WASHINGTON –Wilkinson Stekloff enters its fifth year having cemented its status as the premier trial litigation boutique in the country. 2019 featured three high-stakes, high-pressure trials, in which different partners served as lead trial counsel and eight partners in total had stand-up roles. The firm continued to receive accolades for its successes in delivering results to its clients while deepening its diverse bench of go-to litigators.
The highlight of 2019 was the firm’s victory in Farar v. Bayer AG. Led by partners Alex Walsh and Sean Eskovitz, Wilkinson Stekloff won a decisive trial victory for Bayer in a $600 million certified consumer class action lawsuit brought on behalf of One A Day multivitamin consumers. Without calling any witnesses in the defense case, the team relied on Sean and Alex’s devastating cross-examinations to convince the jury to reject plaintiffs’ claims that Bayer had misrepresented the health benefits of One A Day multivitamins. Before trial, Wilkinson Stekloff’s legal issues team, led by James Rosenthal and Kieran Gostin, cut the potential exposure by 85% from the $4 billion Plaintiffs had originally sought. The Wilkinson Stekloff team was named “Legal Lions” by Law360 for the victory and received glowing praise from legal observers and media, including from Litigation Daily, Law360, Reuters, and American Healthcare Leader.
Led by Brant Bishop, Wilkinson Stekloff also successfully defended its outright victory in a major securities fraud class action. In late 2018, Brant and Kosta Stojilkovic won the outright dismissal, before any discovery was taken, of In re MAXIMUS Inc. Securities Litig., a case involving allegations that MAXIMUS made false and misleading statements on earning calls and in SEC filings regarding its performance on a major contract with the British Government. Just 38 days after Brant argued the appeal in the Fourth Circuit, the court unanimously affirmed Wilkinson Stekloff’s win in a two-page opinion, concluding that it was “in agreement with the district court that the complaint fails to allege a material misrepresentation.”
Wilkinson Stekloff also served as lead trial counsel in some of 2019’s biggest and most closely-followed cases:
- Wilkinson Stekloff, led by Beth Wilkinson, Kieran Gostin, and Rakesh Kilaru, was retained by Allergan to serve as sole trial counsel for Forest Laboratories in In re Namenda Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation, an antitrust class action in the Southern District of New York. Plaintiffs alleged that Forest had made an anticompetitive “reverse payment” and unlawfully attempted to effectuate a “hard switch” in connection with Namenda, a groundbreaking treatment for dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. After Wilkinson Stekloff was retained, and on the eve of trial, the case settled for less than 5% of the claimed damages.
- Wilkinson Stekloff, led by Brian Stekloff, Tamarra Matthews Johnson, and Rakesh Kilaru, represented Monsanto in the first-ever federal court trial over allegations that the herbicide Roundup caused Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Wilkinson Stekloff continues to lead both trial and MDL strategy for Monsanto in the litigation.
- Wilkinson Stekloff, led by Beth Wilkinson and Kosta Stojilkovic, represented John Kapoor, the founder of Insys Therapeutics, in a four-month criminal trial over allegations that Insys executives operated a nationwide racketeering conspiracy involving an FDA-approved opioid pain medicine called Subsys. Wilkinson Stekloff is also handling post-trial proceedings, including winning a motion to acquit Dr. Kapoor on the government’s lead charges of illicit drug dealing and honest services fraud.
Wilkinson Stekloff, led by Sean Eskovitz and Ralia Polechronis, also served as lead counsel for the Special Litigation Committee of a Fortune 50 company in connection with shareholder derivative lawsuits arising out of the nationwide opioid crisis. The lawsuits claimed hundreds of millions of dollars of damages against the company’s former CEO and several current and former directors for alleged breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with the company’s compliance with federal controlled substance laws and for corporate waste. After the SLC’s thorough, independent investigation, the parties reached an agreement to settle the underlying lawsuit, which is now subject to court approval.
Led by coordinating partner Jeremy Barber, Wilkinson Stekloff also continued its broad commitment to pro bono service in 2019. Approximately 90% of the firm’s associates dedicated significant time to a broad spectrum of pro bono matters. Among other highlights, Betsy Henthorne and Hayter Whitman helped secure the early release of Momolu Stewart, who had been sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16. Invoking a recent Washington, D.C. law called the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act, Betsy and Hayter convincingly established that Mr. Stewart had demonstrated rehabilitation and fitness to rejoin society. Roxana Guidero and Rahul Hari represented a victim of physical abuse in divorce proceedings, securing full legal and physical custody of the couple’s children and a fair division of the marital assets after a week-long trial. And Amelia Frenkel, who was appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to argue the position of a pro se litigant, earned commendation from the court for obtaining the reversal of an adverse decision, in an opinion that could prove to be a major precedent in future employment discrimination cases.
Wilkinson Stekloff is currently in the middle of several other high-profile disputes:
- Alex Walsh and Jeremy Barber are leading Bayer’s defense in coordinated trial proceedings over Essure, a permanent contraception device, in Alameda County, CA.
- Moira Penza is serving as trial counsel for subsidiaries of Allergan in an antitrust trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island involving allegations of a “reverse payment” and “hard switch” in connection with the blockbuster oral contraceptive Loestrin.
- Rakesh Kilaru, James Rosenthal, and Kosta Stojilkovic are leading the defense of the Executive Council of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in a consumer class action regarding online lending, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
- Beth Wilkinson and Moira Penza are representing Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” in her defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump based on his public denials of a 2007 sexual assault.
The firm also continued to add to its impressive roster of legal talent. In 2019:
- Kieran Gostin and Ralia Polechronis were promoted to Partner
- Moira Penza was hired as Partner
- Samiyyah Ali, Alysha Bohanon, Caitlin Callahan, Sophie Cooper, Ari Hoffman, Jenna Pavelec, and Benjamin Raker joined the firm as Associates
These successes and high-profile hires led to multiple accolades for Wilkinson Stekloff and its attorneys, including:
- For the second time in three years, Wilkinson Stekloff was named “Boutique Firm of the Year” by Benchmark Litigation.
- Chambers recognized Wilkinson Stekloff in the USA Litigation: General Commercial and USA Litigation: Product Liability/Mass Torts categories.
- Alexandra Walsh was named a “Trials MVP of the Year” by Law360.
- Beth Wilkinson was again named among the “Top 10 Female Litigators” by Benchmark Litigation.
- Beth Wilkinson and Alexandra Walsh were ranked among Benchmark Litigation’s “Top 250 Women in Litigation.”
- Chambers and Partners awarded Beth Wilkinson the “Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession” award for exceptional achievements in litigation, and also recognized her in the Global Litigation: Trial Lawyers, USA Litigation: Trial Lawyers, and USA Litigation: General Commercial categories.
- Alexandra Walsh was recognized by Chambers and Partners in the USA Litigation: General Commercial category.
- Rakesh Kilaru and Kosta Stojilkovic were selected as leading litigation attorneys in Benchmark Litigation’s 2019 “40 & Under Hot List.”
- Wilkinson Stekloff was named to the “Top 10 Best Law Firms for Female Attorneys” and the “Top 10 Best Law Firms for Female Partners” in Law360’s Glass Ceiling and Diversity Report.
- Wilkinson Stekloff was ranked the sixth best Litigation Boutique Law Firm in Vault’s “2020 Best Law Firm by Practice Area” rankings. Vault also ranked Wilkinson Stekloff second for compensation, third for diversity, and fourth for pro bono.
- Wilkinson Stekloff was recognized by Vault for its “Top 150 Under 150” list, which recognizes “outstanding law firms with fewer attorneys, but no less expertise, than the global megafirms that often dominate rankings and headlines.”