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Government & Regulatory Litigation

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The government can be the most formidable litigation adversary of all, often playing by different rules, yet our firm has a proven track record of not only fighting back but actually beating the government in court.  We take special pride in being a leader in government and regulatory litigation in the United States.  No lawyers bring more firepower, expertise, or courtroom skills than we do to litigating against the government.  We have consistently won cases involving federal or state government, both in court and in front of administrative agencies.  Whether litigating under complex statutory or regulatory schemes, convincing government regulators to back down, or challenging the government when it intrudes upon fundamental rights, our attorneys have achieved unparalleled success.

Our success is largely attributable to the fact that so many of our attorneys come from the government’s elite.  And our experience spans the ever-growing array of spaces in which the government regulates, including antitrust, civil rights, communications, energy, environment, finance, government contracts, health care, immigration, intellectual property, international trade, national security, transportation, and white collar.  We also draw upon our firm’s other practice groups—include our preeminent trial, appellate, and white-collar practitioners—and leverage their creativity, reputation, and experience in order to gain every possible edge in government litigation.

We have litigated every dimension of cases that pose basic questions about governmental authority and enforcement.  We have successfully challenged adverse government actions and laws, won landmark precedents on appeals, defended clients against enforcements actions, litigated alongside the government to defend decisions benefitting our clients, and even represented the government itself against private entities.  Because government litigators recognize how formidable Quinn Emanuel is in court, we bring valuable credibility that benefits our clients whenever they face the government.  Indeed, it is telling that various government entities have specially retained our firm to represent them in especially novel and challenging lawsuits.


Recent Representations

Civil Rights

  • We obtained victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in an appeal involving the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (“IDEA”), a federal law that guarantees students with disabilities a “free appropriate public education.” Judge Carney (joined by Judges Jacobs and Kearse) issued a 50-page decision vacating the district court’s judgment that had declined to require the NYC Department of Education to pay the tuition for a private program in which our client had placed her severely autistic daughter, believing the public school could not offer a safe and appropriate learning environment.  The court agreed with our position that “[t]he IDEA promises a free appropriate education to disabled children without regard to their families’ financial status.”


  • We successfully represented the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in a First Amendment lawsuit against the Attorney General of California. After granting a preliminary injunction in favor of the Foundation and then holding a bench trial of the merits, the Central District of California held that the Attorney General had violated the Foundation’s First Amendment rights by demanding the names and addresses of its major donors.
  • We successfully represented Entergy Corporation in a bench trial in the U.S. District Court for the District Court of Vermont, which held that two Vermont statutes that otherwise would have shut down the company’s Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station were preempted under the federal Atomic Energy Act. The court also ruled that the Dormant Commerce Clause prevents Vermont officials from conditioning the grant of a new state license for operation of the plant on Entergy’s sale of power to Vermont utilities at below-market rates.  We currently represent Entergy in appeals from this ruling and in administrative proceedings in Vermont seeking a new state license for operation of the plant. 
  • In Granholm v. Heald, our lawyers obtained a 5-4 victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of California vintners and Michigan consumers challenging state laws imposing discriminatory restrictions on interstate shipments of wine. The court held that the Twenty-First Amendment does not give states license to interfere with the national market in a way that violates the Dormant Commerce Clause. 
  • We represented New York Governor David Paterson and Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch in a victory The New York Times called “stunning,” obtaining a 4-3 victory in the New York Court of Appeals holding that Mr. Paterson had the authority to appoint Mr. Ravitch Lieutenant Governor to fill a vacancy in that office created when Mr. Paterson assumed the Governorship.

Cyber Security and Data Protection

  • For a government client we have advised on implementing a suite of data privacy and information security regulations across a truly diverse facility base.  For the same client, we are assessing what new procedures/protections should be put into place to avoid future data breaches.


