securities Fraud Litigation
In 1995, Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (“PSLRA”). The PSLRA raised the bar for securities fraud claims by imposing heightened pleading requirements and creating a safe harbor for certain “forward-looking statements,” among other provisions.
To overcome the PSLRA’s restrictions, plaintiffs began circumventing the federal court system entirely and recasting securities fraud claims as state law causes of action. Congress intervened once again, this time enacting the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1988 (“SLUSA”). SLUSA provides that class actions alleging misrepresentations or omissions in connection with the purchase or sale of a “covered security” must be brought in federal court under the federal securities laws.
In 2002, Congress signed into law the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which extended the general statute of limitations governing private securities fraud actions to the earlier of two years after “the discovery of the facts constituting the violation” or five years after the violation itself.
The Continuing Threat of Securities Fraud Litigation
Securities fraud actions remain a major concern for corporate defendants. Every major corporate scandal — from the collapse of Enron to the Madoff Ponzi scheme — has precipitated securities fraud class action litigation entailing the potential for significant damages claims. The financial crisis of 2008 was no exception. Of the hundreds of federal securities class actions filed in the wake of the credit crisis, a critical mass remains in active litigation. Some of these suits are still at the pleading stage; others have settled; many are in discovery; and a handful are on the cusp of trial.
As the ongoing nature of financial crisis suits illustrates, securities litigation can often take many years to resolve. The cases tend to be complex and highly fact-intensive, involving numerous parties and multiple claims brought under various provisions of the securities laws. For example, currently pending are more than a dozen suits brought by the Federal Housing Finance Agency against a number of major financial institutions in connection with certain residential mortgage-backed securities purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The first trial in these actions is expected to commence in January 2014.
The Ever-Changing Legal Landscape for Securities Fraud Actions
Part of what makes securities fraud suits so interesting to litigate is the pace at which the governing law continues to evolve. While the basic elements of a Rule 10b-5 claim have long been established, courts are still developing and refining those elements as they apply to different fact patterns.
The past several years have been particularly notable for the extent to which the Supreme Court has opined on issues involving securities litigation. For example, in Morrison v. National Australia Bank (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act does not apply extraterritorially. The Court rejected longstanding Second Circuit jurisprudence holding that Section 10(b) applied to foreign securities transactions whenever the transaction involved sufficient domestic conduct or domestic effects. Instead, the Morrison Court established a new “transactional test” for determining whether Section 10(b) governs foreign securities transactions: courts must now consider “whether the purchase or sale is made in the United States, or involves a security listed on a domestic exchange.” Lower courts have since applied Morrison’s transactional test to claims under Sections 11 and 12 of the Securities Act, in addition to Section 10(b) claims.
Another frequently-litigated question involved the scope of liability under Rule 10b-5 for defendants who did not themselves make a misrepresentation but instead played a role in the preparation of another defendant’s misstatement. In Janus Capital Group v. First Derivative Traders (2011), the Supreme Court circumscribed the extent of Rule 10b-5 liability by holding that “the maker of a statement is the person or entity with ultimate authority over the statement, including its content and whether and how to communicate it.”
The requirements for class certification in securities fraud actions have also been the subject of much contention. Twice in the last few years, the Supreme Court has declined to raise the bar for class certification in securities fraud suits. In Erica P. John Fund v. Halliburton Co. (2011), the Court held that plaintiffs do not have to prove loss causation — i.e., that the defendant’s alleged misstatement caused the plaintiffs’ losses — at the class certification stage. And in Amgen v. Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds (2013), the Court ruled that plaintiffs do not have to prove materiality — in other words, whether or not a reasonable investor would likely have considered the misstatement important in making her investment decision — in order to win class certification.
The Court’s attention to issues affecting securities litigation continues this year. Currently pending before the Court are three related cases stemming from the Stanford Ponzi scheme, which came to light in 2009. The Court is considering the cases together, and will address the question of when a transaction is considered “in connection with” covered securities for purposes of SLUSA preemption.
In addition to Supreme Court pronouncements, decisions from the circuit courts and the district courts continue to shape the contours of the securities laws. For example, in Fait v. Regions Financial Corp. (2011), the Second Circuit held that a defendant will not be liable under Sections 11 or 12 for a statement of opinion unless “the statement was both objectively false and disbelieved by the defendant at the time it was expressed.” In City of Omaha v. CBS Corp. (2012), the Second Circuit extended Fait’s standard for opinion liability to Section 10(b) claims. The Fait and CBS rulings have proven outcome-determinative in a number of financial crisis cases.
Due to the number of tables in this section, the editorial is in alphabetical order
by firm name.
Securities - Nationwide
THE FIRM Arnold & Porter's national securities practice is recognized for its ability to guide clients through complex investigations. The team provides representation in enforcement preceedings before securities regulators the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the SEC, as well as other federal agencies. Clients include iStar Financial and Ernst & Young.
Sources say: "The team always goes over and above to provide exceptional service. In addition to their level of knowledge, it's what sets them apart."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Michael Trager handles securities enforcement actions for clients and chairs the firm's practice group in this area. He is described as "exceptionally knowledgeable about the handling of SEC investigations” and is commended for his provision of “outstanding client support."
THE FIRM This firm is highlighted by peers around the country as one of the leading practices focusing on the representation of plaintiffs in complex, high-stakes securities class actions. It pursues claims on behalf of both institutions and individuals in relation to the subprime mortgage crisis, securities fraud and shareholder actions, and acts for whistle-blowers on SEC investigations. The team has been involved in some of the nation's biggest securities fraud cases and was instrumental in achieving a multibillion-dollar settlement for shareholders from Bank of America relating to its Merrill Lynch purchase.
Sources say: "It has a lot of big, high-profile cases and is the leading firm right now in terms of the quality of cases."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Standout attorney Max Berger is a household name in securities litigation circles and is considered across the board to be a dean of the Bar in this area.
"I like Salvatore Graziano," comments one peer, who adds: "He is professional, worthy and makes you work hard in a legitimate way." His client base includes hedge funds and institutional investors.
THE FIRM Bingham McCutchen is acknowledged for its work in the securities enforcement space and has played a significant role in representing some of the nation's leading financial institutions in high-stakes investigations and enforcement actions, often in the broker-dealer space. The team offers significant experience before securities regulatory bodies and provides ongoing advice to a high profile roster of clients including Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Head of the firm's securities and financial institutions litigation department, Jeffrey Smith is considered to be a leading securities litigator. He recently represented Credit Suisse Securities in a multidistrict litigation relating to asset-backed security fraud.
