January 27, 2017
Weil has been profiled as a Trials “Practice Group of the Year” in recognition of a strong year of trial wins. In particular, the profile highlighted two defense jury verdicts on behalf of financial institution Morgan Stanley in an insider trading case and tobacco company Philip Morris in a medical monitoring class action suit. Both cases were relatively unique in that these types of cases are rarely tried in front of juries, which afforded Weil’s attorneys the opportunity to distinguish themselves as best-in-class trial attorneys.
In both cases, one of the keys to success was the singular ability of the litigators to masterfully break down complex concepts in a way that a jury could understand. Co-Chair of the Firm’s global Litigation Department Jonathan Polkes, lead counsel on Morgan Stanley’s insider trading case, said that he used the concept of an “elevator pitch”, summing up why the bank should win the case, in order to successfully reach the jury. He expanded, “You've got to figure out what's important and what isn't … no matter how complicated it is, underneath it there's a story that people can understand.”
The jury returned a defense verdict in the Southern District of New York, finding that Morgan Stanley had not acted with fraudulent intent when it did not disclose information related to the short-selling of stock of Magna International – a Canadian auto-parts manufacturer in which the plaintiff, a Russian billion and his Netherlands-based investment vehicle, Veleron had invested $1.5 billion just prior to the start of the financial crisis. Mr. Polkes noted the uniqueness of this case in that private banks are rarely a party in a jury trial, saying “private insider trading cases are so rare and unusual in and of itself means ... in that respect, it's a groundbreaking case.”
Similarly in another significant win, Litigation partner Diane Sullivan led the successful defense of Philip Morris in a multi-hundred million dollar medical monitoring case before a jury in Massachusetts federal court. The case was originally filed in 2006 and certified as a class action in 2010. The class, estimated at tens of thousands of healthy Massachusetts smokers, sought payment from Philip Morris for annual scans using technology that can detect signs of lung cancer much earlier than a chest X-ray. Ms. Sullivan’s argument to the jury focused on Philip Morris’ extensive efforts to market a low-tar version of the product in the 1980s and the market’s subsequent rejection of the safer option. The jury agreed the company was not accountable for the cost of the early screenings and returned a unanimous verdict on behalf of Philip Morris.
Co-Chair of Weil’s global Litigation Department David Lender emphasized the specialized skillset Weil attorneys bring to these types of cases, noting “We get brought in because clients are worried it's going to go to trial and ... they want to add firepower … Telling a story to a jury is very different than what most litigators do.”