  • We represented Entergy Mississippi and affiliates in defending a suit by the Mississippi Attorney General alleging that these Defendants intentionally purchased electricity from their own allegedly expensive power plants rather than from allegedly cheaper third-party sources, allegedly harming Entergy Mississippi’s customers by forcing them to pay higher electricity rates.  We assembled a factual defense that Entergy Mississippi and its affiliates needed to use their power plants to provide flexible electricity to match fluctuating demand for electricity, and that the third-party plants did not offer or provide the requisite flexibility.  But we won summary judgment on the legal ground that this case is effectively a challenge to decisions made under standards set forth in the Entergy System Agreement, which is a federal tariff approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the violation of which is within the exclusive jurisdiction of that agency rather than any federal or state court.
  • We represented Entergy in seeking Vermont regulatory approval of a first-of-its-kind transaction in which an already-shutdown nuclear plant would be sold by a utility operator to a decommissioning schedule. The regulatory proceeding involved numerous rounds of written testimony, discovery, depositions, a settlement with certain parties (including the key Vermont agencies), and finally an evidentiary hearing before the Vermont Public Utility Commission.  The Commission issued its decision granting approval on December 6, 2018.
  • In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, we successfully opposed an emergency petition seeking shutdown of the Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant, which is owned and operated by our client Entergy. The petition was filed by Friends of the Earth and two other organizations and alleged that Indian Point 2 should be shut down pending further study of degraded bolts that had been detected in the reactor vessel and replaced.  The petition was filed notwithstanding that the federal regulator, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, had found Indian Point 2 could be operated safely.  The D.C. Circuit set an expedited briefing schedule over the course of a week, and then denied the petition.
  • On behalf of intervenor PG&E, we upheld the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to permit PG&E to move spent nuclear fuel into dry cask storage at its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo, California. A petition for review was filed in the Ninth Circuit by local activists who argued that the Commission had violated the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by denying it access to classified information about limiting the effects of a terrorist attack and issuing an inadequate environmental assessment.  In a unanimous opinion, the Ninth Circuit held that neither NEPA nor the AEA required the Commission to hold a closed hearing affording access to classified information and that the Commission’s environmental assessment was sufficient.
  • We obtained a significant victory in the Ninth Circuit for Shell Offshore Inc. and Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. in a decision denying petitions for review challenging the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s approval of Shell Offshore Inc.’s Revised Camden Bay Exploration Plan under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and holding that the agency was entitled to significant deference when interpreting the Act, interpreting its own regulations, and making certain technical and scientific assessments. (This was our second win for Shell on such a petition; we obtained a similar win as to an earlier exploration plan in 2010. The court also issued an unpublished memorandum opinion denying petitions for review of the agency’s approval of Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc.’s Revised Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan.)
  • We represented Enron in-house counsel in congressional hearings and regulatory investigations conducted by the SEC, the CFTC, and various state and federal law enforcement authorities over the alleged manipulation of the electricity markets and power shortages in California.


  • We represented Entergy in seeking Vermont regulatory approval of a first-of-its-kind transaction in which an already-shutdown nuclear plant would be sold by a utility operator to a decommissioning schedule. The regulatory proceeding involved numerous rounds of written testimony, discovery, depositions, a settlement with certain parties (including the key Vermont agencies), and finally an evidentiary hearing before the Vermont Public Utility Commission.  The Commission issued its decision granting approval on December 6, 2018.
  • We represented OBOT, a real estate developer.  OBOT entered into a Development Agreement with the City of Oakland. The Agreement permitted OBOT to build a marine terminal to handle bulk commodities for export by cargo ship.  This type of agreement shields a developer from later-enacted regulations.  The city passed legislation proscribing coal from being handled at the terminal.  After a trial, the federal district court ruled that the city breached the Development Agreement because this later enacted legislation was not justified by a health and safety exception in the Development Agreement. The court enjoined enforced of the legislation against OBOT.
  • We represented the National Resources Defense Council and the Public Utility Law Project in filing an amicus brief in an action where a group of landlords challenged the New York City Water Board’s ability to set rates for water usage. The plaintiffs advanced a theory, adopted by a lower court, that would potentially hamstring the Water Board’s authority to set rates in ways that would reduce the burden on low-income households, incentivize water conservation, and prevent stormwater runoff (an emerging and important environmental issue in urban areas nationwide). The New York Court of Appeals adopted the argument advanced by Quinn Emanuel and the amici (and neither of the parties), ruling that the Water Board had acted within its authority, and preserving the Water Board’s authority to promote environmental issues going forward.
  • In a case the New York Times called “the most ambitious environmental lawsuit ever,” we helped secure a complete dismissal with prejudice.  The headline-making complaint by Louisiana named our clients Koch Industries, Inc. and Koch Exploration Company, LLC, and nearly a hundred other oil and gas companies, and claimed that oil and gas activities destroyed Louisiana’s coastline.  The Louisiana Board alleged that, as a result, it faced increasing storm surge risk and flood protection costs, and sought damages from the defendants to pay for the restoration of the coastline, an effort it claimed would cost approximately $50 billion.  The case received extensive national and local press coverage as it touched on national issues like the Keystone Pipeline debate and the federal government’s role in encouraging oil and gas exploration, and hot button local issues such as wetland loss and hurricane protection.
  • We represented the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in one of the highest-stakes appellate and environmental litigation matters in years.  At issue was whether nationwide greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles, on which our client had already relied in constructing their 2012 model year fleet, would survive a challenge from a host of states and other industry groups in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court.  Quinn Emanuel helped the Alliance navigate a gigantic administrative record and ensured that no matter the outcome, the Alliance’s interests would be protected and the nation’s car manufacturers would continue to operate without interruption.
  • We successfully represented Mitsui Chemicals Agro Inc. in California state court in defeating a lawsuit brought by Pesticide Action Network North America and other organizations that sought to overturn a ruling by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation that had approved new uses in California of a neonicotinoid pesticide manufactured by Mitsui.


