Jonathan D. Polkes


Jonathan Polkes
Jonathan D. Polkes, Co-Chair of Weil’s global Litigation Department and member of the Firm’s Management Committee, is ranked among the top New York Securities Litigators by Chambers USA. He supervises investigations, regulatory and criminal matters, and securities litigation.

A former federal prosecutor, Mr. Polkes represents many of the highest profile clients involved in the financial crisis. He is supervising a vast docket of criminal and regulatory investigations and civil litigation arising from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which The American Lawyer described as “enormous enough by itself to keep most litigation departments on the run.” Mr. Polkes represented AIG in connection with the Department of Justice investigation into its near-collapse, and Washington Mutual Bank in connection with the criminal investigation of its collapse. Mr. Polkes also represents the Willis Group in the MDL litigation concerning the Stanford Financial fraud, an elite financial institution in connection with the Mark Dreier Ponzi scheme, and a senior executive in connection with all civil and regulatory matters arising from the Merrill Lynch-Bank of America merger. He represents Archstone Smith Realty Trust in connection with the litigation fallout from the largest REIT merger in history.

Mr. Polkes has represented prominent corporate clients and executives in virtually every major legal event to have affected the business world in recent memory, including stock option backdating, market timing and late trading, IPO laddering, investigations of conflicts of interest between investment banking and research departments, and the Enron bankruptcy.

He has been described by Chambers USA as a “world-class litigator,” “tremendous on his feet,” and “extremely user friendly,” as an “incredible presence in the courtroom,” “a power lawyer,” and also as achieving “great results in complex securities regulatory investigations and related class actions.” Mr. Polkes is listed in Best of the U.S. in the category of “Bet the Company Litigation” as well as white collar criminal defense and commercial litigation. He has been recognized in Legal 500 as a “recommended” lawyer for both securities litigation and white collar criminal defense, where clients and commentators have described him as “one of the best litigators on the planet,” “very talented” and as having “a superb reputation in the market.” He also has been featured in New York Magazine as one of the best securities litigators in New York, recognized as a leading lawyer for Commercial Litigation, Litigation – Securities, and Criminal Defense: White Collar, among other areas, in Best Lawyers in America, as a “Litigation Star” in the U.S. and a national “Litigation Star” for Securities and White-Collar and Investigations in Benchmark Litigation, among the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America, and one of four “Attorneys Who Matter” in the securities litigation space by Ethisphere. In 2016 he was named as one of five “Securities Litigation MVPs” nationwide by Law360, and honored as a national “Litigation Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal.

He is a member of the Board of Contributing Editors and Advisors of the Securities Regulation Law Journal. He received the Burton Award for clarity in legal writing. Mr. Polkes has been invited to speak at Yale Law School and New York University School of Law. He was also an adjunct associate professor at Fordham University School of Law, where he taught seminars covering trial advocacy and the Federal Rules of Evidence. He served as co-chairman of the ABA subcommittee on Criminal Aspects of The Securities Laws. Mr. Polkes is regularly invited to speak at the Securities Industry Association, American Bar Association, and Futures Industry Association. He was the Keynote Speaker at an annual meeting of the association of lawyers and compliance officers of British investment firms.

Mr. Polkes was an Assistant US Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, where he was Deputy Chief of the Business/Securities Fraud Unit. He conducted more than 20 jury trials and argued 12 times before the United States Court of Appeals. He received two Superior Performance Awards from the Department of Justice and numerous commendations of the FBI, the Postal Inspection Service and the Secret Service.

Mr. Polkes is a graduate of New York University School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1984, and Haverford College, where he graduated magna cum laude. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He served as law clerk to Justice Aharon Barak of the Supreme Court of Israel and to The Honorable William B. Bryant, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Polkes serves on the Board of Directors of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and of Advocates for Children of New York, and as a Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Lawyers Division of the UJA Federation of New York.

Notable Representations

  • Senior partner in charge of litigation matters related to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, leading defense in all criminal and regulatory investigations, Examiner investigations, and non-bankruptcy related litigations.
  • Represents AIG in DOJ Criminal investigations related to CDO market collapse.
  • Represented Washington Mutual in DOJ/criminal investigation related to the bank’s collapse.
  • Represents Willis Group in MDL litigation related to Stanford Financial fraud.
  • Represents a major financial firm in connection with Mark Dreier Ponzi scheme investigation and litigation.
  • Senior partner supervising nationwide litigation and arbitration for Archstone Smith Real Estate Trust and Tishman Speyer related to $22 billion REIT merger.
  • Represents senior former Merrill Lynch executive in all investigations and litigations related to Bank of America Merrill Lynch merger.
  • Represented Corporations, Special Committee, Audit Committee, and Senior Executives, in stock options backdating matters for Staples, Bed, Bath & Beyond, The Children’s Place, Barnes & Noble, and Boston Computer Group.
  • Counsel to The Estée Lauder Companies in 10-b-5 securities litigation and related shareholder derivative suits.
  • Liaison counsel to group of broker-dealer defendants and lead counsel to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Investec in connection with market timing cases. Led team of lawyers defending investigations by SEC, NY Attorney General and NASD. Successfully dismissed with prejudice all complaints brought against clients in multi-district class action.
  • Represents the estate of Enron Corp. in connection with dozens of lawsuits it has brought to obtain billions of dollars it is due under numerous swaps, forwards and other derivatives contracts.
  • Represented Bank of America in highly publicized multi-district class action proceedings arising out of alleged improper initial public offering practices.
  • Represented Bear, Stearns & Co. in connection with numerous regulatory investigations arising out of alleged conflicts of interest between investment banking and research functions.
  • Represented Bear, Stearns & Co. at trial and on appeal before the Second Circuit when it was accused of trading hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign currency derivatives in violation of alleged fiduciary and other common law duties to its customers. The case resulted in the definitive Second Circuit decision addressing the common law duties of broker-dealers.
  • Represented Lehman Brothers, Inc. in an internationally publicized, multi-million dollar dispute with an Asian trading counterparty involving the sale of derivatives. This case required the use of international discovery pursuant to the Hague convention and Mr. Polkes is one of the only American lawyers to have conducted a deposition in China. The case resulted in a 10 week trial in the Southern District of New York.
  • Successfully defended a securities firm at a trial in the Southern District of New York against charges that the firm sold over one hundred million dollars of unregistered securities.
  • Represented the CEO of a major fashion industry corporation in connection with SEC and criminal investigations of insider trading and market manipulation.
  • Represented a group of executives in a New York Stock Exchange listed insurance company in connection with an SEC investigation of allegedly improper compliance procedures.
  • Represented a group of senior corporate executives of a New York Stock Exchange traded company in connection with a DOJ investigation of an alleged international price-fixing conspiracy.

Awards and Recognition, Speaking Engagements, Latest Thinking, Firm News & Announcements

Awards and Recognition

View all

Speaking Engagements

Latest Thinking

Firm News & Announcements

View all