David Boch is a "smart guy" who is well regarded for his broker-dealer regulatory advice and his representation of clients in SEC and FINRA enforcement matters.
Financial services cochair Timothy Burke handles complex securities enforcement and litigation matters for a range of investment advisers and brokerage firms.
THE FIRM This premier firm stands out for its ability to guide clients through national and international regulatory challenges in the securities arena. From both an advisory and enforcement standpoint, the firm is able to provide its client base with a full response to regulatory and litigious securities matters. An experienced and knowledgeable team of regulatory experts includes a raft of former federal prosecutors and senior SEC executives. The group is engaged on some of the industry's highest-profile investigative proceedings including multiple actions relating to the 2011 collapse of brokerage firm MF Global, the multiagency LIBOR investigation and the Facebook IPO. On the securities litigation side, the team remains on the front line of a number of significant matters and represents financial groups including BNP Paribas, Citi and HSBC.
Client Service "They have good solid experience and provide good practical advice. Their client service is good. They understand customer service and get the right expert to us."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Mitchell Lowenthal is a "seasoned litigator" who gives "practical advice,” and “recognizes the pros and cons of going for settlement or discovery." He continues to provide counsel to some of the world's leading financial institutions embroiled in securities class actions following the demise of Lehman Brothers. Key clients include HSBC and ING.
SEC alumnus Alan Beller has a formidable reputation in the securities advisory arena. His firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the SEC enables him to bring great insight to the table to counsel clients on regulatory and corporate governance.
Giovanni Prezioso has "wonderful judgment and is a terrific adviser," says one interviewee. The former SEC general counsel provides regulatory advice and representation in securities enforcement and litigation matters.
THE FIRM This firm has a respected regulatory practice in the securities arena and is noted for its expertise in government enforcement actions. It offers clients a combined team with capabilities across securities litigation, enforcement and white-collar crime defence. The team has a large public company client base and advises the likes of Verizon, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble in addition to individual officers and boards of directors. During the high-profile 'flash crash' investigation brought by the SEC the team represented the interests of NYSE Euronext, successfully reaching settlement in 2012.
Sources say: "They are good at corralling and working together, do very well in document management discovery issues, and are client-friendly and smart."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Securities team cochair David Martin's previous regulatory experience and contacts at the SEC are flagged by multiple respondents as a key strength of his advisory practice. He is noted as a "thought leader in securities regulation."
Bruce Baird is a "tremendous lawyer and does a great job," comments one source. He leads the firm's white-collar defense and investigations practice and draws upon a well-established reputation and solid litigation background to advocate on behalf of individuals and companies in high-stake investigations.
David Kornblau cochair's the securities enforcement practice and one source comments that he is "knowledgeable about the area of the law and manages it cost-effectively. I trust his judgment."
Keir Gumbs demonstrates tremendous potential in securities regulatory matters, with interviewees commenting that "beyond the technical perspective he has an invaluable amount of experience dealing with the SEC."
THE FIRM Cravath, Swaine & Moore has one of the industry's leading securities litigation practices and handles some of the most significant class action and civil litigation matters. The firm's litigation team remains active in the defense of cases relating to the MBS fallout, notably acting as coordinating counsel to Credit Suisse on all such matters. In addition, the group represents companies, directors and present and former officers in shareholder derivative suits and class actions relating to M&A activity, fraud allegations and subprime asset issues. Notable clients include Barnes & Noble, Deloitte & Touche and JPMorgan Chase.
Client Service "They're incredibly bright, professional and totally focused on the client and what works for the client."
Commercial Awareness "They are as good a subject matter expert as you would hope to find. They apply a deep analysis and think about things and how they will pan out."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Richard Clary has an illustrious reputation as one of the security industry's most prominent and successful litigators. He has represented the outside directors of Citi in shareholder derivative actions filed in Delaware and New York and continues to act as coordinating counsel on the defense of all RMBS claims brought against Credit Suisse.
Managing partner Robert Baron advises global pharmaceutical and healthcare company Merck on numerous federal securities claims arising out of the market withdrawal of its Vioxx product. He continues to be recognized for his broad securities litigation expertise.
For "corporate advice and board procedure," John White is "one of the best I've ever met," comments one source. The former SEC staffer is a highly respected regulatory adviser and is cochair of the firm's corporate governance and board advisory practice.
Susan Webster is valued for her "depth of knowledge, high level of engagement, problem-solving and strategic advice." She advised the Huron Consulting Group nonexecutive directors on an SEC investigation and settlement, and other related litigation matters.
Antony Ryan receives warm praise from the market as an "extremely smart and capable" securities litigator. He is applauded for his recent representation of AIG auditors PwC in a major securities class action, which reached an agreed settlement in the Southern District of New York affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
THE FIRM Davis Polk's outstanding reputation at the heart of the financial services sector continues to feed its expansive securities practice. The team has a consistency of strength across both regulatory enforcement and advisory matters and securities litigation. On the enforcement side it successfully represented Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo in a significant multiagency civil and criminal investigation into US sanction violations, which resulted in no actions being brought. Financial institutions including Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank and RBS are the recipients of ongoing regulatory guidance on reforms and compliance matters. It has also represented some of the financial industry's leading firms in securities class actions including the multiple underwriters involved in securities class actions relating to Facebook's 2012 IPO. Other notable clients include Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase.
Sources say: "For regulatory work and securities they provide excellent service."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "terrific" Lawrence Portnoy has had a successful year achieving a significant pretrial win for Credit Suisse in its defense of a multibillion-dollar class action brought by Time Warner investors. He is "easy to work with" and "down-to-earth," comment sources.
Annette Nazareth is one of the financial services sector's recognized authorities in securities regulatory matters. She advises many of the firm's leading financial institution clients and is particularly noted for her preeminence in the broker-dealer space.
Former SEC head of enforcement Linda Chatman Thomsen garners huge praise from peers and clients alike for her deep level of knowledge and expertise coupled with strong diplomacy and advocacy skills. The independent directors of MF Global remain a key client.
THE FIRM Sources emphasize this firm's strength across both securities litigation and regulatory matters. The firm fields a combined securities practice and covers a full spectrum of advice for financial institutions, public companies, individual executives and boards of trustees and directors. It has a robust enforcement practice which has earned the respect of the industry for its handling of a number of key matters. The team defends MetLife and a number of its current and former directors in multiple cases relating to an industrywide investigation into the alleged use of false data. It also acts for the former CEO and chairman of Bank of America on litigation concerning the bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch. Shortly before going to press Mary Jo White, one of the luminaries of the white-collar criminal defense and securities enforcement space, was confirmed by the Senate as the next chair of the SEC.
