- J.D., Columbia University School of Law, 1977; Board of Editors, Columbia Law Review
- B.A., Northwestern University, 1974
- New York
- District of Columbia
- Southern and Eastern Districts of New York
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- David Spears & Mónica Folch, A Bad Enforcement Policy at FINRA, New York Law Journal (Nov. 14, 2012)
David Spears, a founding partner of Spears & Imes LLP, concentrates in white collar criminal defense, securities enforcement defense, and complex civil litigation. In all three areas, he has had extensive trial and appellate experience and achieved notable successes.
Mr. Spears spent the early years of his career working in government, including at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., focusing on antitrust matters; as a Trial Attorney and Deputy Chief Trial Attorney in the Enforcement Division of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.; and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. During his years at the SEC and the United States Attorney's Office, Mr. Spears tried a large number of cases involving a wide variety of charges.
In his more than two decades in private practice, Mr. Spears has tried many criminal and civil cases in federal and state courts and before the SEC, FINRA, and arbitration panels. Mr. Spears has also argued many cases in the United States Court of Appeals and New York State appellate courts.
Mr. Spears specializes in criminal cases involving sophisticated business and financial dealings and complex legal issues. In 2012, Mr. Spears was named by Chambers & Partners as a "Leading Individual" in White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations. Chambers noted that Mr. Spears "enjoys an excellent reputation in the market for his strong white-collar expertise" and reported praise from sources that he is "tenacious with an amazing success rate" and has the "ability to anticipate problems and come up with solutions for his clients."
Mr. Spears has represented defendants in criminal cases in federal courts around the United States and in New York State court, and he has obtained dismissals and acquittals for many clients.
Notable matters include:
- Mr. Spears represented lead defendant Jeffrey Stein in a case in which 19 KPMG accountants and lawyers were charged with federal tax crimes based on their involvement with tax shelters that the government alleged to be fraudulent. In a groundbreaking ruling, the Court threw out the indictment because the government had forced KPMG to terminate the payment of legal fees for the defendants. Mr. Spears argued the motion that resulted in the order of dismissal. United States v. Stein, 495 F. Supp. 2d 330 (S.D.N.Y. 2007); United States v. Stein, 541 F.3d 130 (2d Cir. 2008).
- In a criminal jury trial in Houston, Mr. Spears and partner Christopher Dysard represented an investment banker charged with fraud for his involvement in a complex financial transaction entered into with Enron shortly before that company's demise. Following trial, the indictment against the Firm's client was thrown out on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction.
- In a criminal jury trial in Dallas, Mr. Spears represented a corporate lawyer from a large New York City law firm who was charged with money laundering based on his handling of escrow funds from a client who was subsequently charged with fraud. The jury found our client not guilty on all the charges against him.
In addition to defending clients who were indicted, Mr. Spears has been very successful at persuading prosecutors not to bring criminal charges at all. In particular, in recent years Mr. Spears has represented many residents of European, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries who came under criminal investigation in the U.S. in connection with business activities those clients engaged in abroad that had effects in the U.S., and in all of those representations Mr. Spears successfully argued that there should be no criminal charges against the Firm's client.
Over many years Mr. Spears has represented clients in large civil cases involving complex financial and securities law issues. Many of those cases have involved hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars in claimed damages.
- Mr. Spears, together with partners Christopher Dysard and Jason Mogel, represented a group of financial institutions, including Allstate, Bank Leumi, Bayerische Landesbank, International Finance Corporation, Société Générale, and Travelers, in a six-week jury trial in a United States District Court against a major investment bank to recover large losses related to the sale of asset-backed securities. The jury returned a verdict for the Firm's clients resulting in a judgment of $144 million, which was one of the largest jury awards in the U.S. in 2008. The defendant appealed that judgment, and Mr. Spears argued the appeal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial judgment. 646 F. Supp. 2d 385 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), aff'd, 2010 WL 2836684 (2d Cir. July 20, 2010).
- Together with partner Jason Mogel, Mr. Spears is currently representing a large German bank in a lawsuit against the portfolio manager for a CDO. The lawsuit alleges that the bank lost all of its large investment in the CDO because of the portfolio manager's gross negligence and willful misconduct in managing the CDO's investment portfolio. After the Court initially dismissed the bank's case, Mr. Spears and Mr. Mogel appealed the dismissal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Mr. Spears argued the appeal. In August 2012, the Second Circuit issued a lengthy decision reversing the dismissal and reinstating the bank's case. Bayerische Landesbank v. Aladdin Capital Management LLC, 2012 WL 3156441 (2d Cir. Aug. 6, 2012). That decision addressed important issues of diversity jurisdiction, standing, and contract and tort law as they apply to complex financial investment products. The Firm is now representing the bank in discovery proceedings in that case.
- Mr. Spears has represented many defendants in cases involving residential mortgage-backed securities. He represented Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial in lawsuits in the Southern District of New York alleging fraud in the sale of RMBS. Those cases were thrown out on motions to dismiss. Together with partner Charlita Mays, Mr. Spears currently represents a large international bank as a defendant in RMBS cases brought by the FHFA involving billions of dollars in claimed damages.
- Mr. Spears and partner Charlita Mays represented the sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman in a civil litigation arising out of that fund's involvement in an effort to acquire Dow Chemical Co.
- Mr. Spears and partner Charlita Mays represented a major monoline insurer of securities in multiple litigations commenced by the insurer seeking to recoup over $1 billion in potential insurance losses. As a result of their efforts, the insurer suffered no loss.
- Mr. Spears, together with partners Linda Imes and Charlita Mays, represented Columbia University in a qui tam proceeding commenced against it in the United States District Court in New York City relating to Medicaid charges by a University hospital.
- Mr. Spears represented Genentech in a products liability case in New York State Court relating to the patented drug Xolair®.
Mr. Spears has represented scores of individuals and entities in investigations before, and proceedings by, the SEC, the NYSE, the NASD, and FINRA. While many of these representations have resulted in no charges being filed against the Firm's clients, Mr. Spears has also tried numerous cases against the SEC in federal and administrative courts and against FINRA before its own hearing panels.
- Mr. Spears and partner Jason Mogel represented an executive from a large investment bank against charges by FINRA alleging wrongdoing in the purchase and sale of auction-rate securities for corporate cash management clients. Following a two-week trial in February 2012, the FINRA Hearing Officer overseeing the case issued a lengthy decision rejecting all of FINRA's charges and exonerating the Firm's client of all charges against him. Dep't of Enforcement v. Morrison, FINRA Disc. Proceeding 2008013863702 (2012). A published article by Mr. Spears and associate Mónica Folch discussed important legal and policy issues raised in that proceeding.
- In June 2012, Mr. Spears represented a mutual fund manager from a large mutual fund company in a trial before the SEC's Chief Administrative Law Judge. The SEC's Division of Enforcement charged the Firm's client with violations of the Investment Advisers Act and the Investment Company Act based on the manner in which illiquid bonds were priced in calculating the fund's net asset value.
- In an investigation by FINRA, Mr. Spears represented an individual who had been in charge of due diligence for an investment fund that had more than $2 billion invested with Bernard Madoff at the time when his fraud was revealed to the public. No charges were brought against the Firm's client.
Professional and Other Activities
Mr. Spears is a member of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association, the New York Council of Defense Lawyers, and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Mr. Spears also serves on the Board of Directors of the Women's Refugee Commission, and the Firm has undertaken significant pro bono representations at the request of the WRC.