Julie Goldsmith Reiser is a Partner at Cohen Milstein, and a member of the Securities Litigation & Investor Protection and Employee Benefits Practice Groups. Ms. Reiser’s practice includes representing public pension plans, institutional investors, retirees and plan participants in high-stakes securities and ERISA litigation.
Known for her hands-on approach, strong advocacy and critical thinking, Ms. Reiser has led litigation teams in several complex class actions, including a $500 million settlement related to Countrywide’s issuance of mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”) and the Fifth Circuit affirmation of an investor class in the BP securities fraud litigation stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which settled for $175 million. In those cases, Ms. Reiser’s clients have benefited from her oral and written advocacy, her judgment, and her tenacious work on their behalf. As a result of those and other successes, Ms. Reiser has been recognized as one of the top 25 Influential Women in Securities Law by Law360.
Ms. Reiser demonstrates a keen understanding of complex financial and economic issues. She is known for bringing an interactive and cooperative approach to litigation teams, a style that has generated remarkable results for the classes she represents.
Currently, Ms. Reiser is litigating the following notable matters:
- In re Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. Third-Party Payor Litigation: Ms. Reiser represents a putative class of third-party payors arising from a scheme perpetrated by Valeant, its top executives, and co-conspirators at affiliated specialty pharmacies to shield the Company’s drugs from competition, fraudulently inflate the prices of its products, and artificially boost sales at the expense of third party payors.
- St. Peter’s Health care System Church Plan Litigation: Cohen Milstein is counsel to a class of defined benefit participants in Kaplan v. St. Peter’s Healthcare System, which allege that the hospital’s plan is not a church plan and thus the class is entitled to ERISA’s protections. In district court, Cohen Milstein succeeded in showing that only a church may establish a church plan and thus St. Peter’s Healthcare System is not entitled to exemption from ERISA. Cohen Milstein then prevailed in the Third Circuit, which affirmed the district court’s holdings. This case and two others decided unanimously in participants’ favor by the Seventh and Ninth Circuits, are being reviewed by the Supreme Court this term. Using this same theory of liability, Ms. Reiser is currently litigating actions against many other healthcare systems that are improperly claiming to be exempt from ERISA.
Ms. Reiser’s successes include:
- In re BP Securities Litigation: Ms. Reiser represented the New York State Common Retirement Fund as co-lead plaintiff in a securities class action filed in 2010, alleging that BP injured investors by intentionally downplaying the severity of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and preventing investors from learning the magnitude of the disaster. Ms. Reiser took the lead in all aspects of this litigation: case development, motion practice, oversight and implementation of discovery strategies, depositions, expert discovery and argument. After successfully arguing for class certification to the district court, Ms. Reiser presented plaintiffs’ defense of that court’s decision to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which affirmed the class. The case settled for $175 million a few weeks before trial was set to begin.
- Countrywide Mortgage Backed Securities Litigation: Ms. Reiser represented the Iowa, Oregon and Orange County public retirement systems in class action litigation related to Countrywide’s issuance of mortgage-backed securities, which culminated in a landmark $500 million settlement. Over the course of the litigation, Ms. Reiser argued on investors’ behalf at the motion to dismiss stage. She also handled various arguments related to discovery disputes, and oversaw merits and expert discovery. She took a majority of the fact depositions and was recognized for having teased a number of salient points from witnesses during the depositions. Ms. Reiser also took the lead in working with experts to maximize damages.
- Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago, et al. v. Bank of America, NA, et al.: Ms. Reiser developed and litigated this novel class action, challenging trustee inaction in preventing investor losses. She represented the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System, IPERS and Chicago Laborers in the case, which settled for $69 million. Ms. Reiser worked with plaintiffs’ statistician to develop a sampling methodology for testing whether mortgages were underwritten properly and with plaintiffs’ economist in the bid for class certification and approach to damages. At the final hearing, Judge Katherine B. Forrest commended the investors’ legal team: “This is a very, very good result for the plaintiffs … [and] is something of which plaintiff counsel can be proud.”
In addition, Ms. Reiser has represented plaintiffs in employment cases. In Wade v. Kroger (W.D. Ky.), she represented African American employees who received a $16 million settlement to resolve claims that the retailer Kroger had discriminated against them in pay and promotions. She was also involved in Beck v. The Boeing Co. (W. D. Wash.), a case alleging sex discrimination in compensation and promotions that settled for $72.5 million.
Ms. Reiser is a noted speaker, often called on to discuss important issues such as arbitration clauses and the class standing doctrine.
Ms. Reiser is the author of “Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clauses: Taking the Alternative Out of Dispute Resolution,” Bloomberg BNA, Class Action Litigation Report, December 11, 2015. Ms. Reiser was named a 2016 winner of the Burton Awards, placing her among the “finest law firm writers” in the nation. After its publication, Paul Bland, Executive Director of Public Justice wrote: “This is invaluable advocacy that takes industry-side advocacy and exposes its flaws and failings. I’m very glad to see this kind of very high quality advocacy and critical thinking.”
Ms. Reiser also is the co-author of "Carefully Tailored ERISA Claims After Amgen V. Harris," Law360, January 25,2017; “Omnicare: Negligence is the New Strict Liability When Pleading Omissions Under the Securities Act,” Bloomberg BNA, Corporate Law & Accountability Report, April 10, 2015; the author of “Dodd Frank’s Protections for Senior Citizens: An Important, Yet Insufficient Step,” University of Cincinnati Law Review, Volume 81, Issue 2, May 30, 2013; “Why Courts Should Favor Certification of MBS Actions,” ABA Securities Litigation Journal, Volume 22, Number 1, Fall 2011; and the co-author of “The Misapplication of American Pipe Tolling Principles,” ABA Securities Litigation Journal, Volume 21, Number 2, Winter 2011. She also co-authored Opt-Outs: Making Private Enforcement of the Securities Laws Even Better, featured in the Winter/Spring 2008 edition of the ABA's Class Action and Derivative Suit Committee Newsletter and Companies in the Cross Hairs: When Plaintiffs Lawyers Choose Their Targets, They Look for These Employment Practices, The Legal Times, February 21, 2005.
Ms. Reiser attended Vassar College, graduating with honors, and earned her J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law. She has served as a board member at Seattle Works and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.