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Joel M. Cohen

Joel M. Cohen 

Partner, Gibson Dunn (New York)

Speaker Biography

Joel M. Cohen is a partner in the New York office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.  He is a member of the Firm’s White Collar Defense and Investigations, Securities Litigation, Commercial Litigation and Antitrust Practice Groups.

Mr. Cohen, a former federal prosecutor and experienced trial lawyer, has led or participated in more than 20 civil and criminal trials in federal and state courts.  Mr. Cohen regularly acts for clients in a broad range of civil and criminal matters.  He is equally comfortable leading confidential investigations, managing crises, or advocating in court proceedings.  His experience includes all aspects of FCPA/anticorruption issues, securities and financial institution litigation, class actions, product liability, market manipulation, money laundering, and forfeiture, with a particular focus on international disputes and discovery.  Mr. Cohen has participated in many high-profile matters, including:

  • Obtaining summary judgment for Citi in a class action seeking over $13 billion in damages for its alleged role in the Parmalat collapse. 
  • Winning a seven-week jury trial for AllianceBernstein in which the Florida state pension fund attempted to recover $3.2 billion in losses sustained in Enron and other stocks, and successfully defended the same client in other significant Enron-related litigations, one of which resulted in an award of attorney’s fees and costs for his client.

His recent engagements include representing: 

  • Senior management of a Swiss Bank in a large U.S. economic sanctions investigation.
  • Independent examiner for several Swiss banks in connection with the DOJ's "Non-Prosecution Program."
  • Moody’s as trial counsel in two matters concerning their ratings of structured investments.
  • The Duke Energy legacy board of director members in connection with several outstanding derivative and class action litigations and a resolved regulatory matter arising from the Duke-Progress corporate merger.
  • Wynnefield Capital, a prominent hedge fund, as trial counsel in the defense against an SEC insider trading action that has been closely followed in legal and media circles.
  • UBS, Citi and Lazard in a class action alleging violation of federal securities laws in the underwriting of the $165 million IPO for SinoTech, a Chinese issuer delisted from NASDAQ following allegations that SinoTech was a shell operation.
  • The Bank of New York Mellon in a class action and a mass action in California arising out of the revelation of Medical Capital Holdings as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, where the bank served as trustee for Medical Capital investor funds.
  • Allianz SE, obtaining a rare declination to prosecute from the Department of Justice and a highly favorable SEC settlement on a cease-and-desist basis, in which both agencies were convinced not to proceed on an aggressive “private equity liability” theory.
  • Several private equity and investment management funds in connection with SEC and Department of Justice FCPA-related investigations.
  • Monitor counsel for AllianceOne  in connection with a three year DOJ and SEC FCPA-related monitorship.
  • Several Fortune 100 companies in global regulatory investigations relating to corporate fraud, corruption/FCPA issues, sanctions issues, and insider trading concerns.
  •  A major accounting firm, convincing the SEC not to bring charges for alleged violations of the auditor independence rules.
  • A Wall Street general counsel, convincing the SEC to decline to bring insider trading charges.
  • A major oil and gas service company, involving reviews in over a dozen countries, on five continents, resulting in no charges brought anywhere globally.
  • The former head of CDO trading at a top global bank in connection with several related criminal and regulatory and civil litigations in which no charges were brought.
  • Financial institutions in designing crisis management and global anticorruption programs.
  • Audit and special committees of public companies and private company boards of directors in connection with allegations of wrongdoing. 
  • Tobacco and firearms producers in product liability actions.

Mr. Cohen is committed to pro bono work.  He serves on the board of or acts as outside counsel to several prominent nonprofit entities.  He successfully led a team of Gibson Dunn attorneys in representing all plaintiffs in a high-profile immigration civil rights case (Barrera v. Boughton) in Connecticut federal court, which resulted in the largest settlement in history for such claims, for which the Firm has been awarded the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s 2010 Beacon of Justice Award, and The New York Times noted the accomplishment in an editorial, and his team received the National Law Journal’s Hot Pro Bono 2012 designation. 