  • We represent Ukraine in respect of a claim by Law Debenture as trustee under $3bn Eurobonds purportedly issued by Ukraine in December 2013 and taken up as to 100% by the Russian Federation, in which Law Debenture seeks repayment of principal, interest and costs, a sum well in excess of $3bn. At first instance, the High Court granted Law Debenture summary judgment. We have succeeded in overturning that decision on appeal. The case will now go to the Supreme Court.
  • In a truly historic partnership between a regulator and a private firm, we represent the Federal Housing Finance Agency, as Conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in connection with its investigation and litigation of residential mortgage-backed securities. We filed fourteen complaints, asserting billions in damages, against most major investment banks.  Each complaint asserts federal and state “strict liability” statutory claims arising out of misrepresentations about the securities, and certain complaints assert common law fraud claims.  As widely reported, this is one of the most significant court actions taken by any federal regulator since the advent of the mortgage crisis, and the single largest set of actions ever filed by a governmental entity.  In 2012, the Honorable Denise L. Cote denied a motion to dismiss the claims in what was designated the “lead case” brought by FHFA, and in 2013 entered a series of rulings to streamline the cases for trial, including orders as to statistical sampling, loan file collection and reunderwriting, the scope of the so-called “actual knowledge” defense, the lack of any loss causation defense to FHFA’s Blue Sky claims, and other significant issues.  In 2013 we also obtained a unanimous affirmance by the Second Circuit of Judge Cote's decision as to the timeliness of FHFA’s claims and its standing to sue, as well as a unanimous rejection of defendants’ joint mandamus petition seeking to overturn a number of Judge Cote’s key discovery rulings.  With the cases moving toward fixed trial dates in 2014 and 2015, we have now settled twelve of the actions filed by Quinn Emanuel against Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, UBS, Citigroup, First Horizon, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and HSBC.  To date, we have recovered approximately $20 billion for FHFA.
  • We obtained a unanimous win in the Second Circuit for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), defeating statute-of-limitations objections by 18 banks that FHFA sued for fraudulent RMBS offerings. The result was a ruling of nationwide import that the statute of limitations in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 supersedes the statute of repose in the Securities Act of 1933.
  • We obtained an unprecedented preliminary injunction and forced the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to seek a voluntary remand to redo a rule they had issued against our client, FBME Bank Ltd, under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Had the rule taken effect, it would have devastated FBME by cutting the bank off from U.S. dollars and the U.S. financial system.
  • We obtained a dismissal of all charges brought by the SEC against our client Chartwell Asset Management in an insider trading case. Chartwell, a Geneva-based asset management firm, was accused of trading ahead of a merger announcement for a U.S.-listed chemical company and was required by the court to post more than $12 million to cover any potential penalty.  After months of discovery and just before Quinn Emanuel was set to file a motion for summary judgment, the SEC agreed to dismiss the case in its entirety and return the money to Chartwell.
  • We were substituted in as counsel for Charles Schwab & Co. in January 2010 in a high profile SEC investigation. We successfully negotiated a settlement with the SEC that was much more favorable than had been attained by prior counsel. In addition, we negotiated away various inflammatory allegations from the prior agreed upon SEC order, and persuaded the SEC to drop a books and records count against the company.
  • We served as counsel to the Chairman and CEO of Intermix, the parent company of MySpace.com, in a five-month audit committee investigation, and in subsequent SEC and shareholder litigation. The SEC matter was resolved with recommendation of no enforcement action from SEC Staff. 
  • We represented eUniverse in a multi-year SEC investigation, and secured "no action" letter from the SEC Enforcement staff in revenue recognition and accounting restatement case.

