At Denver-based litigation boutique Reilly Pozner, the gargoyle has special significance. With the mantra “protect and prevail,” the firm features the medieval guardian in its logo. Reilly Pozner co-founder Daniel Reilly said the gargoyle isn’t a traditional emblem, but his firm is proudly unconventional.
“We don’t strive to be traditional,” Reilly said. “We strive to be the best.”
Reilly Pozner has nearly 30 lawyers, having roughly tripled in size since Reilly and Larry Pozner established it in 2000. All of its lawyers, except partner Sean Connelly, are based in Denver. Connelly, the lead appellate lawyer in the Oklahoma City bombing prosecutions, heads the firm’s Washington office, which opened last year. Many of its lawyers are younger than 40 years old.
The firm, which focuses on cases with a high likelihood of going to trial, last year worked on matters involving constitutional law, products liability, business torts, wrongful death, government investigations, intellectual property and franchise disputes, and it tallied several victories in Colorado trial and appellate courts, both at the state and federal levels.
Reilly Pozner served as the lead outside counsel for the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association in a case concerning a state bill that lowered the cost-of-living increase that retirees receive in their pension checks every year. The firm successfully defended the organization, which manages Colorado’s pension plan, and the legislation in state district court. Reilly Pozner wrote the client’s legal briefing, represented it in court and worked on the case’s factual development.
The Colorado Legislature passed the law in 2010 to address a multibillion-dollar funding shortfall in the state pension plan following the 2008 financial crisis. Pension beneficiaries filed a lawsuit against the fund in 2010 to strike down the law, alleging that it violated their constitutional right to an annual raise in their pensions. In June, Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt dismissed the suit.
The plaintiffs are appealing the ruling. Reilly, the lead lawyer on the case for his firm, said the case has “all the markings” of one destined for the Colorado Supreme Court. “It’s a groundbreaking case,” he said.
Pension fund general counsel Gregory Smith praised Reilly Pozner’s work on the case, saying the firm has “really talented people.
“I certainly couldn’t get a job there,” Smith said.
Also in Colorado courts, Reilly Pozner racked up wins in cases involving the False Claims Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations and class action certification.
In the False Claims Act whistleblower case, the firm represented, on appeal, Bobby Maxwell, a Minerals Management Service auditor, who claimed Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp. knowingly submitted false crude oil filings and underpaid the U.S. government by $7.5 million.
A federal jury in January 2007 ruled in favor of Maxwell. But U.S. District Judge Phillip Figa in Denver threw out the verdict, saying the court lacked jurisdiction.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit overturned the dismissal and sent the case back to the trial judge. The parties ultimately reached a $26 million settlement in December.
In the OSHA case, the firm represented industrial painting company RPI Coatings Inc., which had been charged with regulation violations contributing to the deaths of five of its employees during a fire. Reilly Pozner in December 2011 negotiated a plea bargain that led to the dismissal of charges against RPI’s president and vice president and lowered an OSHA fine from $845,100 to $100,000.
Reilly Pozner claimed a victory at the Colorado Supreme Court for an auto dealership in a class action over alleged violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. The trial court certified the class action, but the state’s highest court overturned the ruling in October.
But Reilly Pozner’s reach extends beyond Colorado. The firm has served as lead counsel on matters in more than 40 states and has two clients that made national headlines during the 2008 financial crisis. The firm is doing legal work for the American International Group Inc. and the bankruptcy estate of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. on issues concerning mortgages.
Reilly Pozner represents AIG in the Southern District of New York against the Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and Bank of America Corp. over a proposed $8.5 billion Bank of America subprime-mortgage securitization liability settlement. AIG and other investors are fighting for more information on the settlement talks.
For Lehman, the firm is handling the estate’s prosecution of claims against mortgage loan originators that sold bad loans to the financial services firm and its defense against claims concerning the securitization of mortgage loans.
Lehman “really expanded our profile nationally,” Reilly said.
Heizer Paul Grueskin partner Mark Grueskin, who served as a counsel for the pension fund in the litigation with the pensioners, is certainly a fan, describing Reilly Pozner as “a bet-the-company law firm.
“When the stakes in a case are high, it’s one of a handful of top litigation firms that Denver lawyers know will be involved — and for good reason,” Grueskin said. “It’s got a terrific track record, not to mention a stellar reputation in the legal and business communities.”
Andrew Ramonas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.