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Crisis Law & Strategy Group

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Why Us?

Our firm has built its reputation by carving success from long odds in “bet the company” litigation.  We are home to the best dispute resolution lawyers in the world.  From white collar to antitrust to the entire range of financial issues and cross-border disputes, we have lawyers around the globe ready to respond to any challenge.  In high stakes matters, things move very fast, and bad news—and false news—spreads literally in minutes.  Getting a verdict from a judge or jury can take years, but in the court of public opinion, verdicts are rendered almost immediately and can directly affect a company and its leaders—especially the CEO and the GC—long before the first court hearing.

So great lawyering means a lot more these days than just crafting winning legal strategies.  Litigation or government scrutiny may be one part of a larger crisis, and the pieces need to be managed together.  That means managing the public trial—or more often the public media circus—so you don’t lose your reputation, your business, or your soon-to-be-filed court case before you’ve even had a chance to see a judge.  It means recognizing all the audiences you must effectively communicate with in order to win the battle: the court and jury, of course; but also the “mainstream” media, the trade press, the bloggers and other “influencers,” investor relations in all its forms, your customers, your employees, your competitors, all of whom are making decisions in real time when crisis hits.

At Quinn Emanuel, we know crisis management requires a proactive, multi-disciplined approach and have the experience to fight in every arena.  It requires not only knowing your business and the law but also understanding how the media works, knowing who the opinion-makers are, and sending the right message to the public and to specialized audiences, as well as the courts.  When troubles hit, we hit the ground running.  Our lawyers know how to get to the top fast; to find the third parties you need to support your case; to build a story or kill it. We work across time zones, across the world, 24/7.  When Los Angeles sleeps, Europe wakes up, then New York, Chicago…not to mention Australia and Asia.

When is a crisis really a crisis?  When it threatens your company, your CEO, your business, and your relationships. It can begin as an existential threat or just the hint of trouble.  A lawsuit can be the crisis or an outgrowth of one.  A crisis can be caused by a crazed employee or an act of God, a terrorist strike or a dealer who finds a defect.  It can be a massive cyber breach, a multi-pronged government investigation, a come-from-nowhere complaint against your CEO, a disgruntled former-employee-turned-whistleblower, a phone call from a regulator, or a sick customer halfway around the world, who could be the first of many.

You call it a potential disaster.  We understand - it could be. 

You, or those around you, may be panicking.  We call it Tuesday. 

We have created a special practice group with attorneys whose bags are always packed and ready to tackle a crisis wherever and whenever. 

And we don’t just deal in crises after-the-fact.  We can also help you think through pressing corporate issues, mitigate risk and develop effective legal and communications strategies before crises occur.  From the ever more visible range of workforce issues making the headlines—from diversity and sexual harassment to corporate governance, information leaks and the boundaries of free expression—we are ready to bring to bear our broad range of private and public sector experiences to leverage best practices, provide informed strategic counsel, and develop a persuasive communications and outreach strategy that will strengthen your brand and impress important stakeholders.  

Who We Are

The Crisis Law & Strategy Group operates both in the United States and around the globe because the needs are  everywhere. With 23 offices worldwide, we will be by your side from beginning to end.  We know what to do, who to call, how to move, what to say, because really, that’s what we’ve been doing for the past two decades.  Now we do it in double time around the world.  We’d like to meet with you and your top leaders so you know what we do and how we can help.

The group is co-chaired by Founder and Managing Partner, John Quinn, who has built the firm in to a global litigation and arbitration powerhouse, in Los Angeles, and Bill Burck in Washington, D.C. (a veteran Republican and Bush insider).  As described below, they are aided by an impressive team of lawyers and former government officials, who bring decades of experience and contacts to bear.

What We Do

“How Fast Can You Get to…”

“Let’s see.  I just got back from London.  We’ll be there tomorrow.”

As our founder John Quinn says, “We pack our bags and we go.” Quinn Emanuel always works as a team.  You are our clients, not one particular partner’s—everyone and anyone, from John Quinn on, will jump in as needed to offer advice or deliver a message.

The Quinn Emanuel Advantage – Value Added

The Best Motion Practice.

Modern litigation rarely resembles the television shows people watch about lawyers.  It’s about motion practice, and sophisticated legal argument; winning on summary judgment; winning before trial. While trial lawyers have a reputation of not paying attention to, not being able to, or not caring to produce first rate papers, we think about it very differently.  We have won major cases without ever putting on a suit and going to court.  When billionaire Ron Perelman sued the man who had provided the financing for him to go into business, Michael Milken, a team led by John Quinn got the case dismissed by winning on the papers in four courts. 

Being Able to Try Cases Often Means You Don’t Have To.

