Bob Van Kirk serves as Co-Chair of Williams & Connolly’s Complex Commercial Litigation and its Securities Litigation and Enforcement practice groups. He also serves as a member of Williams & Connolly’s Executive Committee. He has argued successfully at every level of the federal judicial system, including the United States Supreme Court, and has appeared in federal and state appellate and trial courts across the country representing both corporate and individual clients in complex commercial litigation, internal and government investigations, and congressional inquiries.
Mr. Van Kirk has served as first chair in trials, appeals, arbitrations, and evidentiary hearings, developing a wide-range of substantive experience in securities, consumer and other class actions, breach of contract, antitrust, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and RICO cases. He has served as lead counsel in matters litigated in the United States and around the world, including Europe, Asia, North America, South America, the Middle East and various off-shore jurisdictions.
Recognized in Benchmark Litigation as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in America every year since 2014, Benchmark named Bob the 2023 national Commercial Litigator of the Year. He has repeatedly been recognized in Chambers USA, The Legal 500, Benchmark Litigation and Super Lawyers as one of the leading lawyers in the areas of General Commercial Litigation, Appellate, and Securities Litigation, Mr. Van Kirk has been described in these publications as “a tenacious fighter who really knows his stuff” in the courtroom and “a stellar trial lawyer” who brings a “creative and proactive approach” along with a “tireless work ethic” to his cases. One client remarked, “When there is war, get Bob.” Before winning the award in 2023, he previously had been shortlisted by Benchmark for the national Commercial Litigator of the Year and over the years Chambers USA has ranked him as one of the leading lawyers in Washington, D.C. in the category of General Commercial Litigation. He likewise has been identified as a "Leading Lawyer" nationally in securities litigation by The Legal 500 and is ranked in Band 1 for Securities Litigation in Washington, DC by Chambers USA.
Born in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Minnesota, Mr. Van Kirk was raised in the Twin Cities area, with the exception of a three-year stint in Singapore. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with highest honors in 1987, and received his J.D., with high honors, from Duke University School of Law, finishing second in his class. He also was elected Order of the Coif, won the law school’s moot court competition, was Note Editor of the Duke Law Journal, and was selected by his classmates to serve as the commencement speaker. Mr. Van Kirk spent a year as law clerk to The Honorable Paul H. Roney of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit before becoming a trial attorney in the Department of Justice honors program, where he worked in the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division for four years. He received a number of Departmental achievement awards during his tenure.
Mr. Van Kirk then served in the Office of Counsel to the President and in 1996 he returned to the Department of Justice and was named Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Policy Development. He joined Williams & Connolly in 1997. Mr. Van Kirk has served on the firm’s Hiring, Partnership and Associate Evaluation Committees, among others.
- Lead counsel on behalf of a leading private equity firm and individual board members in multi-jurisdictional litigation initiated by the liquidating trustee of a bankrupt entity seeking in excess of $2 billion. A six-month trial in Guernsey resulted in a judgment exonerating the clients on all 187 individual allegations of breach of duty. The judgment was affirmed on appeal and the plaintiffs paid his client over $30 million in attorney’s fees.
- Argued a landmark First Amendment case in the United States Supreme Court establishing that public contractors are protected from retaliation on the basis of their speech.
- Lead counsel on behalf of global private equity firm in derivative action in Delaware Chancery Court alleging breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with payments made to founders and others upon conversion from a public partnership to a corporation pursuant to a tax receivable agreement. Briefed and argued motion to dismiss, which is pending.
- Lead counsel in series of securities cases against a leading private equity firm in Massachusetts, Delaware, and Kuwait involving alleged misrepresentations related to the failure of a fund that invested in mortgage-backed securities. Argued motions to dismiss, which were granted, and successful appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and the Supreme Court of Delaware.
- Lead counsel on behalf of major defense contractor, obtained temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in the Northern District of California against threatened claims seeking over $150 million by investors in Australia.
- Lead counsel on behalf of leading asset management firm in breach of fiduciary duty claim brought by minority shareholders involving allegedly conflicted sale of company, currently scheduled for trial in January 2024.
- Lead counsel on behalf of founder of pharmaceutical company in proxy fight and related litigation involving alleged breaches of fiduciary duty in the Delaware Court of Chancery. Case settled. Represented same client in securities class action litigation involving alleged misrepresentations in New Jersey federal court. Motion to dismiss granted.
- Lead counsel on behalf of global private equity firm in tortious interference with contract claim in Delaware Chancery Court. Motion to dismiss granted in part with remaining claim voluntarily dismissed with prejudice.
- Lead counsel on behalf of diversified holding company in breach of fiduciary duty claim by minority shareholders relating to sale price achieved in Delaware Chancery Court. Case settled with no monetary payment from client.
- Lead counsel on behalf of major healthcare corporation in federal and state securities and derivative actions in Texas. Motions to dismiss granted in all cases. Affirmed on appeal.
- Lead trial counsel on behalf of the former CEO of major consulting firm in an action by the Liquidating Trustee seeking $2 billion in damages for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties and duties of loyalty. Case settled for pennies on the dollar just in advance of jury trial in state court in Virginia.
- Co-lead counsel on behalf of a national accounting firm in consumer and competitor class actions seeking hundreds of millions of dollars based on alleged misrepresentations relating to the provision of services. Motion to dismiss granted, affirmed on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
- Lead counsel on behalf of global asset management firm in Montana state court and AAA arbitration involving claims for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing concerning the sale of an asset in which the plaintiff sought over $600 million in damages. Two-week arbitration hearing resulted in complete defense victory and award of millions in attorney’s fees. All state claims were dismissed with prejudice.
- Lead counsel on behalf of former CEO of BearingPoint Inc. in securities class actions seeking over $350 million in damages, in an SEC investigation, and in related civil litigation. Argued motion to dismiss, which was granted, and successful appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
- Lead trial counsel in arbitration on behalf of former Chairman of the Board and CEO of biopharma company seeking improperly withheld benefits. Arbitration resulted in a seven-figure award.
- Co-lead counsel on behalf of the former CEO of a major financial institution in SEC and related civil litigation. After issuing Wells notice, SEC closed investigation without charges.
- Counsel on behalf of leading industrial supplies company in a qui tam action and a False Claims Act charge and in a subsequent debarment proceedings involving alleged bidding misrepresentations.
- Lead counsel for a major industrial company in an action raising FCPA and related claims in connection with United Nations Oil for Food program. Motion to dismiss granted, affirmed on appeal.
"Litigation: Securities (D.C.)," Chambers USA, 2020-2023
"National Litigation Star," Benchmark Litigation, 2015-2024
“Leading Lawyer” in the category of Securities Litigation, Legal 500, 2019-2023
“Leading Lawyer” in the category of General Commercial Disputes, Legal 500, 2020-2023
“Local Litigation Star," Benchmark Litigation, 2014-2024
"Top 100 Trial Lawyers in America," Benchmark Litigation, 2014-2023
“500 Leading Litigators in America,” Lawdragon, 2023-2024
“Litigation: General Commercial (D.C.),” Chambers USA, 2014-2018
Other Government Service
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, Office of Policy Development, 1996-1997
Office of Counsel to the President, 1995-1996
Trial Attorney, United States Department of Justice (Honors Program), Federal Programs Branch, Civil Division, 1991-1995