Client Service "I have never worked with better partners in my life. They are extremely responsive, extremely knowledgeable and able to see the big picture. They make you feel like the number-one client."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Experienced securities litigator Jonathan Tuttle represents clients in regulatory investigations and enforcement actions and is an expert in accounting violations. Sources say he is "flawless in his execution and attention to detail."
Paul Berger is valued for his insider understanding of the regulatory process. Sources consider him to be "one of the most experienced securities practitioners, with great attention to detail, encyclopedic knowledge of anticorruption practices and a broad knowledge base."
THE FIRM Dechert has a team of 32 partners handling the defense of public and private companies and key executives, investment advisers and brokerage firms in regulatory actions and civil litigation proceedings. It has experience advocating on behalf of clients before federal and state regulators in investigations conducted by agencies including FINRA, the SEC, the DOJ and the Commodities & Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The team has represented former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine in relation to class actions filed following the brokerage firm's bankruptcy.
Client Service "They are outstanding. What impresses me is their grasp of the issues, willingness to put more resources on when necessary and the way they bring expertise in when they need it from within the firm."
Commercial Awareness "They have deep and broad expertise, an excellent familiarity with the people and personalities at the regulatory agencies and an ability to be creative and apply themselves in different ways."
KEY INDIVIDUALS First-rate attorney Andrew Levander is "extraordinarily perceptive and experienced," say sources. He represented Jon Corzine in the MF Global proceedings and is highly rated for his expertise in matters at the intersection of securities enforcement and white-collar criminal defense.
THE FIRM This firm's securities practice centers on the provision of a combined regulatory, criminal and civil litigation defense service. Its team represents a wide range of organizations, including public companies and accounting firms, in addition to individual directors, officers and other professionals. Present in the firm's New York, Washington, DC and London offices, the team is well positioned to provide guidance on the changing domestic and international regulatory landscape.
KEY INDIVIDUALS One interviewee comments that corporate partner and regulatory attorney Karl Groskaufmanis is "available all the time, he is thoughtful and keeps a great balance between protection and commerciality."
Carmen Lawrence is "outstanding" and has an active enforcement and investigations practice. She has "a very fine reputation" in the industry and has previous senior experience at the SEC.
THE FIRM Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher houses a spectacular securities regulatory group and expanding litigation team. On the advisory side, the team counsels clients on the impact of regulatory change in the wake of the Dodd-Frank Act and is considered an industry thought leader on the impact of the JOBS Act. With an impressive stable of former officers from FINRA, the SEC, CFTC and the DOJ, the team is well equipped to handle complex regulatory enforcement proceedings. It represents a number of industry associations including the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) in CFTC rulemaking and rule amendments. Its litigation team continues to play a lead role in complex litigation linked to the fallout from the RMBS crisis, advising the independent board members of JPMorgan Chase on ongoing lawsuits relating to the rogue activities of the so-called 'London Whale' trader.
Commercial Awareness "They are incredibly knowledgeable about securities rules and laws and very able to translate the knowledge into productive action. They provide great counsel on complex and challenging subjects and represent clients very effectively before regulatory agencies."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The venerable Joseph Warin is a "first-rate" attorney with a broad practice which includes securities litigation, government investigations and white-collar crime. One source notes that he is "perceived as one of the leading lawyers in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act space internationally and I think his reputation in the Bar is incredibly high."
Experienced trial attorney and cochair of the firm's litigation practice Mark Kirsch is praised by sources for his "technical knowledge – he knows what to do and how to do it – and his tactical ability to accomplish things within that realm." He recently acted for UBS on a class action sparked by losses incurred by rogue London-based trader Kweku Adoboli.
Los Angeles-based Dean Kitchens has a nationally recognized securities litigation practice. One interviewee names him a "terrific and savvy" lawyer who "gets good results."
Barry Goldsmith is "terrific for regulatory matters,” with sources reporting that “he is knowledgeable, approachable, smart, liked by the regulators, thoughtful and has excellent technical knowledge." He has a leading practice advising clients engaged in regulatory enforcement and investigations before agencies such as the SEC and FINRA.
Brian Lane advises clients on federal securities law compliance. He impresses sources and according to one respondent is considered to be "one of the most knowledgeable securities attorneys that I have worked with. He gives practical advice and has superb judgment."
John Olson is a "wonderful adviser; he has that balance and sense that I think is almost unique," explains one client. As founding partner of the firm's securities practice and Washington, DC office, Olson is a seasoned and widely respected regulatory practitioner.
Securities regulatory adviser Amy Goodman cochairs the firm's practice group in this area. She has served at the SEC and has particular expertise on the Dodd-Frank Act provisions relating to securities and governance. Her clients include Hewlett-Packard and Johnson & Johnson.
Lawrence Zweifach is involved in advising clients on significant multiagency investigative actions. He is praised for his ability to strategize and steer clients in the right direction.
THE FIRM Goodwin Procter has an esteemed securities litigation and enforcement practice. The team continues to defend Bank of America and its subsidiary Countrywide in a raft of class actions and civil claims that stem from the subprime mortgage crisis. In one example, the team was successful before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed a previous judgment dismissing claims filed by SRM Global relating to the firm's merger with Bank of America. The team names Credit Suisse, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and UBS Securities among an impressive client roster.
Sources say: "They are incredibly talented, responsive and helpful."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Mark Holland is highly recommended by sources as a trusted adviser: "Mark worked with us beautifully, he made everything very clear to us," stated one client. He recently represented Bank of America/Countrywide in fraud and breach of contract claims filed by four monoline insurers relating to RMBS.
The "phenomenal" Brian Pastuszenski cochairs the firm's securities litigation and enforcement practice and rises in the rankings this year due to a stellar performance as lead attorney for Bank of America/Countrywide. He is "a really intelligent lawyer" who is "tireless, responsive and experienced," relate sources.
THE FIRM Grant & Eisenhofer is a boutique litigation practice representing institutional investors in nationally significant securities litigation and class actions. It represents the plaintiff class in an ongoing federal court action against Pfizer concerning its drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the market in 2004. The team has recently acted for a number of investors in litigation against Citi alleging that the defendant violated UK financial regulations.
Sources say: "They are a very effective group with very capable lawyers. They've developed a good practice, do good work and achieve good results."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Jay Eisenhofer is a "smart and formidable" securities litigator, according to sources. He continues to develop a leading reputation at both a national and international level and is described as a "great strategist."
Stuart Grant is a respected plaintiff attorney who routinely represents major institutional investors in securities litigation claims. He has been closely involved in the Citi litigation.
