Litigation

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The hallmark of a successful litigation department is offering creative solutions to our clients’ most complex commercial disputes. We are at our best when the issues are tangled and complex. Whether the problem involves a labyrinthine series of contracts and agreements, a joint venture ordeal, a heated shareholder battle, accusations of fraud, a problem with a regulator, or any other company-threatening event, we dive in with an industry-experienced team to identify immediately the issues critical to the matter. Our litigators then develop and implement a strategy while maintaining flexibility and being mindful of unintended consequences.  Our fearlessness, 125-year track record, and small staffing philosophy helps our clients get the results they need, whether through trial or, more often, commercial resolution.

Our litigators have earned significant victories and prominent representations in key sectors in which the practice group excels.

Here are some of our recent litigated matters:

  • In re Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., Shareholder Litigation
    Represented Kenneth Cole at the trial and appellate levels in action brought by minority shareholders challenging a going-private transaction involving Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. Willkie obtained dismissal of the plaintiff’s action in the trial court, which was affirmed by the Appellate Division and the Court of Appeals. It is the first case under New York law to apply the business judgment rule to a going-private transaction where the transaction was conditioned on the dual protections of a “majority of the minority” voting provision, and the transaction is approved by a committee of independent directors.
  • In re Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
    Lead litigation counsel for Lehman Brothers Holdings in multi-billion dollar litigation against RMBS trustees involving allegations of breaches of various representations and warranties.
  • In re Facebook, Inc. IPO Sec. & Derivative Litigation
    Willkie is co-counsel for Facebook, Inc. in multidistrict litigation involving more than 40 securities and derivative lawsuits filed against the company, its officers and directors, and the underwriters in connection with Facebook’s initial public offering.  Thus far, Willkie has obtained several critical victories for Facebook and its directors and officers, including dismissal of six shareholder derivative actions on threshold non-merits issues of justiciability before subject matter jurisdiction in important decisions for multi-party, multi-forum litigation. 
  • In re General Electric Company Securities Litigation
    Obtained dismissals on behalf of all major U.S. and foreign underwriters in major securities litigation involving a $12 billion offering of GE stock.
  • Arista Records LLC, et al. v. Limewire LLC, et al.
    Retained after liability was decided, to try damages phase in which clients faced $75 trillion in damage claims.  After successful pre-trial and trial proceedings, including a blistering cross examination of Plaintiffs’ lead witness that received significant press attention, obtained extremely favorable settlement of $105 million.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Bloomberg, L.P.
    Won dismissal of purported class action claims asserting that Bloomberg, L.P. had engaged in a pattern of discrimination against women who were pregnant and took maternity leave.  In a highly publicized ruling, the court found that the EEOC failed “to demonstrate that discrimination was Bloomberg’s standard operating procedure” because “J’accuse! is not enough in court.  Evidence is required.”
  • Agence France Presse v. Morel
    This copyright infringement case related to photographs taken by Mr. Morel in Haiti on January 12, 2010, the first day the Haitian people suffered a catastrophic earthquake.  Defendants downloaded eight of Mr. Morel’s photographs that were misappropriated by a third party, licensed and distributed the photographs under a third party’s name without permission, and later licensed and distributed the photographs with Mr. Morel’s name and their own credits without seeking or securing Mr. Morel’s permission.  Trial was held in November 2013.  After an eight day trial, the jury awarded Mr. Morel the maximum statutory damages for willful infringement of his copyright in the eight photographs.  Because this case is the first to address how images made available to the public through social media can be used by third parties for commercial purposes, it was followed closely by the press.  And, on November 27, 2013, Willkie litigation partner Joseph Baio was selected as American Lawyer’s Litigator of the Week for his work in representing Mr. Morel.
  • In re Nortel Networks, Inc., et al.
    Willkie represents Nortel Networks U.K. pension claimants in a groundbreaking multi-jurisdictional trial.  Nortel filed for bankruptcy in Canada, the U.S. and several European jurisdictions in 2009.  It was able to liquidate the majority of its assets, but in an effort to maximize value for the Nortel Group as a whole, the parties decided to delay deciding on how to allocate the  proceeds of the sale of the Group’s assets until the sales were completed.  The judges presiding over Nortel’s cases in  Canada and the U.S. decided to hold the allocation trial simultaneously.  
  • El Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad v. Alcatel-Lucent SA, et al.
    Won dismissal of a $200 million Florida RICO action against Alcatel-Lucent that grew out of a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation and settlement with the U.S. government, which was also handled by the firm’s litigation practice.
  • In Re: Insurance Brokerage Antitrust Litigation
    Successfully represented Marsh & McLennan, the world’s largest insurance broker, in multidistrict class action and individual policyholder litigation arising out of the New York Attorney General’s investigation of the insurance industry.
  • In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation
    Willkie represents MasterCard in one of the largest antitrust cases ever filed in the United States, including appellate and opt-out litigation.  In this multidistrict, complex action, merchants who accept MasterCard and Visa payment cards sued MasterCard, Visa, and some of the nation’s largest banks (including Chase, Citibank, and Bank of America) in over 50 actions, alleging that the defendants’ interchange fees and merchant acceptance rules violate a variety of federal and state antitrust and unfair competition laws, giving rise to treble damages amounting to billions of dollars as well as attorneys’ fees and injunctive relief. 
  • A.P.I., Inc. Asbestos Settlement Trust, et al. v. Zurich Insurance Company, et al.
    Prevailed on summary judgment after extensive discovery on agency, alter ego, and successor liability claims seeking to hold Zurich Insurance Company and U.S. and European affiliates liable for alleged obligations of an insolvent insurance company.
  • Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
    Obtained decertification of a nationwide Fair Labor Standards Act putative class action and dismissal of RICO and false imprisonment claims against Wal-Mart in federal trial court, as well as an affirmance in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • Gary K. Bielfeldt v. KPMG LLP
    Brought in shortly before trial to assist trial team in a tax advisory malpractice action, successfully reduced client’s exposure from over $300 million to $60 million.  Assumed lead defense role after $17 million verdict, first reducing judgment to under $10 million and then winning rare appellate reversal and dismissal of all claims against KPMG.
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