Joel M. Cohen
Joel M. Cohen, a trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor, is Chair of the Firm's Global White Collar Practice Group who represents clients in securities litigation, class actions, and antitrust matters.
Mr. Cohen has been lead or co-lead counsel in dozens of civil and criminal trials in federal and state courts. Mr. Cohen is equally comfortable leading confidential investigations, managing crises or advocating in court. Mr. Cohen's experience includes all aspects of FCPA/anticorruption issues, insider trading, cross-border tax issues, securities and financial institution litigation, class actions, sanctions, money laundering and asset recovery, with a particular focus on international disputes and discovery.
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 advisor to the 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 is highly-rated in Chambers, where practitioners and clients have noted that he "is very, very good at getting the big picture . . . understanding where his clients want to be, which leads to better strategic judgments," he has "incredibly strong substantive depth melded with a risk-based practicality," "strong trial skills and handling of large-scale investigations," "has a finger on the pulse of the regulators and government," is "very, very smart and very knowledgeable," and praised his ability to "handle very intense, complex matters with regulatory authorities and really just deliver great results."
Mr. Cohen has been repeatedly named a leading white collar criminal defense attorney by The Best Lawyers in America®, a "Litigation Star" and national Top 100 Trial Lawyer by Benchmark Litigation, an "MVP" by Law360, one of the world's leading practitioners in White Collar Crime in Legal Media Group's Expert Guides – White Collar Crime, a "Super Lawyer" in Criminal Litigation, by Global Investigations Review, and his work has been noted by Legal 500 in the areas of white collar criminal defense and securities litigation. Most recently, Mr. Cohen has also been featured as one of Lawdragon's "500 Leading Litigators in America" for 2022 and 2023.
From 1992 to 1999, Mr. Cohen 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 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.
Mr. Cohen is committed to pro bono work. Prior to joining White & Case, he successfully led a team of 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 team was awarded the National Legal Aid & Defender Association's 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 designation.
In addition, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice awarded the team led by Mr. Cohen the Pro Bono Leadership Award for their work behalf of Migrant Justice and individual Migrant Justice members against ICE and Vermont authorities who allegedly stifled their First Amendment rights. He recently has been lead counsel for several New York City and Buffalo community groups advocating for public disclosure of police disciplinary records. He is a 2020 recipient of the "Responsible 100" award from City & State for his contributions as a "socially responsible leader in New York."
Mr. Cohen has achieved significant victories pretrial and at trial in many high-profile matters, including:
Obtaining an extraordinary outcome in USA v. Morgan, where DOJ caved to settle what originally was an alleged $500 million fraud they contended was among the largest in recent history, dismissing virtually all criminal and civil allegations against client, real estate developer, Robert Morgan. Mr. Cohen's team uncovered evidence of government malfeasance that led government to settle to avoid an embarrassing hearing examining prosecution and FBI team. This followed an earlier extremely rare dismissal of indictment against client and his business, and the settlement of related SEC allegations in SEC v. Morgan (WDNY 2020), with no admission of fault or financial penalties.
The government dismissed virtually all of its allegations, agreed investors and lenders suffered no financial losses, and only a $2000 fine was ordered. The American Lawyer, featuring Mr. Cohen and his team, noted that the extremely rare dismissal was built on a meticulous unraveling of government missteps and that it is "often unsexy work that leads to sexy results in white-collar defense work."
In awarding him The Am Law Litigator of the Week in July 2022 they noted the Court's comments at sentencing to Mr. Morgan , "You are fortunate that you have excellent, excellent attorneys representing you." "I don't think I have to tell you that. But they did a tremendous job in advocating for you. And, at the end of the day, I think the resolution here is a fair one."
Winning a jury trial in the closely watched Securities and Exchange Commission v. Obus insider trading matter on behalf of Wynnefield Capital and Nelson Obus, its chief portfolio manager after a 12 year battle with the SEC. The American Lawyer named Mr. Cohen as one of its Litigators of the Week after the victory and he later was featured in The American Lawyer's 2016 award of "White Collar/Regulatory Law Firm of the Year." Noting that his client was "in awe" of his trial and cross examination skills, The American Lawyer linked the trial victory with the SEC's decision days after the defense verdict to avoid jury trials and seek administrative actions in the future.
Obtaining summary judgment for Citi in a class action seeking more than $13 billion in damages for its alleged role in the Parmalat collapse.
Winning a 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 defending the same client in other significant Enron-related litigation, one of which resulted in an award of attorney's fees and costs for his client.
Additional representative matters include:
- Robert Morgan, charged in a $500 million criminal indictment, forfeiture claims, and a related SEC action alleging bank, insurance and investment fraud.*
- Representing Zoom Video Communications Inc. in multiple DOJ investigations and SEC investigation involving securities fraud and foreign influence allegations (EDNY, NDCA, Main Justice).*
- Represented cryptocurrency trading firms in two different DOJ/SDNY investigations, avoiding all charges for clients.*
- Advised two private equity firms in separate Delaware and New York civil proceedings relating to disputes over investment and board government issues.*
- Representing key figure in OneCoin cryptocurrency criminal matter (SDNY).*
- Representing a public precision instrument company in a DOJ antitrust division investigation.