Mr. Cohen previously was Head of U.S. Litigation at Clifford Chance, where he practiced from 2004 to 2009.  From 1999 to 2004, he practiced with Greenberg Traurig.  From 1992 to 1999, he served as Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, supervising the Business/Securities Fraud Unit, where he received numerous awards from the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies.  Mr. Cohen was the prosecutor of Jordan Belfort and Stratton Oakmont, which is the focus of "The Wolf of Wall Street" film by Martin Scorsese.  He was an adviser to OECD in connection with the effort to prohibit corruption in international transactions and was the first Department of Justice legal liaison advisor to the French Ministry of Justice.  Mr. Cohen has published several articles on securities, international and white collar litigation issues and has been a presenter and chair at many professional conferences. He is also a frequent commentator in print and television media.  Mr. Cohen has been named a leading white collar criminal defense attorney by The Best Lawyers in America©,  a “Litigation Star” by Benchmark Litigation, a “Super Lawyer” in Criminal Litigation, and his work is noted by Legal 500 in the areas of white collar criminal defense and securities litigation, and in Chambers in the white collar area.

Mr. Cohen received his bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College, his master’s degree in History from Duke University and his Juris Doctor from Duke University Law School, where he was a moot court champion.  He is a member of the bars of New York and Massachusetts.

Recent Speaking Engagements

  • “The Wolf of Wall Street:  Behind the Scenes of Stratton Oakmont,” Heyman Center on Corporate Governance, January 2014
  • Financial Institutions in the Crosshairs: The False Claims Act and FIRREA, October 2013
  • Private Equity Operations & Compliance Forum, September 2013
  • SEC & DOJ Hot Topics 2013 Breakfast Briefing, New York, December 2012
  • PLI FCPA 2012 Conference, New York, May 2012
  • ACI National Conference on FCPA, New York, April 2012
  • PLI FCPA 2011 Conference, New York, May 2011
  • ACI FCPA-Health Sciences Conference, New York, May 2010
  • ACI Annual FCPA Conference, Washington, D.C., November 2008
  • Legal IQ Annual Securities Litigation Conference, New York, May 2008
  • “Ethics and Experts,” 2007 Antitrust Law Section Symposium, New York State Bar Association

Recent Publications

  • Op-Ed, “The Real Belfort Story Missing From ‘Wolf’ Movie,” The New York Times, January 7, 2014.
  • “Nepotism:  Friendly Relations? When Nepotism May Violate the FCPA,” The FCPA Report, October 17, 2012
  • “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” The US Private Real Estate Fund Compliance Guide, Private Equity International, June 1, 2012
  • “Does That Settle It? Well, Maybe Not,” National Law Journal, April 9, 2012
  • “Private Equity Investment and the FCPA,” Review of Securities and Commodities Regulations, Fall 2011
  • “Insider Trading:  It’s Not for Suits,” Law Journal Newsletters, December 2010
  • “Six Ways a Board Can Manage FCPA Risk,”Corporate Board Member Magazine, October 1, 2010
  • “UK Serious Fraud Office Discusses Details of UK Bribery Act with Gibson Dunn,” September 7, 2010
  • “Erosion of the Fiduciary Duty Requirement in Insider Trading Actions,” Securities Litigation Journal, American Bar Association, Spring 2010
  • “Narrow, Don’t Abolish:  The Facilitating Payments Exception to the FCPA,” The New York Law Journal, July 8, 2010
  • “Mutual Fund Litigation Triggered By the Credit Crisis,” The Review of Securities & Commodities Regulation,” June 3, 2009
  • “Under the FCPA, Who Is a Foreign Official Anyway?”,  The Business Lawyer, 2008
  • “Due Diligence Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act:  Defining a Foreign Official,” Clifford Chance US Regulatory & White Collar Update, 2008
  • “Anti-Money Laundering Laws and Regulations for Broker-Dealers:  Spotlight on Foreign Broker-Dealers,” Clifford Chance Client Memo, 2008
  • “The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and its Application to Foreign Companies that Do Not Issues Securities in the U.S.,” Clifford Chance Client Memo, 2008
  • “Five Things to Know About the FCPA,” Corporate Compliance Zeitschrift, January 2008
  • “SEC on Corporate Penalties:  Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward,” New York Law Journal, February 2006
  • “Toward True Deterrence of Government Misconduct,” New York Law Journal, October 2004
  • “Regulation FD,” New York Law Journal, October 2002

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