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Rakesh Kilaru

Partner

Rakesh specializes in delivering favorable results to clients at every stage of litigation in matters ranging from antitrust to product liability to consumer class actions.

Most recently, Rakesh was second-chair trial counsel for Microsoft in its successful defense against the FTC’s challenge to the $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision. Rakesh directed the legal and expert strategy and handled several witnesses at trial, including Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, and both of Microsoft’s economic experts. Rakesh then served as lead counsel for Microsoft in the FTC’s appeal in the Ninth Circuit.

Rakesh also has helped deliver high-profile trial victories for Bayer and the NCAA; obtained significant summary judgment victories for Bayer and Georgia-Pacific; and secured full dismissal of a groundbreaking enforcement action by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before any discovery was taken.

In recognition of his diverse practice, Rakesh has been named a “Rising Star” by the National Law Journal and by Law360 for Sports and Betting. He was chosen as one of Bloomberg Law’s “40 Under 40,” and Benchmark Litigation has identified Rakesh as a “Future Star” and selected him to its “40 & Under Hotlist” four years in a row. He has also appeared on Lawdragon’s “500 Leading Lawyers in America” and “500 Leading Litigators in America” lists for the last two consecutive years.

Before joining the firm, Rakesh was a Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel in the Office of White House Counsel, where he provided legal advice and strategic counseling to the Obama Administration on its domestic policy agenda. He also helped to develop and implement the government’s litigation strategy in cases arising under the Affordable Care Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. He is regularly consulted and quoted by the media as an expert on executive branch legal issues.

Rakesh began his career clerking for Justice Elena Kagan on the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Rakesh is active in the legal community. He sits on the Boards of the Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia and the Second Look Project, and is an editor of the Green Bag. He also serves on the Nominations Committee of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association-DC, and previously served as a Director of APABA-DC’s Education Fund.


Education

  • Undergraduate: Columbia University, Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude
  • Law: Stanford Law School; Member, Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic; Notes Editor, Stanford Law Review; Best Brief and Best Overall Team, 2010 Kirkwood Moot Court Competition; Best Oral Advocate, 2010 National Trial Competition (awarded by the American College of Trial Lawyers)

Clerkship

  • Justice Elena Kagan, Supreme Court of the United States (October Term 2011)
  • Judge Harvie Wilkinson III, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (2010 – 2011)

