Akiva Shapiro is a litigation partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s New York office, where he is a member of the Firm’s Appellate and Constitutional Law, Commercial Litigation, Media & Entertainment, Securities Litigation, and Betting & Gaming Practice Groups.
Mr. Shapiro’s practice focuses on a broad range of high-stakes constitutional, commercial, and appellate litigation matters, successfully representing plaintiffs and defendants in suits involving civil RICO, securities fraud, breach of contract, misappropriation, and many other tort claims, as well as First Amendment, Due Process, CPLR Article 78, and statutory challenges to government actions and regulations. He is regularly engaged in front of New York’s trial courts, federal and state courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court, and has been named a Super Lawyers New York Metro “Rising Star” in Constitutional Law in each of the past four years, and as a runner-up Litigator of the Week by The American Lawyer in August 2019 for a high-profile constitutional victory on behalf of the New York State title insurance industry.
Representative commercial litigation matters include:
- Lynn Tilton/Patriarch RICO litigation: Obtained dismissal with prejudice on the pleadings of a $1 billion civil RICO suit against private equity investor Lynn Tilton and her Patriarch entities filed in the Southern District of New York.
- A major international insurer: Filed $1 billion civil RICO, breach of contract, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty action on behalf of major international insurer, defeated motion to dismiss the case, and at the same time obtained dismissal of adverse party’s $150 million breach of contract claim. After expedited discovery, successfully moved for summary judgment on our client’s breach of contract claim, and participated in a 25-day bench trial on our client’s RICO and other remaining claims that resulted, post-trial, in a confidential settlement.
- Chevron: In a major victory for the rule of law, defeated attempt to confirm a sham $18 billion Egyptian arbitral award in U.S. federal court. The court found that there was no agreement to arbitrate between the parties, that numerous procedural infirmities independently precluded confirmation of the award, and that Chevron had raised a variety of additional meritorious defenses.
- Al Maya (forgery litigation)—Represented Dubai-based company in successfully proving authenticity of operating contract governing its commercial relationship with a New York supplier, after the supplier falsely alleged that the contract was forged. On the eve of a federal jury trial on the authenticity of the agreement, and with the testimony of a handwriting expert and ink chemist dooming the forgery allegation, the other side capitulated completely, stipulating to the authenticity of the agreement and to immediate arbitration of the merits of the contract dispute.
- Al Maya (AAA arbitration)—Successfully prosecuted breach of contract and business tort claims in front of AAA arbitration panel. Second-chaired arbitration, examining and cross-examining witnesses, after which the panel granted our client’s claims and awarded damages and attorney’s fees. After the opposing party refused to pay the award, brought a successful action in federal court for confirmation and obtained payment in full.
- AmTrust: In a case the presiding judge described as not “an easy one,” obtained complete dismissal on the pleadings of putative securities class action brought under Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act and sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Exchange Act against AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. and certain of its officers and directors. The suit followed AmTrust’s restatement in 2017 of certain line items in its prior financial statements.
Representative litigation involving government entities and constitutional issues includes:
- Lynn Tilton/Patriarch SEC litigation: Successfully defended Lynn Tilton and her Patriarch entities against SEC fraud charges in which the SEC sought disgorgement of more than $200 million from Ms. Tilton—the largest disgorgement award ever sought by the SEC from an individual—and Ms. Tilton’s debarment for life as an investment advisor. After a multi-week trial, the SEC Administrative Law Judge overseeing the case issued a landmark 57-page decision dismissing all of the SEC’s charges in full, and the SEC chose not to appeal.
- New York State Land Title Association: Won a First Amendment and Due Process vagueness challenge to a New York State Department of Financial Services regulation that would have barred the entire title insurance industry in New York from engaging in traditional marketing practices such as taking a real estate attorney to lunch, for which Mr. Shapiro was named a runner-up Litigator of the Week by The American Lawyer. In the initial stage of the litigation, he argued and won an emergency stay of a provision that would have imposed an industry-wide 5% rate reduction on title insurance premiums, which was hailed as a “major victory” for the industry.
- DraftKings: Defended DraftKings against State Attorney General litigations over the legality of daily fantasy sports in various states. In the New York action, Gibson Dunn obtained a stay pending appeal of an injunction that would have barred DraftKings from operating in the state and, while the appeal was pending, the case was resolved favorably through state legislation legalizing daily fantasy sports in New York.
- New York Skyline, Inc.: Won a critical victory for the operator of the “Skyride” entertainment experience located in the Empire State Building, obtaining a unanimous reversal from New York’s Appellate Division, First Department of a ruling of the New York State Supreme Court that threatened to put Skyline out of business, after the City of New York began arresting ticket agents on the grounds that they were selling “goods or services” on the sidewalk without an impossible-to-obtain “general vendor” license.
- NYCLASS: Represented non-profit organization in successful appeal, on First Amendment grounds, of injunction significantly restricting public protests near Central Park of the horse-drawn carriage industry.
