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Gary P. Naftalis


Firm Co-chairman; Co-chair, Litigation

Phone: 212.715.9253 Fax: 212.715.9238 New York

Gary P. Naftalis is one of the nation’s leading trial lawyers and pre-eminent litigators. Mr. Naftalis represents corporations, as well as officers, directors and significant individuals, in all phases of complex high-stakes civil, criminal and regulatory matters. His work on behalf of these clients spans more than four decades and includes many sensitive and high-profile matters, including governmental and regulatory inquiries and related civil litigation involving allegations of insider trading, market manipulation, accounting irregularities, stock options backdating and other financial fraud. Throughout his career he has been one of the first calls for corporate leaders encountering legal problems. Mr. Naftalis has also argued significant appeals in appellate courts throughout the country. In addition, he has served as counsel to audit and special committees of a number of major public companies in connection with regulatory issues.

Mr. Naftalis’ most notable work on behalf of clients includes his successful defense of Michael Eisner, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, in the shareholder derivative lawsuit related to the hiring and termination of Michael Ovitz. After a 37-day trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery, Mr. Eisner and the other Disney directors prevailed on all counts. The National Law Journal chose the Disney decision as one of the top defense wins of that year. Mr. Naftalis also successfully secured dismissal for Kenneth Langone, former chair of the New York Stock Exchange Compensation Committee, of all charges brought against him by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer relating to the compensation of NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso.

Other notable matters include the representation of the city of New York in the inquiry by the New York County District Attorney relating to the fire at the Deutsche Bank building at the World Trade Center, in which no charges were brought against the city or any of its agencies or its officials, and the defense of Sirius XM Radio in a breach of contract action by Howard Stern seeking $330 million in damages, in which Mr. Naftalis secured summary judgment in favor of Sirius dismissing the case. The court found that the “clear, unambiguous language” of the contract defeated Stern’s claim. More recently, Mr. Naftalis defended Rajat K. Gupta, the former Managing Director Worldwide of McKinsey, in both a high-profile criminal insider trading trial and parallel SEC enforcement action, where he obtained a precedent-setting decision challenging the attempt by the Securities and Exchange Commission to utilize an administrative process rather than go to court.

Mr. Naftalis successfully represented pro bono Congregation Jeshuat Israel, the congregation that has worshipped for the past 130 years at Touro Synagogue, the nation’s oldest synagogue, in a dispute with a New York City congregation over the ownership of the synagogue and valuable silver bells (rimonim) that adorn Torah scrolls and were made by colonial silversmith Myer Myers. After a two-week trial in federal court, Jeshuat Israel prevailed on all issues and will now be able to sell the bells to create an endowment that will enable it to preserve the historic synagogue located in Newport, Rhode Island, as a place of worship. The Court also removed the New York City congregation as trustee of the charitable trust holding Touro Synagogue. The American Lawyer Daily named Mr. Naftalis as Litigator of the Week for this trial success.

Mr. Naftalis has long been regarded as the man to see by securities industry clients in sensitive “bet the company” matters, including federal and state criminal actions, SEC investigations, and civil litigation. He successfully defended Salomon Brothers in the federal criminal and SEC investigations of U.S. Treasury auction bidding practices, and Kidder, Peabody in connection with the Wall Street insider trading scandal. In both instances, he persuaded the U.S. government not to bring criminal charges. He also represented Kidder, Peabody in multiple related civil litigations in which the company faced more than $2 billion in damage claims. He also represented the CEO of Arthur Anderson in the Enron matter; the Chairman of Global Crossing; the COO of MF Global; the CEO of Refco; the CEO of WorldCom; and major figures in inquires involving Drexel Burnham, Orange County, Cendant, Tyco, BCCI, and British Petroleum.

Mr. Naftalis is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He has been repeatedly recognized as one of America’s premier litigators and trial lawyers. The National Law Journal named him a 2015 White Collar Trailblazer and also named him one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” the past two times it has compiled the list — in 2013 and in 2006. The Legal 500 has named him one of the “10 Leading Trial Lawyers in the United States” every year since 2007 when it first compiled its list, and Super Lawyers also has named him one of the “Top 10 Lawyers in New York” every year since 2007 (ranking him No. 1 in 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016, and No. 2 in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014). Mr. Naftalis has been recognized as a litigation star in Benchmark Litigation since 2008, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. In 2015, he received the Milton Gould Award for Outstanding Oral Advocacy from the Office of the Appellate Defender. In 2012, he received the New York Council of Defense Lawyers Norman Ostrow Award in recognition of his white collar defense achievements. Mr. Naftalis also received the 2011 Chambers USA Award for Excellence in White Collar Crime and Government Investigations. He has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America since 1993 in five categories — Bet-the-Company Litigation, White Collar Criminal Defense, Regulatory Enforcement, Securities Litigation and Commercial Litigation. He was also cited as one of America’s leading lawyers by Lawdragon 500 every year since 2006, and named a Lawdragon 500 Legend in 2016. In 2017, Lawdragon 500 named Mr. Naftalis to its Hall of Fame, which recognizes those lawyers whose mark on the legal profession is indelible, celebrating their enduring contributions to the legal profession. He has been named as one of America’s leading trial lawyers by Chambers Global and Chambers USA and as one of the nation’s most highly regarded business crime defense lawyers by Who’s Who Legal. In 2016, Chambers USA said: “‘Giant of the Bar’ Gary Naftalis is a nationally recognized trial lawyer whose experience includes some of the largest criminal and civil cases in recent history.” Chambers also named Mr. Naftalis one of the top four “star individuals” among white collar criminal defense lawyers in New York.

