Veteran securities litigator Michael Celio has left San Francisco-based litigation boutique Keker, Van Nest & Peters to join Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Silicon Valley.
Celio officially joined Gibson Dunn a week ago as a partner in Palo Alto, California, where he will continue to focus his practice on securities litigation and white-collar defense and securities enforcement.
“The main reason [for my move] is the problems faced by my clients, which are primarily Silicon Valley companies, are increasingly national and international in nature,” said Celio about his decision to join Gibson Dunn. “In many respects, the concerns of Silicon Valley have become the world’s concerns, so companies like my clients need top-notch representation, not just here in Northern California, but around the country and world.”
For nearly two decades, Celio has focused his practice at Keker Van Nest on white-collar criminal defense, securities litigation, complex civil litigation and enforcement actions brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Celio said that Gibson Dunn’s global platform and deep bench in securities and class action litigation helped draw him to the 1,275-lawyer firm, which averaged $3.24 million in profits per equity partner last year amid gross revenue of more than $1.64 billion.
“The world cares about what happens in Silicon Valley with intensity and a passion that is entirely new,” said Celio, who joined Keker Van Nest in 2001 after spending two years as an associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. “And as a trial lawyer that really impacts the way you need to think about these problems.”
Celio explained that when he started his legal career in the Bay Area, the problems his clients faced tended to be much more regional, whereas now, their various issues and crisis-level situations tend to affect people “not just locally, but nationally and internationally.”
During his 17-year tenure at Keker Van Nest, which added name partner Elliot Peters to its shingle in late 2016, Celio was seconded to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, where he was responsible for dozens of prosecutions.
Celio is at least the fourth partner to have left Keker Van Nest so far this year. In May, a trio of litigators led by former partner Asim Bhansali left the firm to form their own San Francisco-based shop called Kwun Bhansali Lazarus. Earlier this year, Boies Schiller Flexner brought on former Keker Van Nest partner Quyen Ta in San Francisco, while Davis Polk & Wardwell welcomed aboard former partner Ashok Ramani shortly thereafter.
“Our clients and competitors see us as one of the premier trial and litigation firms in the country in a broad range of practice areas, so it is no wonder that from time to time other firms try to lure away our home-grown, talented partners,” said a statement from Keker Van Nest managing partner Steven Taylor, who also wished Celio well at Gibson Dunn.
“Michael has spent his entire career as a litigator in the Bay Area and has earned a strong reputation in the region,” said a statement from Benjamin Wagner, partner-in-charge of Gibson Dunn’s Palo Alto office and a former top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of California. “His addition will strengthen our securities litigation practice in Northern California and nationally.”
Gibson Dunn’s Silicon Valley office was established in 1979 and is now comprised of 36 lawyers in Palo Alto. According to the firm, it has more than 400 lawyers working throughout California, where Gibson Dunn also has outposts in Century City, downtown Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco.
In Los Angeles, Gibson Dunn has recently named antitrust partner Jay Srinivasan and capital markets partner Peter Wardle as co-leaders of its offices in Los Angeles and Century City, a pair of promotions that came at the same time the firm reshuffled its leadership in Washington, D.C.
Gibson Dunn has been busy on the lateral hiring front this year, having most recently recruited high-profile former O’Melveny & Myers antitrust partner Richard Parker in Washington, D.C., where the firm brought on former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius appellate litigator Allyson Ho last month and in May added ex-federal prosecutor M. Kendall Day and a quartet of corporate and private equity partners from Kirkland & Ellis.
Earlier this year, former Gibson Dunn partner Nicola Hanna revealed a $3.7 million partnership share in the firm as he prepared to become the new U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. Gibson Dunn also saw two other former partners, A. Stephen Gillespie and Caroline Krass, leave its ranks this year for prominent in-house roles.