Government Contracts

  • The firm achieved an important victory for municipalities struggling with civil litigation caused by the misconduct of their officials.  In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the Town of Oyster Bay, located in the greater New York metropolitan area, could not be liable on a contract that had been agreed to by former corrupt Town officials without the approval of the Town’s governing body, the Town Board.  PHL Variable Insurance Company had alleged that the Town breached an agreement to guarantee a multi-million dollar loan PHL had made to a former Town concessionaire.  PHL also had alleged that it was defrauded by the Town into making the loan.  We obtained a dismissal with prejudice of all of PHL’s claims in district court, successfully arguing that the guarantee was unenforceable because it was never authorized by the Town Board.  We then obtained a unanimous, published decision by the Second Circuit affirming the dismissal.  The decision is a victory not only for the Town but also for other municipalities seeking to enforce their own procedures in order to protect their citizens from public corruption.
  • We represented Leon Pasternak, the Deputy Chairman of Australian radio company Southern Cross, in a regulatory investigation of Mr Pasternak’s purchase of Southern Cross shares, which the regulator alleged constituted insider trading.  After almost 4 years of investigations, we obtained confirmation that the regulator would not take enforcement action.
  • We assisted a community service non-profit foundation to obtain a $1,100,000 jury verdict (including $1,000,000 in punitive damages) for two tenants against a real estate investment and management firm, and the owner of over 50 buildings in East Los Angeles for violation of the Fair Housing Act (causing disparate impact on protected class of citizens).  The defendants intended, and tried, to evict all the Hispanic-immigrant tenants in one building to convert the units into student housing at nearly twice the rent, and turn a quick profit at the expense of exposing existing low income immigrant tenants to go homeless.
  • We obtained complete dismissal of all claims in a qui tam/False Claims Act case on behalf of Northrop Grumman. The plaintiff/relator in that case sought over $1 billion arising out of alleged wrongful billings in connection with $4.5 billion satellite project for the U.S. government. After a complete internal investigation and subsequent presentation to the government, we persuaded the Dept. of Justice to decline to intervene and the relator to voluntarily dismiss.
  • We represented Dayton T. Brown in two separate protests, one at the Government Accountability Office and the other at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, successfully defending bid protests against award of testing facilities contracts to the company.
  • We represented The Parsons Corporation in a cost allowability dispute before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. A successful resolution was achieved after we undertook extensive depositions of the government's contracting officials.
  • We represented a major government contractor with respect to alleged mischarging issues that were the subject of a grand jury investigation and resolved the matter administratively through contract modification.
  • We represented an international engineering firm in a dispute with the federal government over the manner in which environmental clean-up services were accounted for and charged. The engineering firm was accused of overbilling millions of dollars. The government agreed to settle the dispute without the engineering firm having to pay any allegedly over billed amount to the government.
  • We represented Litton Systems in a qui tam case, joined by the government, alleging misallocation of overhead costs for data processing services. Obtained a favorable settlement.
  • We represented a number of satellite manufacturers in disputes with the federal government relating to acquisition and performance disputes, including prosecuting and defending disputes before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals and the U.S. Claims Court, and obtained favorable outcomes.


  • We were counsel to a former executive of a major healthcare company in an internal investigation regarding allegations of campaign finance law violations. We reached a conciliation agreement with the FEC in which the client was not referred to DOJ for criminal prosecution, did not pay a single penny in civil fines, and was simply cited for a non-willful and non-knowing violation of the law.
  • We obtained a unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, affirming partial judgment in a False Claims Act case against Pfizer.  In this qui tam action, a former employee alleged that Pfizer promoted Lipitor, its top-selling cholesterol-lowering medicine, “off-label,” claiming that Pfizer sales representatives and marketing materials promoted Lipitor for use by certain patients whose cholesterol levels were not low enough to warrant treatment based on national cholesterol guidelines.  The Second Circuit  affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss these claims, rejecting the relator’s entire theory of “off-label” marketing.  It concluded that cholesterol guidelines summarized in the label merely “provide[d] advice and (unsurprisingly) guidance, ‘not mandatory limitation.’”  The Court also questioned whether the conduct alleged – off-label marketing by sales representative or through promotional materials – could even constitute a false claim to the government.
  • One of our partners represented the former Chairman and CEO of a publicly traded pharmaceutical company in securities litigation and governmental investigations arising from public disclosures about scientific disputes with the Food and Drug Administration over a New Drug Application. These matters included scientific and expert issues relating to the efficacy of the drug, as well as sensitive media relations issues. 
  • One of our partners represented a publicly traded company in an FDA investigation into alleged false statements in connection with a new drug application submitted to the FDA. 
  • We represented the largest health plan in California in a 40-day trial arising out of an enforcement proceeding brought by the Department of Managed Health Care; the court rejected virtually the entirety of the Department's case.
  • We represented a major health insurance provider in connection with a civil law enforcement action brought by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office alleging violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law. 


