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Ward Merkel, Ellison (1)

Ellison Ward Merkel

Direct Tel: +1 212-849-7362
New York
Tel: +1 212 849 7000 Fax: +1 212 849 7100

Ellison (Nelly) Ward Merkel is an experienced trial lawyer who has achieved successful results for companies across a wide range of industries in bet-the-company litigation.  While her representations have spanned many industries, claims, and jurisdictions, Nelly has honed special expertise in financial services litigation; over the past decade she has represented clients in cases involving well over $10 billion in structured financial products.  From recovering billions in RMBS losses for some of the industry’s largest holders and insurers of such products, to vindicating the Lehman Brothers estate in the wind down of its derivatives portfolio, to challenging the ill-fated effort to manipulate credit default swaps on homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises, Nelly’s sophisticated understanding of market practice around complex products has allowed her to take apart opposing fact and expert witnesses on the stand, while presenting her clients’ stories at trial in a simple and compelling way.  Nelly has written and presented extensively on the litigation implications of the recent boom in Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (“SPACs”), and is currently advising several clients navigating the relatively untested waters of SPAC litigation.

In addition to her thriving commercial practice, Nelly has also maintained an active pro bono practice, including partnering with the Brennan Center for Justice on several voting rights matters and successfully briefing and arguing an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit of an important issue of law under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).

Before joining the firm, Nelly clerked for Judge Francis in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Prior to that, she was the Sinsheimer Fellow at the Partnership for Children’s Rights.

  • Alvarez & Marsal
  • American International Group
  • House of Europe Funding I Ltd.
  • Express Scripts
  • KKR & Co.
  • Official Creditors Committee of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc.
  • MBIA Insurance Corp.
  • MF Global Holdings
  • National Australia Bank
  • Pershing Square Capital Management
  • Solus Alternative Asset Management
  • Two Sigma
  • Obtained a very favorable settlement for the Lehman Brothers Estate in a derivatives dispute with Citibank that required Citi to return $1.74 billion of the $2 billion in collateral that Citi held at the time of Lehman’s default. The settlement was reached after a 6 month trial in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
  • Representing three “Zohar” CLO funds and current manager, Alvarez & Marsal Zohar Management, in multiple litigations against the funds’ creators and prior managers, Patriarch Partners and Lynn Tilton. Succeeded in obtaining trial judgment finding Patriarch in breach of obligations to turn over books and records. Separately filed suit seeking $1 billion in damages against Patriarch and Tilton for breach of contractual and fiduciary duties and RICO violations.
  • Representing pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts in a $15 billion contract dispute with its largest client, Anthem, as well as a related ERISA class action brought by members of Anthem health plans.
  • Representing the Lehman Brothers Estate in a multi-billion derivatives dispute against Credit Suisse concerning the close-out of foreign exchange, interest rate and credit default swaps following the Lehman bankruptcy.
  • Obtained a $100 million award for National Australia Bank in a FINRA arbitration against Goldman Sachs arising out of fraudulent misrepresentations made by Goldman in connection with the sale of $80 million in CDO securities.
  • Obtained a $650 million settlement for American International Group in a long-running fraud action against Bank of America and Countrywide arising out of misrepresentations made in conjunction with the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.
  • Negotiated a successful settlement for American International Group in $1.5 billion dispute with Canadian property consortium Brookfield Asset Management relating to the interpretation and application of an ISDA Master Agreement governing a long-dated interest rate swap.
  • New York University School of Law
    (J.D., cum laude, 2009)
    • New York University Law Review:
      • Managing Editor
  • Princeton University
    (A.B., Religion, 2004)
  • The State Bar of New York
  • United States District Court:
    • Southern District of New York
  • United States Court of Appeals:
    • Second Circuit
  • Law Clerk to the Hon. James C. Francis IV
    • United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 2010-2011
  • Partnership for Children’s Rights:
    • Sinsheimer Children’s Rights Fellow, 2009-2010
  • Firm Memorandum: Litigation Risk in the SPAC World (September 2020)
  • Toward Constitutional Minority Recruitment and Retention Programs: A Narrowly Tailored Approach, 84 NYU L. Rev. 609 (2009).
  • Founding Board Member, Creo College Prep
  • Education Leadership Council, College Summit