- Representing the Supervisory Board of AllianzSE in a resolved (2022) DOJ and SEC asset management matter in SDNY involving over $6b in alleged losses.*
- Major U.S. bank: Representation of Major U.S. bank in European criminal tax proceeding.*
- Major U.S. bank: Representation of Major U.S. bank in Brazilian/U.S. investigation.*
- Major European Insurance/Asset Management Company: Representation of Major European Insurance/Asset Management Company in global cross-border tax matter.*
- Major European bank: Representation of Major European bank in U.K. Serious Fraud and DOJ matter.*
- Och-Ziff: Represented Och-Ziff, the publicly-traded asset management firm, in connection with DOJ and SEC investigations relating to investment activity in Africa and elsewhere. After five-year investigations, successfully negotiated settlements allowing for deferred prosecution for parent entity, in one of the most-closely followed FCPA matters in years because of its impact on the investment and asset management sectors.*
- Nelson Obus and Wynnefield Capital: Achieved trial victory and exoneration for Nelson Obus and Wynnefield Capital, a prominent hedge fund, in one of the longest fought insider trading cases in history. Nelson v. Obus.*
- CEO of major public U.S. Alternative Energy Company: Represented the CEO of major U.S. Alternative Energy Company in connection with DOJ and SEC investigations and over thirty securities and employment cases.*
- Major U.S. telecom company: Successfully resolved two separate SEC investigations involving alleged securities bond market activity and data security breaches, both ending with no charges.*
- Fortune 100 Major Public Wireless and Broadband Company: Prevailed in civil action against major Mexican television and cable company in New York Supreme Court (Manhattan), recovering over $50 Million for client after expedited proceedings.*
- European bank: Representing the Global Head of Treasury in DOJ LIBOR investigation.*
- European bank: Represented senior management and employees of a European bank in a large U.S. economic sanctions investigation.*
- Swiss banks: Acted as independent examiner for several Swiss banks in connection with the DOJ's "Tax Non-Prosecution Program."*
- European bank: Multi-billion dollar DOJ FIRREA mortgage fraud investigation.*
- Moody's: Successfully defended Moody's in two matters concerning its ratings of structured investments. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank v. Moody's et al.*
- Duke Energy: Represented Duke Energy legacy board of director members in connection with outstanding derivative and class action litigations and a resolved regulatory matter arising from the Duke-Progress corporate merger. North Carolina Utilities Commission/Duke Energy.*
- UBS, Citi and Lazard: Successfully defended UBS, Citi and Lazard in a class action (and related SEC inquiry) 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. Athale v. Sinotech.*
- Allianz SE: Obtained a rare declination to prosecute from the Department of Justice and 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 relating to FCPA-related issues. SEC v. Allianz SE.*
- Major Global Oil and Gas Service Company: Represented client involving reviews in more than a dozen countries, on five continents, resulting in no charges brought anywhere globally.*
- Private equity and investment management funds: Represented several private equity and investment management funds in connection with SEC and Department of Justice FCPA-related investigations.*
- AllianceOne: Acted as monitor counsel for AllianceOne in connection with a three year DOJ and SEC FCPA-related monitorship. United States v. Alliance One.*
- Fortune 100 companies: Represented several Fortune 100 companies in global regulatory investigations relating to corporate fraud, corruption/FCPA issues, sanctions issues and insider trading concerns.*
- Major accounting firm: Represented a major accounting firm, convincing the SEC not to bring charges for alleged violations of the auditor independence rules.*
- Wall Street general counsel: Represented a Wall Street general counsel, convincing the SEC to decline to bring insider trading charges.*
- Former head of CDO trading: Represented 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 against client. SEC v. Stoker.*
- Multiple financial institutions: Represented multiple financial institutions in designing crisis management and global anticorruption programs.*
- Audit and special committees: Represented many audit and special committees of public companies and private company boards of directors in connection with allegations of wrongdoing.*
*Matters prior to joining White & Case
Speaker, "Hot Trends in DOJ and SEC Enforcement and Litigation Conference," Sandpiper Partners, September 2020.
Speaker, "2019 Annual Trade Finance Compliance Conference," Institute of International Banking Law & Practice, New York, NY, November 2019.
Host, "Compliance and Beyond: Trends in Cross-Border Investigations and Law Enforcement," Sāo Paolo, Brazil, April 2019.
Speaker, "Hot Trends in DOJ and SEC Enforcement Litigation 2018/2019," Sandpiper, New York, NY, December 2018.
Speaker, "The Current State of FCPA Enforcement Efforts," RANE Network Podcast, January 2018.
25 Years of the World Bank's Sanctions Regime – Why a Closer Look Is More Important Than Ever, September 2023. (co-author with Darryl Lew, Dr. Daniel Zapf, Dr. Maximilian Clasmeier)
Co-author, "A Primer on Navigating Source of Wealth Issues," International Comparative Legal Guide to Anti-Money Laundering 2023, Global Legal Group, June 20, 2023.
Contributor, "The International Comparative Legal Guide to: Corporate Investigations Laws & Regulations", January 2023
Co-author, "Bribery & Corruption Laws and Regulations 2023: Potential liability under the third-party payment provision: due diligence a must do." Global Legal Insights, Bribery & Corruption 2023, Global Legal Group December 2022
Contributing Editor, "The International Comparative Legal Guide to: Anti-Money Laundering 2020 - 2023" Global Legal Group, Ongoing
Co-author, "Recent Prosecutorial Failures in the US and UK: Why Corporations Should Rethink How they Evaluate Deferred Prosecution Agreements", The New York Law Journal, May 5, 2021
Co-Author, "Financial Policy Priorities In The Incoming Biden Administration: What Can We Expect?," Wall Street Lawyer, December 2020.
Co-Author, "INSIGHT: Lessons From a Rare in–Person Courtroom Experience in a Pandemic," Bloomberg Law, August 6, 2020.
"Bankruptcy Fraud Prosecutions May Increase Post-Pandemic," Law360, May 19, 2020.
Contributing Editor, "The International Comparative Legal Guide to: Anti-Money Laundering 2018," Global Legal Group, May 6, 2018.