- Citizens Union: Representing good government groups in First Amendment challenge to New York State’s sweeping, first-in-the-nation requirement that large swaths of non-profit organizations publicly disclosure essentially all of their donors. Disclosure requirement has been stayed for two years while the lawsuit is pending.
- Advertising sign litigation: Won a number of challenges brought to the New York City Board of Standards & Appeals and in state court to various adverse decisions restricting advertising signage throughout New York City (some of which were reversed on appeal).
- Padilla v. Kentucky amicus brief: Helped secure landmark decision at the United States Supreme Court holding that criminal defense attorneys have an obligation to advise noncitizen clients about the deportation risks of a guilty plea, and that an attorney who fails to do so violates the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of effective assistance of counsel. The majority opinion quoted our amicus brief on behalf of legal ethics, criminal procedure, and criminal law professors for the critical proposition that “authorities of every stripe . . . universally require defense attorneys to advise as to the risk of deportation consequences for non-citizen clients.”
- Vartelas amicus brief: Helped secure an important immigration rights victory from the U.S. Supreme Court preserving travel rights for lawful permanent resident aliens. The majority opinion adopted in significant respects the arguments we advanced in an amicus brief filed on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and other national criminal defense and immigration rights organizations in holding that a provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) barring re-entry to the United States by certain lawful resident aliens who made “innocent, casual, and brief” trips abroad did not apply to conduct that predated the Act. Also provided advice relating to Mr. Vartelas’s successful petition for certiorari.
- Zivotofsky amicus briefs: Represented U.S. Senators, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and dozens of other Members of Congress as amici in a landmark separation of powers case brought to protect the role of Congress in foreign affairs. In the initial stage of the case, we filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 29 Senators and 45 Members of the House of Representatives, which resulted in an 8-1 win significantly narrowing the political question doctrine and holding that the federal courts have the power to evaluate a constitutional challenge to a statute, even if the statute implicates foreign affairs. The majority opinion specifically noted the involvement of members of Congress as amici in the case. After the case was remanded for a decision on the question of which branch of government controls the recognition power and the circuit court decided the case in favor of the Executive, we filed a successful amicus brief in support of certiorari and, once cert was granted, a merits brief on behalf of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and dozens of other Members of Congress. Although the decision came down in the Executive’s favor on the narrow recognition power issue, the majority opinion expressly affirmed the robust role of Congress in foreign affairs, consistent with the arguments we had made.
- New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York: Representing 139 Members of Congress as amici in pending Second Amendment case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief argues that the intermediate scrutiny standard for regulations implicating non-core Second Amendment rights properly balances the role of the judiciary in policing violations of the Constitution with the need for legislators to react to the facts on the ground in order to enact laws and regulations designed to ensure the health and safety of the citizenry.
- 554 Queen Anne Road: Successfully represented synagogue in suit against a local zoning board for violating our client’s First Amendment, Due Process, and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act rights by imposing unreasonable and oppressive conditions on the synagogue’s use of its property for religious services, study, and activities. Argued summary judgment motion and “prerogative writs” trial and, while our appeal of those decisions was pending, negotiated a favorable settlement that removed essentially all of the challenged conditions and restrictions.
- Romaine: Successfully briefed and argued appeal to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department on behalf of the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney upholding jury’s guilty verdict on a robbery charge. The First Department unanimously affirmed the jury’s decision below, and New York’s highest court declined the appellant’s application for leave to further appeal the decision.
- Louis D. Brandeis Center amicus briefs: Representing non-profit organization in assisting multiple states in their defense of legislation barring state contractors from participating in a boycott of Israel.
Mr. Shapiro has been honored as one of The Jewish Week’s “36 under 36” up-and-coming leaders in the Jewish community for his work on a number of high-profile pro bono cases, and was on the Gibson Dunn team that received the Jewish National Fund Presidential Award for pro bono work on behalf of the organization. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ), the nation’s leading professional organization of Jewish lawyers and jurists, and a former Co-Chair of the AAJLJ’s First Amendment/Religious Liberties Committee. He regularly gives Continuing Legal Education classes for other lawyers, including on constitutional and complex commercial litigation strategy, brief writing, and deposition techniques.
Mr. Shapiro earned his Juris Doctor in 2008 from Columbia Law School, where he was a senior editor of the Columbia Law Review, a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and a semifinalist in the Harlan Fiske Stone Honors Moot Court competition. After law school, he served as a research assistant to Judge Debra Livingston of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to Professor Harold Edgar. Mr. Shapiro also earned a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from Yale University, where he was a member of the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities. In 2001, he graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in History.
Mr. Shapiro has published articles on constitutional and litigation issues in The Wall Street Journal, New York Law Journal, JURIST, Tablet Magazine, and other periodicals, and he has been quoted on a variety of legal topics in newspapers ranging from the New York Daily News to the Huffington Post to The Jewish Daily Forward.