Rakesh Kilaru is a Partner at Wilkinson Stekloff. He specializes in crisis management and delivering favorable results to clients at every stage of litigation. Since joining Wilkinson Stekloff, Rakesh has examined witnesses at high-profile trials for Bayer and the NCAA, successfully directed the legal strategy for Bayer in a products liability trial involving the blood-thinner Xarelto, obtained major summary judgment victories for Bayer and Georgia-Pacific, and successfully defended the economic development arms of a sovereign Indian nation against an enforcement action by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, obtaining a full dismissal of all claims before any discovery was taken. Over just the last year, Rakesh has played a lead strategic role in five high-stakes class actions or mass torts involving products liability, antitrust, and civil RICO claims, including serving as lead trial counsel for a sovereign Indian nation in a putative consumer class action in the Eastern District of Virginia.
In recognition of his diverse practice, Benchmark Litigation has identified Rakesh as a “Future Star” in both 2019 and 2020. He has also been named to Benchmark’s 40 and Under Hotlist three years in a row (2018-2020).
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.
Rakesh is also active in the legal community. He is an editor of the Green Bag and a member of The American Lawyer’s Young Lawyer Editorial Board. 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.
- 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)
- The Honorable Elena Kagan, Supreme Court of the United States (October Term 2011)
- The Honorable J. Harvie Wilkinson III, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (2010–11)
- Currently serving as lead trial counsel for the Executive Council of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in Hengle v. Asner, a purported federal consumer class action filed in the Eastern District of Virginia in April 2019.
- Currently serving as counsel for Altria and the NCAA in separate purported federal antitrust class actions in the Northern District of California.
- Trial counsel in Todd McNair v. NCAA. Obtained a defense verdict in a month- long trial in state court in Los Angeles. McNair, a former University of Southern California assistant football coach, was implicated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the Reggie Bush benefits scandal. He sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association for defamation and accused it of ending his coaching career, seeking over $27 million in damages. Wilkinson Stekloff took over the representation after the National Collegiate Athletic Association 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.
- Helped lead summary judgment briefing 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. An appeal is pending.
- Represented 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 that Forest made an anticompetitive “reverse payment” to settle a generic drug manufacturer’s challenge to Namenda, and that Forest unlawfully tried to effectuate a “hard switch” between a twice-daily and once-daily version of Namenda. 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.
- Comment, The New Rule 12(b)(6): Twombly, Iqbal, and the Paradox of Pleading, 62 Stanford Law Review 905 (2010)