THE FIRM Hogan Lovells has an active securities practice with over 60 partners based in the global firm's key offices including Washington, DC, New York, Denver, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Its advisory team counsels a range of blue-chip public companies on corporate governance and securities regulatory requirements. The firm is also noted for its handling of enforcement matters and investigations before bodies such as the SEC.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Denver-based litigator Daniel Shea represents individual directors and officers and corporate bodies in civil lawsuits, regulatory investigations and criminal proceedings. "He is great at spotting issues," says one peer.
Alan Dye has an outstanding reputation in regulatory circles especially in relation to executive trading and SEC filing requirements for officers, directors and other specified persons under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Peter Romeo also provides regulatory counsel pertaining to SEC filing requirements and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 matters. He is considered to be a subject matter expert on the Section 16 provisions of the 1934 Act.
San Francisco-based Michael Shepard is a respected advocate and skilled tactician whose practice combines white-collar criminal defense and regulatory enforcement and investigation representation.
THE FIRM This premier Chicago-headquartered litigation firm has a strong reputation in the securities arena. The litigation team not only defends class action and lawsuit on behalf of individuals and corporate clients, but also acts on behalf of institutional plaintiffs to bring securities and derivative claims. The team acted on behalf of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy examiner on an investigation into the culpability and conduct of its directors and officers in relation to the organization's collapse.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Thomas Newkirk cochairs the Jenner & Block securities litigation and enforcement group and has a long-standing career in the sector which includes almost two decades at the SEC. He is considered to be a "smart lawyer" who "knows the practice well."
THE FIRM This internationally renowned firm offers clients regulatory advice, SEC enforcement representation and guidance on both federal and internal investigations. The team offers broad geographical scope with practitioners located in many of the major US cities as well as global regulatory expertise through its offices in London, Berlin and Hong Kong. It acts for some of the nation's biggest financial institutions on ongoing RMBS investigations relating to the financial crisis and counsels the Securities Working Group of the Financial Services Roundtable on Dodd-Frank and regulatory issues and rulemaking.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Stephen Crimmins has a successful practice representing executives and public companies in enforcement proceedings. He is described as a "master of every detail," and is recognized for his insider trading liability expertise, acting for the former general counsel of Heartland Advisors on appeal on one such case.
THE FIRM This firm has a reputable securities litigation practice. It has been involved in the representation of business executives, financial institutions and public companies in shareholder class actions and civil lawsuits as well as multiagency investigations. The team, which has a presence in the firm's Chicago, Washington, DC, New York and Los Angeles offices, has recently handled cases on behalf of clients in the financial services, technology and IT sectors, among others.
Client Service "Their handling of complex issues and client service is exceptional. We've raised issues and they have addressed them very quickly."
KEY INDIVIDUALS New York-based Bruce Vanyo is a key contact and co-heads the firm's national securities litigation practice.
THE FIRM Kaye Scholer joins the rankings this year following a wealth of recommendations outlining the firm's strategic prowess and collaborative work ethic. Its securities and derivatives team acts for named individuals on major securities litigation matters as well as public companies. Notable representations include that of Howard Smith, former CFO of AIG, in multiple litigation claims including a substantial securities fraud class action.
Sources say: "Kaye Scholer has shown a great ability to jump into complex cases on a moment's notice and then do a great job of bringing the case to a successful resolution."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Vincent Sama is chair of the securities and derivatives litigation team.
THE FIRM Leading plaintiff firm Labaton Sucharow has considerable experience in handling litigation on behalf of investors and shareholders. It is active in MBS litigation and other claims kindled by the fallout from the financial crisis. The team has played a fundamental role in achieving settlements on behalf of clients in key actions against the likes of AIG. It also represented the Michigan Retirement Systems in the Bear Stearns securities class action, successfully achieving a settlement of $275 million.
Sources say: "We chose Labaton Sucharow to represent us because of the firm’s nationally recognized litigation skills and demonstrated commitment to shareholder advocacy."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Chairman and renowned litigator Lawrence Sucharow "is a wonderful lawyer, a deeply thoughtful strategist, and a man whose word you can cash at any financial institution," say sources.
Thomas Dubbs is a respected plaintiff attorney and represents institutional investors in high-profile securities litigation claims. He played a lead role in both the AIG and Bear Stearns class actions.
THE FIRM Latham & Watkins is a globally renowned multiservice law firm with an impressive national and international coverage. Sources consider it to have a strong bench of expertise in both securities regulation and litigation. The firm has an excellent reputation on the litigation side as a key representative for the Big Four accountancy firms, illustrated by its successful defense of Ernst & Young in a securities fraud class action relating to the IndyMac bank failure. On the regulatory side it represented soccer franchise Manchester United in its IPO, while it provides ongoing regulatory advice to Omnicom and Kimco.
Sources say: "They're helpful at getting on top of the regulations and are on the front line of guiding and advising banks. They're also good at approaching things from the underwriter side."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "talented" Miles Ruthberg is an exceptionally well-regarded trial attorney who is considered to be a "national force in securities litigation." He was a lead partner in the successful defense of Ernst & Young in multiple securities claims relating to the demise of Lehman Brothers.
Peter Wald is "brilliant,” and “a leading light in the securities litigation Bar," comments one interviewee. He was a lead attorney representing Deloitte & Touche in claims relating to the Washington Mutual bankruptcy.
William Baker is acknowledged as an outstanding regulatory specialist with particular strength in securities enforcement matters. He is commended for his "encyclopedic knowledge of regulatory issues and the subtleties of Washington, DC representation."
Fellow regulatory partner Lawrence West is also praised for his command of the intricacies of the securities enforcement process. This "knowledgeable" SEC alumnus represents organizations and individuals before the SEC, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) and other investigative agencies.
THE FIRM This reputable Manhattan-headquartered firm has carved out a solid reputation for counseling investment advisers on securities and derivatives litigation. The team successfully defended investment manager Capital Research & Management Company in a $15 billion excessive fee action at trial. It also represents Rabobank in class actions relating to alleged LIBOR manipulation.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Litigation expert James Benedict is noted as "one of the best in the business" by sources. The litigation and arbitration group chair is "clearly the dean of the Investment Company Act Bar – he created much of the law that matters in that area and I have a lot of admiration for him," relates one source.
One interviewee reports that securities litigator Scott Edelman is "superb, smart and if you need a trial lawyer this is your guy!" He represented the underwriters, which included Citigroup Global Markets and UBS Securities, in a securities fraud claim relating to a preferred securities offering.