Notable Matters

  • Second-chair trial counsel for Microsoft in the FTC’s challenge to Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision — the second-largest merger trial in American history and the biggest involving a technology company. Defeated the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the transaction after a five-day trial that began less than four weeks after the FTC filed its federal court claim. At trial, Rakesh examined four witnesses, including Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, as well as several experts. Rakesh also directed Microsoft’s legal strategy, including the successful opposition of post-trial motions to enjoin the transaction pending appeal, and serving as lead counsel defending against the FTC’s appeal and arguing the case in the Ninth Circuit.
  • Lead counsel for the Executive Council of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in Hengle v. Asner, a consumer class action filed in the Eastern District of Virginia in April 2019. Initial motions practice resulted in Plaintiffs dropping all claims for money damages (including treble damages claims under RICO) against the Tribe’s economic development arms. Rakesh then led several years of further motions practice on Plaintiffs’ injunctive claims, including an appeal and oral argument by Rakesh in the Fourth Circuit, that resulted in the preclusion of Plaintiffs’ remaining RICO claim. The parties then reached a nationwide class action settlement in which the Tribe paid $0 into the settlement fund and $0 in attorneys’ fees.
  • Co-Lead counsel for NFL and its 32 member clubs in an ongoing national antitrust MDL lawsuit in the Central District of California brought by putative class members challenging the League’s broadcast arrangements for its Sunday Ticket Package.
  • Co-Lead counsel for NCAA in putative class action lawsuits against the NCAA and its member Conference challenging the NCAA’s rules regarding student-athletes’ use of their names, images, and likenesses (“NIL”).
  • Counsel for Altria in putative class action antitrust lawsuits in the Northern District of California related to the JUUL Labs investments.
  • Counsel in the firm’s successful representation of federal district Judge Emmet Sullivan in mandamus proceedings before the D.C. Circuit arising out of the criminal case against former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. After the Department of Justice sought to dismiss Flynn's guilty plea and conviction, Wilkinson Stekloff was hired to defend Judge Sullivan against an effort to prematurely terminate the case. The D.C. Circuit ultimately ruled in a bipartisan, 9-2 decision that the case should be reinstated and returned to Judge Sullivan.
  • Trial counsel in Todd McNair v. NCAA. Obtained a defense jury verdict in state court in Los Angeles. McNair, a former University of Southern California assistant football coach, was implicated by the NCAA in the Reggie Bush benefits scandal. He sued the NCAA for defamation Wilkinson Stekloff took over the representation after the NCAA had lost three pre-trial appeals, including on the issue of McNair’s ability to show falsity and malice. At trial, Rakesh examined a key defense witness and cross-examined the Plaintiff’s sole damages expert. The jury ultimately rejected McNair’s claims. The trial was covered extensively in the media, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the LA Times. After the jury verdict, trial Judge Frederick Shaller called the advocacy in the case “the best I’ve seen since I’ve been a judge.”
  • Directed legal strategy for Bayer Corporation in Cooney v. Janssen, tried in August 2018, before the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in the national products liability litigation challenging the warnings that accompany Bayer Corporation’s market-leading blood thinner, Xarelto. Rakesh obtained summary judgment on the plaintiff’s design defect claim prior to trial — the first summary judgment win for Defendants in the Xarelto litigation. Rakesh also argued dozens of evidentiary and legal motions throughout the trial on the remaining claim, as well as the jury charge, and helped obtain a complete defense verdict on the remaining failure to warn count after less than two hours of jury deliberation.
  • Lead counsel for the economic development arms of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Golden Valley Lending, et al. The Tribe retained Wilkinson Stekloff shortly before a complaint was filed, and Rakesh developed a comprehensive legal strategy involving the filing of a successful motion to transfer the case out of the Bureau’s chosen forum, a successful motion to stay discovery, and then a motion to dismiss the lawsuit supported by five amicus briefs. Rather than respond to the motion to dismiss, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau voluntarily dismissed the action — the only time it has taken that step in a case brought against a sovereign Indian Nation.
  • Trial counsel for the NCAA in lawsuits brought by current and former student-athletes challenging, under the Sherman Act, NCAA rules limiting the level of athletics-based financial aid and benefits that student-athletes may receive. The Court’s opinion reaffirmed the procompetitive value of the NCAA’s rules limiting pay for student-athletes while enjoining certain limitations on benefits that student-athletes may receive.
  • Trial counsel for Forest Laboratories in In re Namenda Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation, a certified antitrust class action in the Southern District of New York involving a groundbreaking treatment for dementia in Alzheimer's patients. Plaintiffs claimed approximately $21 billion in trebled damages; the case settled the night before trial for less than 5% of that amount.
  • Trial counsel for Monsanto in Hardeman v. Monsanto, the first federal-court trial over allegations that Roundup causes Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Rakesh helped lead the pretrial briefing strategy in front of Judge Vince Chhabria, including on a successful motion to “reverse bifurcate” the trial with a first phase focused on causation, and on Daubert motions relating to two experts that Plaintiffs withdrew before trial. At trial, Rakesh examined one of two case-specific medical experts and argued dozens of evidentiary motions and the jury charges for both phases of trial. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff. Rakesh is currently helping lead post-trial briefing as well as the overall strategy in the federal MDL.
  • Helped lead summary judgment briefing for Georgia-Pacific in Kleen Products LLC et al. v. Packaging Corporation of America et al., a multi-billion-dollar class action in Chicago federal court alleging Sherman Act violations by the largest manufacturers in the containerboard and corrugated products industries. The court granted summary judgment for Georgia- Pacific one day after it preliminarily approved a settlement in which the company’s co- defendants agreed to pay over $350 million.
  • Represented Ford Motor Company from trial through appeal in Westgate Ford Truck Sales v. Ford Motor Company, helping to obtain and then defend a complete defense verdict in a class action lawsuit seeking the largest damages award in Ohio history.
  • Represented Johnson and Johnson in Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Arkansas, helping to obtain reversal of a $1.2 billion jury verdict involving Risperdal.