It sounds like a paradox, but the fact that Quinn Emanuel has been ranked as one of the “Fearsome Foursome” (the firms that General Counsels least like to see against them) gives us more clout at the bargaining table.  Our opponents know what we know: that we actually like to try cases.  Quinn Emanuel lawyers win 88% of the cases we take to trial and arbitration.  But often the best result is the certainty and finality that you can achieve only with a settlement, and the challenge is to get the best possible settlement and, just as in the case of trials, sell it as a major victory.  In one case, we did such a good job that the parent company wanted to know why we weren’t being even more aggressive; we had to explain that actually, some people might say it was a mixed result at best but we got to the microphones first.

Being Willing to Bet on Ourselves.

How much will it cost?  We don’t pretend to come cheap, but the best never do.  But we believe in ourselves.  We put skin in the game.  We negotiate fixed fees for tasks with incentives for our success.  We like to compete in the big games, and if you want us, we’ll find a way to make it work.

An Appellate Specialist Embedded in Every Trial Team.

Just in case.  There is nothing that a jury can do that an appellate court can’t undo.  We have one of the most honored and recognized appellate groups in the country, led by former Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen M. Sullivan, a recognized force in the Supreme Court and numerous courts of appeal.

The Crisis Law Team Can Handle Communications.

Often, when we take on a big case, our clients ask us for recommendations for crisis management or public relations firms.  There are many talented people who work in these companies and if you have a PR firm you’re happy with, our job is to work with them to ensure that the message to the public and the message to the judge support one another.  But the truth is, much of the time the lawyers end up having to explain the legal issues to the PR people and write the releases so as to be consistent with the legal strategy.  What some of our clients have figured out is that since we’re doing the talking anyway, they don’t need a six or seven figure PR firm.  Maybe it’s better, and safer, to leave it to us.  We have the expertise to run the communications effort internally and efficiently. We can not only do it better, we can do it cheaper. We are your lawyers. You can talk to us with confidence. And when you talk to us about litigation and legal strategy, you are protected by the privilege.

We Help You Get Ahead of the Curve

We don’t just manage current crises but help you think strategically about important, longer-term legal, governance and policy issues – so you can proactively reduce legal risk, improve your brand, and retain the trust of your Board, your shareholders and the public. 

Keys to Managing and Avoiding Crises

Keep It as Small as You Can.
The first goal in a crisis is to contain it—ideally, to prevent it altogether. You know your product may have a defect.  Call us.  You think the Government may be investigating you.  Don’t wait.  Your competitors are on the firing line.  Who is next?  A crisis is a lot like pain: if it gets too far ahead of you, it’s hard to catch up.  Do a risk assessment. We’ll do it with you.  In this climate, always assume someone is looking.  Why do CEOs come and go so fast?  Or perhaps, why don’t they go even faster, considering the enormous pressures?  Even if you face litigation—or especially when you face litigation—our goal is to limit its scope and nature, cabin the consequences and potential damages to make sure that nothing you do now contributes to punitive damages later.  Whatever is coming, let us address it.

Get the Facts. 
Not every crisis is real.  Rumors are regularly reported as news.  The first step in a potential crisis is to collect as many facts as you can as fast as you can.  Given the speed with which news—good and bad, true and not-so-true, unfortunately—spreads, you can’t afford to be silent for very long.  It often takes time to collect all the facts, and you need a message before you can conduct a full investigation.  Often the message is just that: “No one is more troubled by what we are hearing than the hardworking men and women of this company, from the CEO to the temporary employee.  We will get to the bottom of this.  If there is wrongdoing, we will find it.  If there are amends that must be made, we will make them…”

Remember Your Audiences.
Not just the reporters who call you, but all the people who need to hear it from the company or its lawyer first—directors, customers, suppliers, bankers.  No news during a crisis is bad news, so we’re ready to reach out on a variety of fronts—bloggers, opinion leaders, the academics who are going to tell the reporters that you’re right. We work with senior government officials in the United States and around the world. We cover both sides of the aisle in Washington with relationships extending back decades based on friendship and mutual respect. We don’t wander the halls of Capitol Hill with a different issue every day.  We represent you.  We resolve your dispute.

Counter Lies. 
If you’re being smeared, have your lawyer say it and have others back it up.  Silence is not golden.  An unanswered charge is assumed to be true.  Having no comment may make it true.  Being unavailable for comment means you are intentionally avoiding the reporters, which is almost always a bad and utterly ridiculous idea if what they are reporting is not true.  If you can’t deny each specific allegation, then deny the conclusion. “That is not the man I know.”  The days when lawyers could avoid speaking to anyone but the judge and jury are gone, at least in big cases. 