  • We obtained a vacatur of the deportation order for a mentally-disabled pro bono client.  The immigration judge had ordered deportation, even though the client has severe mental impairments, a history of abuse in his home country, and strong ties to the United States. We successfully convinced the Board of Immigration Appeals to vacate the immigration judge’s decision based on her failure to take into account his mental impairments. The Board held that there was evidence of incompetency that the immigration judge ignored, and consequently our client deserved a new hearing. 
  • Acting as Court-appointed pro bono appellate counsel, we obtained a landmark decision from the Second Circuit holding that (1) various sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act that treat unwed U.S. citizen mothers and fathers differently in terms of their ability to confer derivative citizenship on their children born outside of the United States is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and (2) the appropriate remedy is to extend to unwed citizen fathers the more favorable treatment the statute affords to unwed citizen mothers.  In so holding, the Second Circuit split with the Ninth Circuit on this issue of national importance—an issue that also split the Supreme Court 4-4 (with Justice Kagan recused) when it was presented on appeal from the Ninth Circuit—and dramatically altered the statutory scheme at issue.  The decision has broad implications not only as a matter of constitutional and statutory law, but also for numerous individuals (here in the United States and abroad) who are now deemed to be American citizens as of their birth.  As a result of the decision, the Court declared that Morales—who has been in federal detention subject to a deportation order for over two years pending the outcome of his appeal—derived American citizenship at birth from his father, and therefore he cannot be deported.  Mr. Morales was released from federal detention the day after the Second Circuit issued its decision.  He is now an American citizen as a matter of law.   

Insurance and Reinsurance

  • We negotiated a favorable settlement in AIG’s lawsuit against the Superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services in response to DFS’s assertion that certain AIG subsidiaries had engaged in illegal and undisclosed insurance activities in New York.  QE asserted that DFS’s stated interpretation and enforcement of the insurance laws was unconstitutional.  Following motion to dismiss briefing, QE obtained a favorable settlement for AIG, which was much less than the amount paid by MetLife for related allegations that spanned a much shorter time period
  • We obtained a complete dismissal, with prejudice, of a major False Claims Act case against AIG that alleged AIG defrauded the Federal Reserve Bank of New York by hundreds of millions of dollars during the financial crisis.  The case, brought by a former AIG human resources executive-turned-whistleblower, alleged that two insurance subsidiaries that AIG sold to the Federal Reserve in exchange for $25 billion in debt reduction had, for decades, engaged in unlicensed insurance business in New York.  The plaintiff alleged that AIG was complicit in the illegal insurance activity, concealed it from regulators, and deliberately misled the Fed during the negotiations in order to consummate the transaction.  This case posed a potential $2.5 billion liability for AIG under the False Claims Act’s treble damages provision.  We previously convinced the Justice Department to decline to intervene in the suit, and after a three-hour long oral argument on our motion to dismiss, we have now obtained a complete dismissal, with prejudice, in an opinion that adopted nearly every one of our arguments and found that any attempt by the plaintiff to supplement his complaint would be futile. 

International Trade

  • Acting on behalf of S. Steel Corporation, we successfully proved to the U.S. Department of Commerce that Brazilian steel producers were selling cold-rolled flat steel products in the United States in violation of U.S. antidumping laws, and we persuaded the Department to take remedial actions based on those violations.
  • We successfully represented Wedgewood Pharmacy before the ITC, where KV Pharmaceutical had filed a complaint alleging that Wedgewood Pharmacy and others were unlawfully importing and selling compounded Hydroxyprogesterone Caproate in the United States, allegedly in violation of KV's exclusive rights to market this product for certain indicated uses under FDA's orphan drug program. We successfully argued that KV had failed to state a cognizable claim under Section 337 and, in particular, that the FDA, rather than the ITC, has jurisdiction to enforce the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. 

Satellite & Aerospace

  • We achieved the complete abandonment of an investigation by the Justice Department into claims potentially valued at more than half billion dollars against a major U.S. aerospace and defense contractor. We were engaged midway through a seven-year investigation after the U.S. government had contended that the contractor was negligent and had committed violations of the False Claims Act amounting to potentially more than $600 million in damages. After multiple presentations by our attorneys arguing that the government's case was not supportable under the False Claims Act, government contract regulations or negligence law, the government decided to drop the investigation without taking any action.

Other Representations Against Government Entities

  • The firm obtained a published decision from a unanimous panel of the DC Circuit, reversing a district court that had refused, on statute-of-limitations grounds, to enter a default judgment against Iran for its role in sponsoring Al Qaeda’s attack that killed the family member of our clients – alongside scores of others – working at the US Embassy in Kenya in 1998.  This decision should clear the way for our clients now to recover fair compensation (from a fund Congress has established for this purpose) for Iran’s demonstrated state sponsorship of the terrorist attack that claimed the life of their loved one.
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