THE FIRM The reputation of the Morgan Lewis securities regulatory practice is augmented by the firm's expansive and long-established governmental and public policy department. The team advises financial sector clients and public companies on a host of regulatory and litigation matters. It recently acted for Oracle on the negotiation of a $2 million settlement with the SEC in an FCPA investigation. Other clients include Penson Worldwide and Barclays Capital.
Client Service "Morgan Lewis is well known for securities enforcement defense work and has good client service."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Ben Indek is praised for his understanding of the securities enforcement arena. He advised UBS Securities on its $12 million settlement with FINRA. Sources consider him to be a "terrific regulatory lawyer" who is "excellent with regulators, provides good client service and is smart and likable."
Anne Flannery, who also led on the UBS Securities FINRA negotiations, has impressed clients, one of whom notes that she "deserves the highest praise."
Washington, DC-based Christian Mixter represented hedge fund Quantek Asset Management in the settlement of an SEC investigation into the firm's trading practices. He is "one of the smartest lawyers I've met," comments one observer.
Robert Romano is an "excellent lawyer" and plays a lead role in the defense of individuals, companies and financial institutions involved in investigations and actions brought by the SEC, FINRA and other regulators.
New entrant Linda Griggs previously served as lead counsel to the SEC's chief accountant. "She's terrific," comment sources, who also observe that "her great strength is that she really knows accounting."
THE FIRM Morrison & Foerster provides broad-spectrum securities advice delivered by a geographically dispersed but operationally integrated team. The team is applauded for its thorough and creative litigation defense capabilities and acts for some of the world's biggest household names on securities and derivatives lawsuits. It has represented Yahoo!, Capital One, Zynga and various officers and directors in recent class and shareholder actions.
Client Service "An excellent firm to work with: very capable attorneys, reasonable billed hours and very customer service-oriented."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "First-rate" Jordan Eth is located in San Francisco and cochairs the litigation, enforcement, and white-collar defense practice group. An accomplished securities litigator, Eth is praised for his passion and efficiency and has played a lead role in noteworthy cases for the key brands mentioned above.
David Lynn cochairs the firm's 25-partner public companies group. He advises clients on securities regulation compliance and has a special focus on executive compensation disclosure and reporting requirements.
Martin Dunn recently joined the team from O'Melveny & Myers. Dunn is an immensely respected regulatory expert who spent two decades at the SEC prior to joining the firm. He provides high-end securities counseling on regulatory compliance and transactional matters.
THE FIRM Elite West Coast firm Munger Tolles & Olson has a talented group of litigators who appear in some of the nation's most significant securities litigation cases. On the public company side, the team has advised Facebook's board of directors on multiple IPO-related class actions, and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin on a shareholder action linked to a proposed offering by the search engine. The team also advises financial institutions Bank of America, Citigroup Global Markets and Wells Fargo, particularly on ongoing litigation relating to the RMBS crisis.
Sources say: "They are very specialized, smart counselors on the litigation side and are our go-to firm."
KEY INDIVIDUALS John Spiegel has a well-rounded litigation practice incorporating both civil and criminal defense representation. Sources point to his "good judgment and high energy." He leads the Facebook and Google representations.
THE FIRM This firm receives resounding praise for its ongoing accomplishments in the securities space. The team continues to act for prestigious organizations including Bank of America, UBS and Fannie Mae. It has established itself as a go-to firm for China-related securities litigation, representing both US public companies based in China and Chinese firms facing litigious action in the USA. On the regulatory side, the team advises financial institutions, institutional investors and Fortune 500 companies on SEC, FINRA and other regulatory requirements.
Sources say: "They are top-notch. It is a deep group and led by some very good lawyers who are thoughtful and attentive, and we get good results."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Based in the firm's Los Angeles office, the "absolutely terrific" Seth Aronson is highly regarded and has an active securities litigation practice. He is a driving force behind the team's burgeoning representation of Chinese companies in the USA.
Jeffrey Kilduff is lead counsel to Fannie Mae and has represented the organization in multiaction cases filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia as well as pending cases in the Southern District of New York. Sources report: "He is able to consolidate the intricacies of the case into understandable propositions that a court can understand, and has a phenomenal courtroom demeanor."
Rob Plesnarski also provides counseling on securities regulatory matters. He continues to carve out a strong reputation in the sector.
THE FIRM The securities litigation and enforcement practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe reaches from coast to coast with key members of the team based in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The firm maintains an active litigation defense practice and the team has a diverse client base that includes financial institutions, accounting firms, public companies and business executives. Key clients include Ernst & Young and Iron Planet.
KEY INDIVIDUALS San Francisco-based Michael Torpey leads the firm's practice in this area.
THE FIRM Paul Weiss has a phenomenal litigation and enforcement practice with a stellar cast of trial attorneys and litigators who perform center stage in some of the nation's biggest securities cases. Sources unanimously attest to the firm's excellence and praise the strength and depth of its securities bench. Its enviable client roster lists some of the world's leading financial institutions and corporations including JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, AIG and Deutsche Bank. The team recently represented Citigroup Global Markets in reaching a $285 million settlement with the SEC including no admission or denial of the regulator's allegations, a decision that was subsequently blocked in a landmark ruling by a federal district judge and is ongoing before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Client Service "Best in the business. We never feel we are competing with other clients for time and attention or the very best resources. Their responsiveness and client service is better than any other law firm with which I have worked."
Commercial Awareness "I like that they are highly sophisticated: they know the space cold, they are current, they are on it. I can call them and ask their opinion and they are so deeply involved in securities litigation that they will often be representing other people in similar positions."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Chair of the firm Brad Karp is a superstar of the litigation Bar and has an impressive reputation among peers and clients for his judgment, experience and leadership in court. One source comments: "He is someone that every major bank turns to if there is a crisis. He is someone who is recognized as just having excellent skills at providing advice."
Leading litigator and securities litigation practice group cochair Daniel Kramer is described as a "terrifically talented lawyer" who is "brilliant, passionate, highly accessible and possesses sound business judgment."
Richard Rosen cochairs the firm's securities litigation practice alongside Kramer and is an active trial attorney. He has been involved in multiple class actions and civil lawsuits for Citi and is described by peers as "smart and detail-oriented."
The third practice cochair Charles Davidow is respected for his representation in DOJ and SEC investigations. He has been part of a team acting for The Bank of New York Mellon on ongoing investigations by the New York, Virginia and Massachusetts Attorney Generals.
Former SEC deputy director of enforcement Walter Ricciardi plays a key role in some of the industry's most significant investigations and is recognized for his deep expertise.
