Our first runners-up this week are litigators from MoloLamken and CERA LLP who took home a win for plaintiffs in a rare securities class action case that made it to trial before Senior U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff. A Manhattan federal jury this week handed a verdict worth about $40 million to a class of investors in Dakota Plains Holdings Inc., a company that transported oil by rail from North Dakota’s Bakken region during the fracking boom. Jurors found that Michael Reger, one of the cofounders of the company, fraudulently concealed his ownership stake in the company that was loaded with debt that benefited him and a few insiders. The plaintiffs’ team opted to pursue claims that Reger acted intentionally rather than recklessly, raising their burden of proof, but also assuring that Reger was held jointly and severally liable, eliminating the need to allocate liability between him and the company’s other directors and officers. (The other defendants settled for $14 million in the run-up to trial.) The MoloLamken trial team included partners Steven Molo, Robert Kry, Sara Margolis and associates Mark Kelley and Alexandra Eynon. The CERA team included Sol Cera, Pamela Markert and Ken Frost.
Also landing a runner-up spot is the Brown Rudnick team led by Ben Chew who represented actor Johnny Depp in the high-profile defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard. After a six-week trial, a seven-member Virginia jury earlier this month awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitives, and $2 million in compensatory damages to Heard on her counterclaim. Fairfax County Circuit Judge Penney Azcarate lowered Depp’s punitive award to Virginia’s statutory cap of $350,000 post-trial. The Brown Rudnick trial team included partners Wayne Dennison and Rebecca MacDowell Lecaroz, and associates Stephanie Calnan, Andrew Crawford, Yarelyn Mena, Jessica Meyers, Samuel Moniz and Camille Vasquez, who was elevated to partner post-trial.