Mr. Naftalis’ litigation successes have been the subject of numerous profiles over the years, including the New York Times in 2011 (“Columbo with a Law Degree”); the Wall Street Journal in 2006 (“The Zelig of the White Collar Bar: He’s Everywhere”) and in 2011 (“Gary Naftalis: Back in the Spotlight Again”); Super Lawyers in 2010 (“The Ultimate Lawyer Statesman”); The American Lawyer in 2006 (“The Velocity of Gary”); the fall 2014 ABA Litigation Journal; and The New York Law Journal in 1987 (“A Way Out: Naftalis, GE Work as a Team to Avert Kidder Indictment”).

In addition to the many honors he has received over the course of his career from within the legal profession, Mr. Naftalis was awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Benedict XVI. He also received the Robert M. Morgenthau Award for the Legal Profession by the Police Athletic League, the George A. Katz Torch of Learning Award by American Friends of the Hebrew University, the Law and Society Award by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the Robert F. Wagner Jr. Award by the Citizens Union of the City of New York, the Judge Simon H. Rifkind Award by the Jewish Theological Seminary, the John J. McCloy Award by The Fund for Modern Courts, and the Saint Thomas More Award by the Inner-City Scholarship Fund.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Naftalis served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. He also served as Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee investigating abuses in the nursing home industry.

Mr. Naftalis has been a lecturer at Columbia Law School and a member of the faculty of Harvard Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including leading works on the grand jury system, The Grand Jury: An Institution on Trial (with the Honorable Marvin E. Frankel), and sentencing, Sentencing: Helping the Judges Do Their Jobs (also with Judge Frankel).

LL.B., Columbia Law School
  • Editor, Columbia Law Review
M.A., Brown University    
A.B., Phi Beta Kappa, Rutgers University  
New York, 1967
Honorable William B. Herlands U.S.D.C., Southern District of New York
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S.C.A., 1st Circuit
U.S.C.A., 2nd Circuit
U.S.C.A., 3rd Circuit
U.S.C.A., 5th Circuit
U.S.C.A., D.C. Circuit
U.S.D.C., Eastern District of New York
U.S.D.C., Southern District of New York
U.S.D.C., Eastern District of Michigan
    -NYSBA’s Empire State Counsel honor (2015)
    -American College of Trial Lawyers, fellow
    -Pope Benedict XVI Benemerenti Medal
    -New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Law and Society Award (2009)
    -Police Athletic League Robert M. Morgenthau Award for the Legal Profession (2007)
    -American Friends of the Hebrew University George A. Katz Torch of Learning Award (2009)
    -Citizens Union of the City of New York Robert F. Wagner Jr. Award (2011)
    -Jewish Theological Seminary Judge Simon H. Rifkind Award (2015)
    -The Fund for Modern Courts John J. McCloy Memorial Award (2015)
    -The Inner-City Scholarship Fund, Saint Thomas More Award (2016)
    -Milton Gould Award for Outstanding Oral Advocacy, Office of the Appellate Defender (2015)
    -New York Council of Defense Lawyers Norman Ostrow Award (2012)
    -Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC’s Benchmark Litigation (2008-2017)
    -Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC’s Benchmark Litigation Lifetime Achievement Award (2014)
    -Woodward/White Inc.’s Best Lawyers in America (1993-2018), Bet-the-Company Litigation, White Collar Criminal Defense, Regulatory Enforcement, Securities Litigation and Commercial Litigation
    -Law Business Research Limited, Who's Who Legal, One of the World’s Leading Business Crime Defense (2014-2017) and Investigations (2016, 2017) Lawyers, and Thought Leader (2017)
    -Chambers and Partners’ Chambers Global Leading Lawyer (2006-2017)
    -Chambers and Partners’ Chambers USA Award for Excellence in White Collar Crime and Government Investigations (2011)
    -Chambers and Partners’ Chambers USA Leading Lawyer (2003-2017)
    -Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyer (2006-2017)
    -Lawdragon 500 Legend (2016)
    -Lawdragon 500 Hall of Fame (2017)
    -Legalease’s Legal 500 “10 Leading Trial Lawyers in the United States” (2007-2017)
    -Legalease’s Legal 500 Hall of Fame (2017)
    -The National Law Journal, 2015 White Collar Trailblazer
    -The National Law Journal “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” (2006, 2013)
    -Thomson Reuters’ New York Super Lawyers, Top 10 Lawyers (2007-2016), ranked No. 1 in 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2016 and No. 2 in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014
    -New York Law Journal, Lifetime Achievement Award (2017)
    -American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow
    -The Grand Jury Project, Member, Appointed by Chief Judge Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals
    -Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department, Member