Define Your Message.
Every dispute has a story to be told—to the press, to the opinion makers, to the prosecutors, to the court and to the jury.  The story has to be told in the right way at the right time.  We have built our reputation as a firm that is willing to be aggressive when needed, willing to put ourselves on the line when needed, willing to stand by you when others are heading for the hills.  We have longstanding contacts in the major news and social media organizations.  We know who to call and what to say.  We know the importance of being credible.

Accepting Responsibility is Not the Same as Accepting Liability.
When you’re in charge and something goes wrong, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.  We’ve heard many executives say,  “But it wasn’t my fault.  Someone should have told me.” This is all very important for the court case, in which duties and responsibilities will be individually defined, but not when you’ve got a frightened public or an angry Senator.  Crises demand leadership. Sometimes, there are things you can’t admit, and we all have examples.  But the best approach to the problem is not always going to be the one we should take in court.  Don’t lowball damages—going up every day is worse than saying, “We don’t know the number, but we do know this—we will fix the problem.”  Bring in the best technicians in the world, compensate the injured, rebuild what was destroyed.  These are not legally binding commitments that you are liable for x dollars in damages.  Showing compassion and leadership, getting to the bottom of matters, and committing to solve a problem whoever created it turns down the heat.  Do the opposite of what is being done to turn the heat up.  The rivers are full of snakes.

Don’t Be Defensive.
That may be the table we will be sitting at, but being defensive will make you sound guilty.  The best companies—with the best workers and the best technology—are still run by humans, who are capable of errors and vulnerable to the acts of hoodlums, disasters of mother nature, and risks of the real world.  Every company, every CEO  has problems.  If you’ve got critical directors on your board, they generally don’t go away by ignoring them, and the same goes for angry customers and bottom-feeding lawyers.  Define the problem.  Outline your strategy.  Be as transparent as you can be.  Get as much news out (especially bad news) on the same day as you can.  Remember, the public has the attention span of a gnat, and today’s paper still does wrap some of tomorrow’s fish.  Having a strategy, hanging in, hanging tough, doing your politics, eating humble pie when needed followed by dessert, will make a better meal.  And nine times out of ten, the cover-up—if you go that way—will cause you more problems than whatever you’re trying to hide.

Finally, remember, Congress (and similar bodies) are courts of public opinion, not courts of law.

Be Proactive and Think Long-Term
As author Steven Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.”  That means figuring out the end-game from the very beginning: what your goals and objectives are, who your audience is, what benchmarks will help define success and provide opportunities for expansion, and where the obstacles and landmines lie that must be avoided or overcome.  As your strategic and communications advisers, we will help augment your strengths and identify and help sure up any potential legal risks and liabilities.  We will anticipate issues conduct internal reviews, and work with you to develop effective strategies to tackle some of your most perplexing and illusive challenges.  Our goal is to not only get you out ahead of the curve but to be the curve, the standard by which all your peers will be judged.


