Sara Randazzo writes for sibling publication The Am Law Daily.
John “Sean” Coffey, the former securities class action lawyer, litigation funder, and New York attorney general candidate, is joining Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. A longtime partner at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, Coffey most recently served on the defense team of ex–Goldman Sachs bond trader Fabrice Tourre, who was found liable of civil securities fraud by a jury in August.
Coffey confirmed Wednesday that he will join Kramer Levin as a partner in New York as of Dec. 1 and will also hold the newly created title of chair of complex litigation. The Kramer Levin partnership voted him into the firm Wednesday.
Coffey has been working on his own since BlackRobe Capital—a litigation funding operation he ran with Timothy Scrantom, a veteran of the litigation funding industry, and Michael Chepiga, a former Simpson Thacher & Bartlett executive committee member—began to disband in May.
At the same time that news emerged of BlackRobe’s demise, Coffey joined Tourre’s legal team, which was led at the time by Allen & Overy partner Pamela Chepiga (who is married to Michael Chepiga). The white-collar defense role was a departure from Coffey’s decade of plaintiffs-side work while at Bernstein Litowitz.
On Aug. 1, a jury found Tourre liable on six of seven civil charges filed against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission for deceiving investors in a synthetic collateralized debt obligation backed by mortgage securities. Coffey and Chepiga rested their defense during the trial without calling a single witness, and the jury returned a verdict after a day and a half of deliberations.
Coffey says that seven or eight Am Law 100 firms approached him about joining them following the Tourre verdict, but that his two-decade relationship with Kramer Levin litigation cochair Barry Berke contributed to his decision to join the firm over the others.
“I knew early in my time on the Tourre case I had to go back to being a trial lawyer,” Coffey says. “I loved every bit of it except of course the jury verdict.” Coffey says he’s currently working on a motion seeking a new trial in the case but is unsure about whether he will continue working on Tourre’s defense once he joins Kramer Levin.
At his new firm, Coffey says he expects to do a mix of plaintiffs and defense work in the commercial civil litigation context: “I’m very excited about the blue-chip clients they have here and my ability to bring that 360-degree view to bear on their behalf, whether offense or defense.”
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