*Updated 11/29: Parts of this story has been added and updated to reflect the hires of five additional lawyers as part of Geoffrey Sant’s China-focused litigation team.
As bilateral hostilities between the world’s two largest economies persists, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has recruited a litigation team in New York who focuses on China-related disputes.
The six-lawyer team is led by Geoffrey Sant, who was most recently a New York partner at Dorsey & Whitney’s trial department. Sant mostly helps Chinese companies and executives defend securities class actions and other commercial and employment claims before U.S. courts.
Sant will be a partner in Pillsbury’s New York office and spend “a substantial amount of time in Asia.” Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he will primarily work out of the firm’s Beijing office and also spend time in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. He joined Dorsey & Whitney in 2012 after spending four years with Morrison & Foerster; he became a partner at Dorsey in 2016.
Sant is joined by five additional lawyers, including special counsel Eric Epstein, associates Carol Lee, Michelle Ng and Yang Wang and law clerk Fangwei Wang. All but Yang Wang join from Dorsey & Whitney and have been working with Sant for more than five years.*
Epstein had been a partner with Dorsey since 2011 and specializes in trial and compliance matters in banking and consumer financial services law. He first joined Dorsey in 2007 and practiced with Sullivan & Cromwell before that.*
Lee, Ng and Yang Wang are all fluent in Chinese. Lee and Ng had worked on China-related cross-border banking litigation while Yang Wang joined from insurer China Life where he oversaw disputes matters globally.*
The hire comes at a time when the United States and China are in an escalating battle over trade issues. Multiple rounds of high-level negotiations have taken place, but little progress has been made. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is tightening scrutiny of Chinese companies and individuals on the cybersecurity and intellectual property fronts.
Last week, the Department of Justice indicted a group of Chinese government officials for alleged trade secret theft. Also last week, the Department of Commerce banned all exports to Chinese semiconductor maker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. Ltd. amid intellectual property theft allegations.
Deborah Baum, Pillsbury’s Washington, D.C.-based litigation practice leader, said Sant’s team’s ability to collaborate with Chinese clients and understand complex Chinese laws and documents will help serve the firm’s clients well.
In August, Pillsbury opened an intellectual property-focused Taipei office with trial lawyer Christopher Kao and patent specialist David Tsai. In 2016, it launched a Hong Kong office, led by former Clyde & Co global aviation finance head Paul Jebely, primarily focusing on commercial aircraft and private jets financing work. Sant said the financial services and aviation sectors—focuses for Pillsbury in Asia—are also rapidly expanding aspects of his practice.
The firm’s Beijing office, led by former Paul Hastings partner David Livdahl, was opened in 2014. The Shanghai office, led by IP litigation partner Jack Ko, was launched in 2006.