Recent Representations

  • California utilities face increasing and potentially crippling litigation exposure from wildfires.  In a major appellate victory for PG&E in the California Court of Appeal for the Third District, Quinn Emanuel greatly limited that exposure by eliminating the threat of punitive damages against PG&E for the 2015 Butte Fire.  The court held that, in light of PG&E’s extensive vegetation management program along its 135,000 miles of powerlines, PG&E could not possibly be found to have consciously disregarded the risk of tree-related wildfires, as would be required to award punitive damages.  In addition to saving PG&E from potentially billions of dollars in punitive damages, the decision creates important new California law protecting companies that institute risk management programs from the threat of punitive damages in the future.
  • When Fédération Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”) was rocked by allegations of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” bribery and corruption, we had a team on the ground in Switzerland within hours, advising the international soccer’s governing body in the midst of a raid on its headquarters and the arrests of numerous senior soccer officials.  Since then, the firm has helped guide FIFA through the crisis—conducting an internal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing, advising on media strategy, helping pass wide-ranging reforms to resolve the problems of the past, and cooperating with government authorities on FIFA’s behalf.  As a result of our efforts, FIFA has secured victim status in the global investigations and is actively pursuing restitution for the losses it suffered at the hands of corrupt officials.
  • Facing high-profile allegations of sexual harassment, the late Fox News Chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes turned to the firm.  The allegations captured the media’s attention and case developments became instant breaking news.  In this intense media spotlight, our team quickly devised a strategy to navigate the legal and PR landscape.  With one of the world’s leading media experts deciding to rely on us to handle all aspects of communication, we negotiated a fair agreement within days and have worked cooperatively with Twenty First Century Fox to address all pending matters, handling all communications as well as litigation and arbitration.
  • We have successfully defended Fortune 100 companies facing government investigations.  Through  an aggressive, carefully orchestrated strategy,  they helped one company obtain a favorable settlement in a statewide investigation conducted by the Attorney General and District Attorneys' offices regarding the company's statewide hazardous waste and materials practices.  In another, their persuasive oral and written presentations to the government, including a White Paper characterized by the General Counsel as “the best he’s ever seen,” deterred further governmental action.  Their nuanced approach to resolving government disputes prevents or minimizes disruption to a company and its corporate image.
  • In 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling unit exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven crewmen and causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history.  When the government’s attention turned to BP engineer Bob Kaluza, the company’s “well site leader” who was on the rig that day, he turned to the firm.  With co-counsel, our team guided Kaluza through Coast Guard hearings, civil lawsuits, government commissions, media crises and ultimately a criminal trial accusing him of manslaughter and oil pollution, in which he was vindicated on every single charge, including a trial in 2016 on the final count of pollution, where the jury unanimously acquitted.
  • We represent the Rosenthal family, one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in Central America, in connection with high-profile criminal prosecutions of several family members, and OFAC investigations targeting family owned companies alleging that family members and companies laundered funds for some of the largest narcotics traffickers in Latin America.  Days after OFAC sanctions were imposed—threatening the survival of the entire group—we deployed a team that led a corporation reorganization of approximately 30 companies worth in excess of $1 billion and engaged with partners, customers and vendors of the companies to preserve commercial relationships, restore confidence and ensure the survival of the group.  As a result of our efforts, the three most valuable assets of the family continue successfully operating.
  • Construction giant Odebrecht turned to the firm for help after its president was arrested and accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to senior officials in Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, as part of the massive Lava Jato corruption scandal.  Facing investigations in multiple jurisdictions and the prospect of crushing penalties that could put the company out of business, we achieved a historic global settlement in just a matter of months, resolving allegations of corruption in a dozen countries.  The global settlement was notable for introducing the concept of measuring a company’s monetary penalty in the FCPA context by its financial condition and ability to pay.
  • We represented Martín Díaz-Álvarez, one of the most prominent bankers in Mexico, in connection with parallel DOJ and SEC investigations and Mexican criminal investigations into the collapse of Oceanografía S.A. de C.V. (“Oceanografía”), the largest fraud in the history of Latin America. The Mexican government blamed Mr. Diaz for the collapse of Oceanografía, indicted him for fraud and sought his extradition from the United States, publicly claiming he was Mexico’s most wanted fugitive.  We successfully extricated Mr. Diaz from the DOJ and SEC investigations, defeated the extradition proceedings and with Mexican counsel dismissed the Mexican charges.
  • Following a whistleblower complaint and resulting in missed SEC filings, an Audit Committee investigation, and the resignation of its auditor, a California-based technology company in crisis turned to the firm.  We immediately had a team on the ground to diffuse the crisis and guide the Company through the investigation.  Key in the process was effectively managing all concerned constituencies.  Our substantial experience in representing companies has provided us with the expertise to handle both the myriad issues that inevitably arise and the competing interests at play, including often times a divergence between boards of directors and management.
  • In 2016, the firm was retained by a U.S. based broker-dealer to advise with respect to a raid on their Manila offices by the Philippine’s National Bureau of Investigation. The raid resulted in the arrest of more than 30 employees, including a U.S. executive visiting the office, based on allegations that the employees were operating a “boiler room” out of the Philippines.  Our attorneys worked across multiple time zones to coordinate the efforts of the company, to work to get all employees released from confinement and to conduct a factual investigation to determine whether there was any basis to the allegations in the NBI’s complaint.  Charges were dropped against all employees.
  • Overnight, an M&A transaction involving the Swiss specialty chemicals company Sika and the French construction conglomerate Saint-Gobain turned into what The Economist dubbed “Europe’s nastiest takeover battle.”  The firm was brought in by the family shareholder of Sika who was faced with an unprecedented opposition by the company’s board of directors when it sought to sell its stake in the company. We helped set up a team of strategic, legal and media advisors to lead the family through the various lawsuits, PR and management issues and the preparations for the shareholders’ meeting.
  • Our offices in Australia have successfully represented and advised numerous companies, boards and prominent directors and officers facing corporate crises.  Michael and Michelle currently represent Infigen Energy, the largest owner of wind farms in Australia, in relation to a recent bushfire on its property which resulted in significant damage to surrounding properties and attracted scrutiny from the press and the government.  This created an immediate crisis through the organization that required urgent advice, assistance and management across a range of disciplines. Following the fallout from the incident, we are now advising Infigen in relation to the potential Coronial Inquiry into the bushfire, as well as a parallel class action launched by affected landowners.
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