THE FIRM This firm plays a key role in attempting to remedy the considerable repercussions of the RMBS crisis in 2008. It represents the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in actions against multiple financial institutions including UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and RBS for representations made relating to mortgage loans. It has also acted for AIG on a claim to recover RMBS losses from Bank of America, Countrywide and Merrill Lynch.
Sources say: "They are always trying to anticipate arguments and their diversity of experience in the field brings a lot to bear."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Philippe Selendy cochairs the firm's structured finance litigation group and leads the RMBS team. Sources comment: "Philippe conveys a great deal of confidence; he is an easygoing person who is interactive with clients in a very positive way."
THE FIRM Richards Kibbe & Orbe's securities practice offers a knowledge and understanding of both regulatory and criminal proceedings. Its compact and nimble team is praised by sources for its creative approach to problem-solving, its consistency of service and its collaborative approach. Notable clients include Citigroup Global Markets, Morgan Stanley and Financial Guaranty Insurance Company (FGIC).
Client Service "They are incredibly thoughtful and really care about their clients, and come up with advice that really takes client interests into account."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Respondents praise Michael Mann's "global vision," which he has continued to develop following his tenure as head of the SEC's Office of International Affairs. Sources comment: "The international operation of regulatory restraints for companies has become absolutely crucial and Michael is unparalleled. He's in a league of his own."
Lee Richards co-heads the firm's securities practice with Mann. His work encompasses criminal and civil litigation defense and the representation of clients in regulatory investigations and enforcement matters. "He is, in every sense of the term, a real counselor and he knows how to work with clients," say sources.
THE FIRM Robbins Geller is regarded as one of the nation's preeminent plaintiff litigation firms. It has a considerable securities litigation team based in the firm's San Diego office as well as senior-level expertise in New York and San Francisco. The team is active on a considerable number of securities fraud class actions and in 2012 led a claim against Motorola Solutions on behalf of shareholders, securing a $200 million settlement before trial.
Sources say: "They are tenacious, knowledgeable and experienced and also have the resources to stand up against big corporations."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Former SEC attorney Samuel Rudman investigates and pursues securities litigation cases on behalf of shareholders. He is "incredibly entrepreneurial and a very good lawyer."
THE FIRM The Boston-headquartered securities practice at this reputable firm maintains a solid profile as a leading national player in mutual funds and public company litigation. It recently represented fund managers Harris Associates and Ameriprise Financial Services in excessive fee litigation, and State Street in multiple class actions relating to the RMBS crisis. On the shareholder litigation side, the team won a dismissal of multiple class actions filed in the US District Court of Massachusetts for biotech client Genzyme. The team has seen an increase in the number of M&A cases and represented TPG Capital in litigation concerning its $3 billion purchase of J.Crew Group.
Sources say: "Very smart and responsive people at all levels. They are excellent in terms of efficiency and service."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "First-rate" Randall Bodner is a highly respected advocate and cochairs the firm's business and securities litigation team. He is lead counsel to the officers of Freddie Mac in ongoing securities fraud class actions.
John Donovan is a seasoned securities litigator whose experience, expertise and courtroom acumen are held in high regard. He was lead lawyer in the Genzyme litigation
THE FIRM Shearman & Sterling's securities practice incorporates expertise from its litigation and financial institutions regulatory groups. It is well equipped to represent clients in multiagency investigations and enforcement actions as well as complex civil lawsuits. The team has been advising Countrywide Financial on numerous state and federal RMBS claims against it. On the regulatory side, it advises domestic banking organizations including Bank of America Merrill Lynch on SEC investigations and enforcement actions.
Sources say: "They are deep and broad in their expertise, particularly for Wall Street clients."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Litigator Stuart Baskin is "extremely well known and highly regarded," comments one interviewee. His practice spans securities, transactional and white-collar defense, while his clients include financial institutions and public companies.
THE FIRM Sidley Austin has a distinguished national securities regulation practice with a large team housed in its New York, Chicago, Washington, DC and Los Angeles offices. It works with financial institutions, including banks and brokerage firms, to ensure their compliance with SEC and FINRA rules including requirements under the JOBS Act. Its specialist team, peppered with former in-house regulatory counsel, is noted for having strength in guiding clients through enforcement and ongoing representations before agencies including the CFTC, DOJ and SEC. The litigation team acts for major investment banks, public companies and advisory firms on federal class actions, shareholder litigation and excessive fee litigation.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Herbert Janick has a fine reputation as a securities enforcement attorney. One interviewee describes him as "thorough and detail-oriented,” while he is commended for his ability to “interact with regulators and know when it is appropriate to be forceful and when to be accommodating."
Dennis Hensley is a seasoned securities professional with a deep knowledge and understanding of the regulatory environment. He advises financial institutions on the full range of enforcement and compliance matters.
Senior counsel Joseph McLaughlin is "simply one of the very knowledgeable people who understands the industry, the questions and the issues," say sources. He advises clients on regulatory issues and international securities offerings.
Neal Sullivan represents clients in federal securities actions, in which he is considered to also play a strong role at a state level. Sources report that he is “just a great lawyer.”
Barry Rashkover is based in New York and has been active in defending clients against regulatory actions relating to MBS and short selling. "You'd be in good hands with him," comments one peer.
Enforcement attorney Nader Salehi "knows the industry well and is very client-responsive," notes one source. Another reports: "He is a great lawyer for regulated investments, and is easygoing, detail-oriented and has great understanding."
Michael Wolk is a regulatory attorney whose practice focuses on guiding clients through securities investigations brought by agencies including the SEC and FINRA.
THE FIRM The litigation practice at Simpson Thacher remains one of the industry's go-to providers of complex securities class action and multi-lawsuit defense. It continues to occupy a prominent position in cases flowing from the aftermath of the financial crisis. In the RMBS arena, the team has amassed a raft of achievements, including successes for RBS. It has also been retained to defend JPMorgan Chase in all actions brought against the institution relating to the internationally significant LIBOR manipulation allegations. With heavyweight expertise on the East Coast in New York, and a West Coast presence in Palo Alto and Los Angeles, the team has both the depth and geographical scope to handle a broad range of matters.
Sources say: "I have found them to be uniformly talented lawyers who are especially experienced and well versed in securities litigation."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "impressive" Bruce Angiolillo is a "wonderfully gifted and talented litigator" who is "good on his feet, great with judges and skilled in legal argument." As head of department, he is engaged in many of the firm's most prominent cases in this area.
Paul Curnin practices at the intersection between white-collar criminal defense and complex securities litigation. Interviewees describe him as "outstanding" and "top-notch."
Jonathan Youngwood is a rising star of the securities litigation Bar and a new entrant in the nationwide table. He is noted as a "strong and effective securities litigator" with a flair for written work and oral advocacy, according to sources.
