The hallmarks of our practice are the depth of our lawyers' litigation experience and the excellence of our written work, which we view as the critical components to achieving excellent results for our clients. Our lawyers have extensive courtroom experience: we have tried scores of civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, and we have participated in innumerable hearings, arbitrations, and mediations. We are also very experienced at briefing and arguing appeals.
White Collar Criminal Defense
The attorneys at Spears & Imes have defended individuals in all phases of federal and state white collar criminal proceedings, involving a vast array of charges and potential charges based on dozens of different federal and state statutes. In addition, partners David Spears, Linda Imes, and Joanna Hendon served as Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, where they were each immersed in federal criminal practice.
Since 2009, Spears & Imes has been recognized as a "Leading Firm" among Specialist Firms with expertise in White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations by Chambers & Partners in its highly respected annual guide to leading law firms and lawyers, Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business. Chambers describes the firm as "highly regarded for its superb and focused expertise in white-collar criminal defense" matters. A source consulted by Chambers said Spears & Imes "is a great small boutique, with very sharp, prudent lawyers who fight for their clients." Additionally, since 2009, Chambers has recognized both Mr. Spears and Ms. Imes as "Leading Individuals" in White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations. Chambers reports that Mr. Spears "enjoys an excellent reputation in the market for his strong white collar expertise and is described as 'tenacious with an amazing success rate.'" A Chambers source emphasized Mr. Spears' "ability to anticipate problems and come up with solutions for his clients." Chambers reports that Ms. Imes is "a very talented and dedicated lawyer" and that "clients recommend her as one of their most trusted advisors."
In a criminal matter, our primary objective is always to avoid formal criminal charges altogether, and we have accomplished that objective in a large percentage of our criminal representations. In non-public investigations we go to great lengths to shield our clients from any publicity, and accordingly we never discuss those matters publicly even after they are completed.
When we represent clients who have been indicted, we bring extensive trial experience to bear. In recent years we have tried criminal cases before juries in the U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York, the Northern District of Texas, and the Southern District of Texas, and in the New York State Supreme Court in New York City, with notable successes. In addition, we have achieved groundbreaking victories in pretrial practice. In United States v. Stein (S.D.N.Y.), at our urging the district court ruled that a provision of a Department of Justice policy document known as the Thompson Memorandum, which discouraged the payment by corporations of legal fees for employees charged with crimes, violated the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution. That ruling caused the DOJ to withdraw the Thompson Memorandum. And because the government had coerced our client's employer to refuse to pay his legal fees, prior to trial the district court dismissed with prejudice the indictment against our client. See United States v. Stein, 495 F. Supp. 2d 390 (S.D.N.Y. 2007), aff'd, 541 F.3d 130 (2d Cir. 2008).
We also have represented numerous clients in federal sentencing proceedings. We have broad experience in the pre-sentencing process, including negotiating plea agreements, communicating effectively with the U.S. Probation Office, and preparing a persuasive sentencing memorandum for the court. The firm's lawyers have a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the case law regarding sentencing issues. We have achieved favorable results for our clients who chose to accept a plea.
The attorneys at Spears & Imes have defended scores of individuals and institutions in investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"), the National Association of Securities Dealers ("NASD"), the New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE"), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"). As with our criminal representations that are concluded with no charges being brought, many of our representations in the securities enforcement area have been concluded with no action being taken by regulators and no public allegations of wrongdoing against our clients. However, we have also represented clients in trials in the U.S. District Courts in cases brought by the SEC, in hearings before the SEC, and in hearings before FINRA and its predecessor entities. We have achieved very favorable results for our clients in those proceedings, including a significant victory in 2012 from a FINRA Hearing Panel after a two-week trial against FINRA's Department of Enforcement. See Dep't of Enforcement v. Respondent, No. 2008013863702 (N.A.S.D.R. Aug. 28, 2012), available here. Chambers & Partners has recognized the firm's "superb and focused expertise" in securities enforcement defense.
Complex Civil Litigation
The attorneys at Spears & Imes have represented numerous institutions and individuals in civil cases, involving complex financial and other issues. We have experience in every stage of civil proceedings, including drafting pleadings, motion practice, fact discovery, expert discovery, trial, post-trial briefing, and appeal. Chambers & Partners has recognized the firm's "expertise" in complex civil litigation.
In particular, the firm has developed a rich expertise in civil litigations involving asset-backed securities ("ABS"), complex financial instruments tied to a pool of underlying assets and sold to institutional investors. Examples of ABS are residential mortgage-backed securities ("RMBS") and collateralized debt obligations ("CDOs"). Recent representations in this important practice area include:
- Our current representation of a large international investment bank that is a defendant in multiple litigations in federal and state courts in which plaintiffs are seeking billions of dollars in damages from our client in connection with the offering and sale of RMBS.
