Williams & Connolly’s Financial Services practice is recognized as among the leading practices in the United States by notable legal publications, such as Chambers and The Legal 500. Our lawyers have vast experience addressing the full spectrum of issues affecting clients within the financial services industry.
Williams & Connolly represents financial institutions, including federally-insured banks and their officers and directors, bank trade associations, private equity firms, financial services companies, money service businesses, cryptocurrency companies, loan servicers, and investment banks in securities litigation, derivative actions, civil litigation, arbitrations, lawsuits brought by regulators and criminal investigations. We have also handled internal investigations as well as investigations and administrative proceedings initiated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), trustees appointed under the Securities Investor Protection Act and other federal and state regulators.
Our work on behalf of financial institutions goes beyond traditional financial services litigation. We regularly represent financial services and investment companies in cases ranging from intellectual property suits to employment disputes. Our representation of financial institutions reaches across a broad array of areas including, but not limited to:
Williams & Connolly has extensive experience representing financial institutions in complex domestic arbitrations under numerous arbitration regimes, including before the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), International Centre For Dispute Resolution (“ICDR”), International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (“CPR”), JAMS, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). Some examples include:
- Representing The Carlyle Group in an ad hoc UNCITRAL arbitration arising from a breach-of-contract dispute with former business partners.
- Representing two financial services executives in a FINRA arbitration alleging misappropriation of confidential information and improper solicitation.
- Lead trial counsel for a global wealth management firm in a confidential, binding arbitration in New York of discrimination claims.
The firm has extensive experience handling complex issues that routinely arise in bankruptcy litigation, including with respect to financial institutions. These issues include bankruptcy jurisdiction, the standing of trustees and creditors to bring claims; deepening insolvency; claims for fraudulent transfers and preferences; the availability of in pari delicto and other state law defenses to claims by trustees; availability of defenses afforded by the bankruptcy plan and other proceedings in the bankruptcy; and litigation over Rule 2004 subpoenas. Some examples include:
- Representing an investment company specializing in structured financial products against claims of fraudulent transfers and preferences in trustee litigation relating to an alleged Ponzi scheme, and in separate claims by a creditor group for alleged aiding and abetting the Ponzi scheme.
- Representing a “Big Four” accounting firm against claims by Litigation Trust and related securities claims by shareholders and creditors arising from the bankruptcy of a U.S. corporation with operations in China.
- Representing a worldwide law firm in connection with litigation arising from the bankruptcy of a financial services company, which collapsed amid allegations of fraud.
Cryptocurrency & Blockchain Technology/Fintech
Our vast experience defending public companies, audit firms, financial institutions, senior executives, officers and directors, and lawyers in investigations and trials offers our clients solutions to tackle novel legal and regulatory issues for companies operating in the blockchain ecosystem. Our clients have included fintech firms, cryptocurrency and digital asset platforms, cryptocurrency miners and traders, and eCommerce payment platforms. Some examples include:
- Representation of a digital asset bank as lead counsel in an action filed in federal court against the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
- Representation of a major fintech and cryptocurrency platform in an appeal from a win in a state court where it succeeded in enjoining a state regulation imposing fiduciary duties on broker-dealers in recommending securities to customers.
- Representation of a cryptocurrency trader against money laundering charges based on a crypto mixing service.
Williams & Connolly has significant experience representing banks, specialty finance companies, holding companies, and other financial institutions in connection with enforcement matters, supervisory examinations, and administrative proceedings initiated by federal regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), FDIC, OCC, DOJ, Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), and the SEC. Some examples include:
- Represented TCF National Bank, the first bank to ever litigate against the CFPB, in an enforcement action related to the bank’s compliance with the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, Regulation E, and the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
- Representing Fifth Third Bank in litigation brought by the CFPB alleging unfair and abusive acts and practices in connection with allegedly unauthorized account openings.
- Represented a large multinational bank in connection with threatened claims by state regulators and possible enforcement actions by the OCC and the CFPB relating to the distribution of prepaid unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
Insurance and Reinsurance
Williams & Connolly has been helping clients navigate insurance disputes for more than four decades. We have represented companies and executives in a wide range of areas, including life settlements; class action litigation; criminal defense and government investigations; securities and financial services enforcement and litigation; premium finance and stranger originated life insurance (“STOLI”) disputes; representation of directors and officers; healthcare and false claims disputes; unlicensed insurance; and appellate litigation. Some examples include:
- Representing a Wall Street Bank as trial counsel in multi-billion-dollar litigation brought by a monoline insurer.
- Representing a leading life settlement provider and certain of its affiliates in a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) action brought by an AIG subsidiary.
- Representing an insurance company in a nationwide consumer class action arising from the retail sale of credit insurance for automotive financing.
Williams & Connolly represents a wide range of investment companies, including some of the largest private equity firms in the world, in securities litigation, derivative actions, domestic and international civil litigation and arbitrations, as well as civil and criminal investigations and lawsuits by regulators. Some examples include:
- Represented a leading private equity firm in a decade-long dispute brought by a municipality seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages arising out of the purchase of a privately held water system, in which the city made breach of contract, fraud and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing allegations. Obtained a complete defense verdict and an award of over $4 million in attorney’s fees.
- A leading private equity firm and its executives in international litigation and class actions brought under the 1934 Act in numerous federal courts in connection with the collapse of a $23 billion fund.
- Representation of a global private equity firm in a DOJ criminal tax investigation relating to domestic and international commercial and banking transactions.
Our representations have included many SEC enforcement actions (both in federal court and administrative proceedings) and investigations, and have covered wide-ranging allegations of securities fraud, stock option backdating, insider trading, other violations of the ’33 and ’34 Securities Acts or the regulations promulgated thereunder, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Some examples include:
- Represented a venture capital company in a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and a parallel SEC investigation.
- Representation of a leading industrial supply company with respect to an SEC investigation into alleged channel stuffing.
- Representation of the former CEO of an investment bank in an SEC investigation and related civil litigation involving alleged improper disclosures of various funds. After receiving the firm’s response to the agency’s Wells Notice, the SEC elected not to proceed and dropped the case.
The firm’s securities representations involve suits of all types, including class actions proceeding in federal and state courts (and under federal and state law), derivative actions, and common-law and statutory shareholder disputes. Some examples include:
- Representation of AmTrust Financial Services in a putative securities fraud class action alleging AmTrust made a series of misstatements about its finances.
- Representation of a Fortune 100 financial institution in a class action under the 1934 Act after the case was remanded for a new trial in Illinois federal court on loss causation and damages.
- Representation of a firm and affiliated funds in a class action under the 1933 and 1934 Acts brought in Texas federal court and a derivative case in Texas state court arising from an energy-exploration company’s disclosures of prospects and related trading activities.
Criminal Defense & Government Investigations
Williams & Connolly’s top-tier Criminal Defense & Government Investigation’s practice has represented corporate and individual clients in the financial industry in every substantive area of criminal law and at every stage of the enforcement process. Some examples include:
- Representation of Wilmington Trust Corporation against a federal indictment alleging that the bank had engaged in fraudulent loan reporting practices. The government dismissed the criminal indictment on the first day of trial.
- Representation of a global bank in connection with a DOJ investigation and litigation under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act.
- Representation of former Bear Stearns hedge fund manager Ralph Cioffi in what the New York Times called “an early test of the government’s ability to win convictions tied to the subprime mortgage-related investments that banks sold during the housing boom.” The acquittal on all counts was described by the Times as “a major setback for the Justice Department.”