THE FIRM This elite, multiservice global law firm houses a thriving securities litigation practice. The team, which draws upon expertise from the firm's national and international network of litigators and trial attorneys, has played a prominent role in the defense of securities claims for some of the most significant corporations and financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and GenOn Energy. Recent matters have included the representation of Amerigroup and its board in the defense of an M&A-related shareholder action, and Morgan Stanley Private Equity Asia concerning a proposed MBO of China-based producer FEIHE International. The firm also has a deep regulatory enforcement and investigations practice, advising private and public organizations, management, boards of directors and board committees on the full range of regulatory agency matters.
Client Service "Any communication to the firm receives a response almost instantly – they bend over backward to make sure I get all the support I need as in-house counsel, and it is the only major firm I work with that endeavors to keep me completely informed about important legal developments at all times. No other firm provides the level of service that I get from Skadden, period."
Commercial Awareness "Skadden has committed serious resources to being up-to-the-minute in this area of law and deserves the stellar reputation the firm has built. My relationship with Skadden keeps me informed – in real time – about all major legal developments (whether related to cases where Skadden is involved or not) and allows me to disseminate this information internally and evaluate it in making important strategic decisions. This is invaluable to me."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Jay Kasner impresses clients with his strategic acumen and creativity in complex cases. According to one interviewee, "he tries consistently to think of new and innovative solutions to problems, and no other senior partner or firm is as responsive or as committed to client service. Jay takes this to another level entirely."
According to sources, the "superb" Colleen Mahoney stands out as one of the leading lights in securities enforcement representation. She is based in the firm's Washington, DC office and is "one of the first people I would turn to in regulatory matters and civil litigation with regulatory aspects," a client explains.
Thomas Dougherty leads the Boston litigation team and predominantly acts for companies and officers, including a large number of hi-tech businesses, in civil securities actions and SEC matters. He "has an absolute mastery of the law, is a great presenter of the facts and has a commanding presence," say sources.
Commended for his "outstanding strategic judgment," Scott Musoff represents financial institutions in complex securities cases and recently advised Deutsche Bank, as agent in a stock offering by DryShips, on a class action which resulted in a voluntary dismissal by the plaintiffs. Musoff "has a keen understanding of the legal issues and his substantive work is excellent," remark interviewees.
Jonathan Lerner "comes with a formidable reputation that is brought to bear in practice. He is a persuasive writer, thinker and arguer," comments one source. His practice focuses on federal securities cases and commercial arbitration.
Erich Schwartz concentrates on regulatory enforcement actions and represented Symmetry Medical in an internal investigation and subsequent settlement with the SEC. He is an "excellent lawyer and great technician; someone I would call in a heartbeat," commends one interviewee.
Following his move from the SEC to Skadden in 2010, Brian Breheny has developed an active practice. He joins the rankings this year on the recommendation of many who value the depth of experience and understanding he brings to the team.
David Zornow is "absolutely outstanding in the courtroom" and defends individuals and corporations in high-end federal and state civil and criminal proceedings and regulatory securities enforcement actions.
THE FIRM Sullivan & Cromwell is a premier international firm with a sophisticated securities litigation group. The prestigious team handles a range of matters including securities class actions, shareholder derivative suits and M&A litigation. The team recently acted for Barclays on the highly publicized LIBOR rate-fixing allegations. Additionally, it continues to represent JPMorgan Chase as coordinating counsel in the defense of multiple RMBS lawsuits. An enviable client base of leading financial institutions and global corporations includes UBS, Goldman Sachs and BP.
Sources say: "The people are terrific and prominent and great in litigation. They're strong and have a fantastic group."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Robert Giuffra recently represented Porsche in litigation alleging fraud in its 2008 attempt to acquire Volkswagen. Sources attest that he "has a deep and vast experience, excellent judgment, thinks through all the issues at an early stage and is very focused in his approach."
Robert Sacks heads up the firm's Los Angeles office and is "very strategic in his thinking," say sources. He recently achieved a significant victory for JPMorgan Chase in defense of a securities class action relating to its liability to defrauded Millennium Bank Ponzi scheme investors.
The much-venerated Gandolfo DiBlasi is a stalwart of the securities Bar and is described by sources as "one of the best securities lawyers in the country." He has played a key role in counselling the firm's leading banking clients engaged in contentious and investigatory matters.
THE FIRM Wachtell has a substantial national profile as a go-to firm for securities litigation. The firm handles a range of complex litigious matters for financial institutions and corporate entities. The group played a key role acting for Bank of America on its $8.5 billion settlement of claims relating to Countrywide-issued MBS following the subprime crisis. It is also handling the defense of a class action launched by shareholders of AOL following the corporation's sale of a patent portfolio to Microsoft in 2012.
Sources say: "A great law firm, with really smart people."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Theodore Mirvis is considered to be a "leading light in securities litigation" and headlines some of the firm's most significant representations. He is "one of the quickest, smartest and most creative around," according to one peer.
Paul Vizcarrondo "is a top-quality litigator who has great knowledge of the securities laws," explains one source. His practice encompasses civil, criminal and regulatory representation and he is routinely called upon to advise in complex securities fraud cases.
THE FIRM This firm has a deserved reputation in the securities arena with an enviable proficiency in both the litigation and regulatory spaces. Its public company advisory group provides ongoing counseling on corporate governance and regulatory compliance issues. The team's key clients in this area include the audit committee of Cablevision, and Willis Group Holdings. The firm's 17-partner securities litigation team has noted expertise in transaction-related claims and shareholder actions. It continues to act as nationwide counsel for AIG on the defense of various cases relating to the subprime crisis, and also represents GE in three federal securities class actions and corresponding derivative matters. The team also represents clients in regulatory enforcement proceedings and investigations.
Sources say: "They understand our goals and are helpful in getting us there while ensuring that we are covered from a legal perspective."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Joseph Allerhand is co-head of the firm's securities litigation team and leads AIG's defense. Sources refer to his "great judgment in terms of strategizing."
Jonathan Polkes also co-heads the team and has a practice that spans civil and criminal securities litigation, as well as investigations and regulatory advice. "He really knows his way around a courtroom," note sources.
Ellen Odoner receives warm praise from market observers. One interviewee reports: "She is highly intelligent but extremely calm – an important trait when dealing with highly charged issues – and she has done a really good job at marshaling the right talent and resources."
THE FIRM Williams & Connolly has a reputable securities practice with strength in representing senior executives, directors and officers in civil litigation and SEC regulatory actions. The team also represents accounting firms, legal practices and investment companies. Notable clients in this area include former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, The Carlyle Group and Greenberg Traurig.
