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Crisis Management

Crisis Management

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Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Crisis Management Group offers an essential resource in today’s complex legal environment.  The right response to a crisis whether it is a whistleblower’s surprise allegation, a significant and unexpected accounting problem, a product recall, or a government investigation requires a cohesive team equipped to take immediate action on multiple fronts.  Gibson Dunn’s Crisis Management Group is composed of skilled lawyers, including former prosecutors, judges, and government officials, with experience assisting clients facing major, company-threatening crises.  Our lawyers have demonstrated their effectiveness in dealing with all three branches of the federal government, state law enforcement and regulatory officials, and international regulators.  Members of this team also are experienced in developing and implementing prompt and effective media strategies to address any situation, and they frequently counsel executives and boards of directors in preparing for and avoiding crisis situations before they arise. 

Gibson Dunn lawyers are known for their ability to turn around crises and guide clients through difficult events.  The firm was named a 2014 Litigation Department of the Year Finalist by The American Lawyer following our unprecedented, consecutive term as the 2012 Litigation Department of the Year, when the publication observed that our extraordinary efforts on behalf of clients extend beyond the courtroom: “Its litigators aren’t shy when it comes to engaging the media … the firm’s media savvy is just one more way these litigators distinguish themselves.”

The Crisis Management Group is led by Randy M. Mastro and Debra Wong Yang.  Mr. Mastro previously served as Chief of Staff to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and as New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Operations, and he is a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York.  Ms. Yang previously served as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, the first Asian-American woman to serve in that capacity, and as a California state judge. 

Members of the Crisis Management Group have experience in all manner of issues that can arise in a corporate crisis situation, including criminal law, complex civil litigation, media relations and media legal issues, securities and corporate governance, antitrust, environmental regulation, banking and currency, accounting, insurance, international trade, employment disputes, homeland security, transportation, energy, immigration and border issues, and election law and ballot measures.  The group’s litigators can handle suits wherever they are filed–and, if necessary, all the way to the Supreme Court.  Gibson Dunn’s crisis management expertise also extends to congressional investigations, with a bipartisan team, including former members of Congress and former federal and high-ranking state officials, experienced in providing advice to the business community.

Representative crisis management matters include:

  • Representing Chevron Corporation in its successful RICO suit against the purveyors of what the Wall Street Journal called the legal “fraud of the century,” Chevron Corp. v. Donziger et al., Case No. 11-cv-0691 (S.D.N.Y.).  Gibson Dunn was lead counsel in Chevron’s RICO and fraud suit against the U.S. lawyer and associates who masterminded an extortion scheme against Chevron that included fraudulently procuring a $9.2 billion Ecuadorian judgment against the company and carrying out an extortionate pressure campaign in the U.S.  Gibson Dunn obtained a trial verdict in favor of Chevron, in which the district court held that the scheme constituted racketeering in violation of RICO and federal laws prohibiting attempted extortion, wire fraud, money laundering, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  In its 485-page opinion, the court described the case as “extraordinary” and “includ[ing] things that normally come only out of Hollywood,” including “coded emails,” “payments out of a secret account,” videotaped evidence of crimes in progress, and blockbuster evidence that the defendants “wrote the [Ecuadorian] court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment.”  The RICO verdict follows on the heels of dozens of discovery proceedings filed by Gibson Dunn in district courts around the country.  Gibson Dunn’s efforts led eight courts to apply the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege and order production of evidence related to the racketeering scheme.  As Chevron requested, the court imposed equitable relief preventing the conspirators from enforcing the judgment in the U.S. and ensuring that they “not be allowed to benefit from [the Ecuadorian judgment] in any way.”  The New York Times described the result as a “major victory,” and the Washington Post called it “resounding.”  Gibson Dunn continues to advise Chevron on a range of issues flowing from this high-stakes, complex matter.
  • Won historic marriage equality victory before the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decision left intact the district court’s broad injunction against the enforcement of California’s Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution restricting marriage in the state to between one man and one woman.  Gibson Dunn filed the complaint challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in 2009.  After trial in 2010 the Northern District of California declared it unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, explaining that Proposition 8 “does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,” and directed that enforcement of Proposition 8 be enjoined.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed, and the proponents of Proposition 8 appealed to the Supreme Court.  Hollingsworth v. Perry.
  • Persuaded Los Angeles Superior Court that the $34 million punitive damages award entered against affiliates of The Common Fund for Nonprofit Organizations (Commonfund Group) was unconstitutionally excessive.  In remitting the award to $16.4 million, the court adopted Gibson Dunn’s argument that “due process requires that the amount of punitive damages be limited to a 1:1 ratio” with the substantial compensatory damages award.  The jury had entered a $50.4 million verdict against the Commonfund Group following a three-week trial.  Gibson Dunn was then retained by The Common Fund for Nonprofit Organizations to handle the post-trial motions and appeal of the verdict entered against its affiliates.  CFRI-NCA Palladium Venture, L.L.C. v. NCA Argyle LP.
  • Transforming a high-risk toxic tort litigation against Dole Food Company, Inc. into a headline-making victory when Gibson Dunn took over the defense of a series of cases filed against Dole alleging that its use of the pesticide DBCP in Nicaragua in the 1970s caused sterility in former farm workers.  Gibson Dunn uncovered a fraudulent scheme by plaintiffs’ lawyers to recruit and train fraudulent plaintiffs in a toxic tort suit which the court dismissed as a sanction, finding pervasive fraud.  Prior to Gibson Dunn’s representation, a Los Angeles jury had awarded $2.3 million in damages in another DBCP case, a verdict that the court threw out, finding it was tainted by fraud.
  • Representing Goldman Sachs in widely covered congressional investigations and hearings relating to the financial crisis and the related suit by the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as representing several other clients in connection with the work of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.
  • Obtained a landmark victory for the world’s largest retailer when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed class certification of the biggest employment discrimination class in history.  Rejecting a 6-5 decision by the en banc Ninth Circuit, the Court held that a class plaintiff must come forward with “significant proof” that an employer operated under a “general policy of discrimination.”  In a case where such proof “is entirely absent” and plaintiffs’ evidence is “worlds away” from the required significant proof, the case lacks commonality and cannot proceed as a class action.
  • Representing Facebook in an investigation by the New York Attorney General into online safety of underage visitors to the site.  Gibson Dunn lawyers moved quickly to craft a settlement under which Facebook agreed to issue sterner warnings to minors and revise its method for handling complaints.  At a press conference televised across the United States, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Facebook’s chief privacy officer stood together to announce the settlement, which created a new model for the industry.  


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