333 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071-3197 USA
William E. Thomson is a litigation partner in the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He is Co-Chair of the firm’s Transnational Litigation Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Appellate and Constitutional Law and Securities Litigation. Mr. Thomson’s practice focuses on federal and state appellate and Supreme Court litigation, and on strategic analysis and briefing in high-stakes cases in trial courts around the country. He has broad experience before both trial and appellate courts in a wide variety of high-profile cases, including civil RICO, mass tort, foreign judgment recognition actions, voting rights and First Amendment litigation, product liability, and class actions.
In the transnational litigation arena, Mr. Thomson is one of the principal lawyers representing Chevron Corporation in its multifaceted defense against purported environmental claims emanating from Ecuador, in which U.S. and Ecuadorian lawyers obtained a multi-billion-dollar judgment from an Ecuadorian court. Among other things, Mr. Thomson spearheaded the extensive briefing in Chevron’s RICO case in the Southern District of New York, in which the company successfully sued the U.S. and Ecuadorian lawyers and other agents for racketeering and fraud. The seven-week bench trial culminated in a 500-page decision in Chevron’s favor, finding defendants liable under RICO and entering an injunction against U.S. enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment and a constructive trust over any proceeds traceable to that judgment. The court found the facts to “include things that normally come only out of Hollywood,” like “coded emails” among the defendants “describing their private interactions with and machinations directed at judges and a court appointed expert, their payments to a supposedly neutral expert out of a secret account, [and] a lawyer who invited a film crew to innumerable private strategy meetings and even to ex parte meetings with judges . . . .” “Ultimately,” the court concluded, the defendants’ team “wrote the [Ecuadorian] court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment.” Mr. Thomson also has played a key role in Chevron’s intensive district court and appellate litigation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782, through which the company obtained crucial evidence, including hundreds of hours of outtakes from the film “Crude” that captured the plaintiffs’ case from behind-the-scenes. This evidence prompted The Wall Street Journal to devote an extensive editorial to what it called the “Shakedown in the Rainforest.”
In both the transnational and domestic settings, Mr. Thomson has played a lead role in numerous civil cases brought pursuant to the Racketeer & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), representing both civil RICO plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of industry contexts. He has written and spoken frequently on RICO-related topics. Representative RICO matters include, in addition to Chevron’s lawsuit against the lawyers suing it in Ecuador, defending automaker Aston Martin (Fisker v. Aston Martin Lagonda, C.D. Cal. 2015) (voluntarily dismissed by Fisker, with no settlement); defending Chevron U.S.A. (Committee to Protect Our Agricultural Water v. Chevron, E.D. Cal. 2016) (court granted motion to dismiss; plaintiff dismissed rather than try to amend complaint); defending nursing home owners and officers (Kan-di-Ki v. Paulson, C.D. Cal. 2017) (motion to dismiss granted; affirmed on appeal); defending Lynn Tilton and Patriarch Partners Zohar CDO 2003-1 Ltd. et al. v. Patriarch Partners LLC et al. (S.D.N.Y. 2017) (motion to dismiss granted based on securities fraud bar of 18 U.S.C. §1964(c)).
In the appellate field, Mr. Thomson has extensive experience with constitutional challenges to state and federal statutes and caselaw, including to punitive and statutory damages, developing innovative, cutting-edge trial and appellate strategies for avoiding and redressing such awards. He has briefed or argued related motions and appeals in numerous jurisdictions around the country in a wide variety of substantive contexts, including product liability, environmental and mass tort, and insurance defense. Relatedly, in the First Amendment field, Mr. Thomson has represented media entities seeking access to public records and defended the free speech interests of clients in business and class action litigation. He is currently representing a city against a challenge under the California Voting Rights Act.
Mr. Thomson also plays a leading role in defending Dole Food Company, Inc. in its national and international DBCP litigation, brought by thousands of plaintiffs from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and the Ivory Coast. He was a key member of the team that successfully represented Dole in both the district court and Eleventh Circuit in the Osorio v. Dole action filed in the Southern District of Florida, where plaintiffs sought to enforce a bellwether Nicaraguan judgment totaling approximately $100 million. Mr. Thomson was instrumental in obtaining the dismissal of three DBCP cases pending in the Los Angeles Superior Court as a terminating sanction for plaintiffs’ and their counsel’s fraud on the court in the widely noted Tellez, Mejia, and Rivera cases, and successfully defended the trial court decisions on appeal.
Mr. Thomson served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Robert J. Kelleher in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He received his law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. He earned a Ph.D. degree and an M.A. degree from the University of Chicago, and an A.B. degree from Princeton University, all in the field of political science. At the University of Chicago he was a John M. Olin Fellow at the Center for Inquiry Into the Theory and Practice of Democracy. For his dissertation on the political theory of Alexis de Tocqueville he conducted research in Paris. He is fluent in French and conversant in Spanish.
Mr. Thomson is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, California Supreme Court, Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States District Courts for the Central, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Districts of California.
Mr. Thomson is a member of the board of directors of the Western Justice Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to building a more civil, peaceful society by designing and implementing creative programs that change the way people think about and respond to differences and conflict in our communities and schools. He is also a member of the board of the Pasadena Symphony & POPs.
University of California - Los Angeles - 1996 Juris Doctor
University of Chicago - 1996 Doctor of Philosophy
University of Chicago - 1987 Master of Arts
Princeton University - 1985 Bachelor of Arts