Sources say: "They are very professional. Strategically they know exactly what they are doing and have done it before."
KEY INDIVIDUALS John Villa is a Washington, DC stalwart with considerable experience defending clients in banking, securities and legal malpractice litigation and regulatory proceedings. Sources describe him as “a leading light” of the securities Bar.
Kevin Downey has expertise in both criminal and civil proceedings in the securities arena. He is "a zealous advocate who is extremely intense in court but his presentation is professorial and incredibly persuasive," note sources.
THE FIRM The Willkie Farr securities practice is noted for its proficiency across both enforcement and litigation issues. The team has been involved in the defense of securities cases for an illustrious roster of clients including Facebook and AIG. In a notable highlight, the team represented Goldman Sachs and other underwriters in class actions relating to a $12 billion offering by GE in 2008, resulting in the dismissal of all claims and subsequent denial of the plaintiff’s request for reconsideration using new assertions.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Preeminent New York litigator Michael Young is chair of the securities litigation and enforcement practice group. One client states: "You couldn't envision a more client-focused lawyer. You feel like you are his only client."
Elizabeth Gray is valued for her ability to interface with regulators and has "great communication skills," sources say.
THE FIRM WilmerHale is widely considered to be a market leader with outstanding expertise and knowledge of the securities regulatory arena. It has a powerful enforcement and investigations practice, which dovetails effectively with the firm's active civil litigation defense team to provide a uniform approach in contentious matters. On the enforcement side, it has been involved in a number of prominent representations including an SEC investigation into the alleged misconduct of a senior executive of a major retailer. Its client base includes major financial institutions, corporations, global accountancy firms and trade associations. The team advised numerous underwriters including Deutsche Bank Securities, RBS Securities and Wells Fargo Securities on the successful defense of an action relating to Bank of America's Common Equivalent Securities offering.
Commercial Awareness "They provide a quality service which is commercial. They want to understand the business."
KEY INDIVIDUALS William McLucas chairs the securities department. He is one of the country's most celebrated regulatory attorneys and is considered to offer unquestionable strength in representing corporations and individuals in investigations and enforcement proceedings brought by the SEC. Sources say: "He is the go-to guy when it comes to SEC enforcement matters. He is absolutely phenomenal. He has deep knowledge and his style is very effective – not overbearing or pretentious."
"I think Harry Weiss knows the SEC and how that process works probably better than anyone in the country," comments one client. The former SEC associate director of enforcement chairs the firm's practice in this area and impresses sources with the quality of his advice.
Industry stalwart Jeffrey Rudman is an "encyclopedia of experience and knowledge" and is deeply respected by peers. He leads some of the firm's key litigation matters and is skilled at defending shareholder class actions.
Vice chair of the securities group Douglas Davison makes his debut in the rankings this year. He receives high praise from sources, who comment: "He is a very smart securities litigator who understands when it is appropriate to be cost-conscious and provides extremely practical and sound advice."
Barbara Stettner of Allen & Overy LLP is recognized as a leading regulatory attorney in the securities arena. One interviewee comments that she has "great depth of knowledge of that part of the industry and is concise and to the point in her advice."
Bernstein Liebhard LLP's founding partner Stanley Bernstein is a well-respected litigator who represents plaintiffs in some of the nation's largest securities class actions. One source comments: "He has a nice argument style which is not overbearing, he is very effective and does an excellent job."
Gregory Bruch recently left Willkie Farr & Gallagher to become a founding partner of Bruch Hanna LLP. Bruch practices in Washington, DC and is considered to be a "great guy" with "excellent judgment." While at his prior firm he acted on behalf of IndyMac Bancorp CFO Scott Keys in all investigative and regulatory matters following the bank's failure and FDIC takeover in 2008.
Gregory Markel cochairs Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP's litigation practice and is an experienced securities attorney who has been involved in some of the sector's biggest cases. Sources name him a "talented" and "sincere" attorney.
Key enforcement attorney Samuel Winer's practice is highly regarded in the sector. He is a member of Foley & Lardner LLP's full-service regulatory, litigation and transactional securities practice, and peers regard him as "smart" and "talented."
The "talented" Kathy Patrick of Gibbs & Bruns LLP has "great presence and confidence," applaud sources. She represents corporations and institutional investors in sophisticated securities litigation.
William Maguire of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP is a "terrific" attorney who specializes in complex securities litigation. He "has a good rapport with clients, gives you a sense of confidence that he knows what he is doing and is experienced in the industry," comments one respondent.
Irell & Manella's David Siegel is a highly rated Californian securities litigator. He has a nationally recognized practice and has been acting on behalf of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide Financial's former chairman and CEO, in multiple lawsuits and government actions relating to the mortgage lender's collapse in 2008.
Jones Day's litigation and SEC enforcement group is headed by reputable Washington, DC-based attorney Peter Romatowski. Interviewees praise him as a "terrific lawyer."
Dixie Johnson recently joined King & Spalding LLP from Fried Frank. Johnson is an expert in securities enforcement matters. Sources comment: "She has excellent judgment and many years of practical securities-related experience. She is particularly adept at advising on sensitive and complex securities law issues and questions relating to the requirements of and interactions with the SEC."
Frederic Firestone of McDermott Will & Emery LLP "understands the nature of client relationships very well," say sources. He recently won a key acquittal for State Street's former chief investment officer in the high-profile SEC subprime securities investigation.
New York-based plaintiff attorney Sanford Dumain of Milberg LLP is recognized as a key practitioner acting as lead counsel in complex securities class actions.
Richard Morvillo practices from the offices of boutique litigation practice MORVILLO LLP. Sources praise him as a "very good lawyer who is good in the courtroom and good on his feet."
Mark Hellerer of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP has a broad litigation practice which includes the representation of defendants involved in securities enforcement actions and criminal proceedings. According to sources he has "an incredible work ethic and dedication to clients" and is a "smart, knowledgeable and careful lawyer."
Ralph Ferrara of Proskauer Rose LLP is considered to be "a brilliant strategist with unlimited energy who is always ten steps ahead of the opposition." His practice fuses broad experience in civil, criminal, investigative and enforcement defense to provide clients with a unified approach.
Boris Feldman of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is an accomplished securities litigator and "standout name" in the sector. Feldman is considered to be a "real leader in the area of securities litigation involving technology and startup companies."
Neil Eggleston has "good judgment" and is the "person you want to have fighting your corner," comment interviewees. From the Washington, DC office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, he represents companies and individuals in securities litigation, enforcement and white-collar crime actions.