- Our current representation of a large European bank as a plaintiff in a proceeding in the Southern District of New York in which our client seeks to recover large losses on its investment in a synthetic CDO that was based on credit default swaps referencing 100 different corporate and sovereign entities.
- Our representation of a group of foreign and domestic financial institutions in a six-week jury trial in the Southern District of New York against a major U.S. investment bank to recover large losses related to the sale of ABS backed by consumer installment loans. The jury returned a verdict in favor of our clients, resulting in a judgment for $144 million. The verdict was recognized by the New York Law Journal as the third largest verdict in New York state and federal courts for that year. See AIG Global Sec. Lending Corp. v. Banc of Am. Sec. LLC, 646 F. Supp. 2d 385 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), aff'd, 386 F. App'x 5 (2d Cir. 2010).
- Our representation of a large English bank in a bankruptcy proceeding in which $400 million worth of receivables of a large U.S. corporation, which secured bonds issued to our client, had been taken without notice by the bankruptcy court at the commencement of the proceeding and used to finance the operations of the corporation during its reorganization. As a result of our litigation efforts in the bankruptcy court and the district court, our client received full payment for all of the wrongfully taken receivables and reimbursement of all of its litigation costs.
- Our representation of a group of foreign and domestic financial institutions and hedge funds in a federal securities fraud litigation in Oklahoma to recover hundreds of millions of dollars of losses associated with their purchases of ABS. We achieved a settlement for our clients in which they recovered nearly 100 percent of their losses.
- Our representation of the insurer MBIA in lawsuits to recoup over $1 billion in potential losses related to a financial guaranty it had given to purchasers of bonds backed by credit card receivables of a catalog retailer.
In addition, we have represented clients in civil litigations in a variety of other areas, including:
- Our current representation, in a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, of nine Cayman Island hedge funds that were defrauded of approximately $200 million in connection with a scheme involving stock manipulation in the U.S. market. The district court recently denied six defendants' motions to dismiss. See Absolute Activist Master Value Fund, Ltd. v. Ficeto, No. 09 Civ. 8862 (GBD), 2013 WL 1286170 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2013).
- Our representation of Columbia University in a whistleblower proceeding based on allegations of improper Medicaid billing at a University hospital.
- Our representation of Columbia University in a federal civil rights action brought against it based on a drug test program in which members of the medical school faculty had participated. All claims against the University were dismissed with prejudice.
- Our representation of Genentech in a products liability case relating to Genentech's patented drug Xolair. The court granted our motion to dismiss.
- Our representation of the State General Reserve Fund of the Sultanate of Oman in litigation relating to a failed effort at a leveraged buyout of a major U.S. chemicals manufacturer.
- Our representation of a publicly traded company and its directors in a shareholder class action suit brought against them under the federal securities laws. At trial in the Eastern District of New York, the jury returned a verdict for our clients on all claims.
- The defense of MetLife in a complex federal civil litigation in which plaintiffs are seeking indemnification for an alleged breach of contract and recovery under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation andLiability Act ("CERCLA").
Spears & Imes has an active and varied appellate practice. Our lawyers have extensive experience briefing and arguing appeals in civil and criminal cases in federal and state appellate courts. Among the firm's partners who have substantial appellate experience is partner Linda Imes, who formerly served as the Deputy Chief of Appeals in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
Recent significant representations include:
- Our representation of nine Cayman Islands hedge funds in their appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from the district court's sua sponte dismissal of the funds' complaint with prejudice. This appeal raised important questions regarding the application of the Supreme Court's decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., 130 S. Ct. 2869 (2010), which held that Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 does not apply extraterritorially. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, permitting our clients to amend the complaint. See Absolute Activist Master Value Fund, Ltd. v. Ficeto, 677 F.3d 60 (2d Cir. 2012).
- Our representation of a large European bank in its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from the district court's dismissal of its complaint. The Second Circuit reversed. See Bayerische Landesbank, New York Branch v. Aladdin Capital Mgmt. LLC, 692 F.3d 42 (2d Cir. 2012).
- Our representation of a group of six foreign and domestic financial institutions in connection with an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from a judgment in our clients' favor of $144 million after a jury verdict in a federal securities fraud case. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding the verdict. See AIG Global Sec. Lending Corp. v. Banc of Am. Sec. LLC, 386 F. App'x 5 (2d Cir. 2010).
- Our current representation of the former executive director of the domestic securities lending desk of Morgan Stanley & Co. in his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from a conviction in a federal criminal case arising from an industry-wide investigation into allegations of bribery and kickbacks in the stock loan industry.
- Our representation of three defendant companies in their appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from a judgment entered in a copyright infringement action. See Kam Hing Enters., Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 359 F. App'x 235 (2d Cir. 2010).
- Our representation of a former Merrill Lynch compliance employee in an appeal before FINRA's National Adjudicatory Council arguing the limits of FINRA's jurisdiction under NASD Rule 8210.