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April 2014: Lead Counsel Appointment in Credit Default Swaps Antitrust MDL

April 2014

The firm was recently appointed as lead class counsel in a massive antitrust case against banks that sold credit default swaps, defeating attempts by the defendants and a group of rival plaintiffs lawyers to derail Quinn Emanuel’s bid.

The multi-district litigation, which has been consolidated before Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York, concerns the banking industry’s anticompetitive activity in the market for credit default swaps. CDS are traded over-the-counter and that market is controlled by major banks that operate as market-makers. The basic allegation is that the defendant banks collectively blocked efforts by several major exchanges and clearinghouses to move CDS trading from over-the-counter to an electronic exchange trading platform—a move that would have narrowed bid/ask spreads, improved liquidity, promoted transparency, and ultimately cut out the banks as middlemen in a multi-trillion dollar market.

Given the serious nature of the banks’ conduct—conduct that prompted investigations by the Department of Justice and the European Commission—over a dozen law firms filed class actions against these major banks. These firms formed coalitions and adopted aggressive strategies to try to defeat Quinn Emanuel’s lead counsel bid. Ultimately, though, at a hearing in December where Judge Cote indicated she would only select one or two of these firms to represent the class, Judge Cote selected Quinn Emanuel. Judge Cote explained that Quinn Emanuel is “the only single firm with the expertise and resources to handle this litigation without assistance essentially,” that “it has a track record, a knowledge of the CDS market and antitrust litigation,” and it is “well equipped with trial lawyers who can actually go to court and try a case” along with “extraordinary strengths with respect to appellate litigation.” Going forward Quinn Emanuel will represent the class against these major financial institutions in what will surely be an important case for both the CDS industry and the development of antitrust law.