L Brands, Inc.
derivative suit settles for $90 million, landmark governance reforms
Powerful corporations sometimes trample the rights of individuals and smaller businesses. Litigation is often the only avenue to compensate victims of corporate wrongdoing. For over 45 years, we have fought corporate abuse, pursuing litigation on behalf of affected individuals, whistleblowers, public entities and other institutions in cases that have raised challenging, significant and often novel issues. Cohen Milstein specializes in holding large corporations accountable for their actions even though they often have significantly more resources than those damaged by their misconduct. Often, this is accomplished by bringing large numbers of plaintiffs together in a single class to enhance their ability to litigate effectively. One of the premier firms in the country handling major complex plaintiff-side litigation, Cohen Milstein has over 100 attorneys in offices in Washington, DC; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Raleigh, NC; and Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The firm litigates primarily in the following areas:
- Civil Rights & Employment
- Complex Tort Litigation
- Consumer Protection
- Employee Benefits/ERISA
- Ethics and Fiduciary Counseling
- Human Rights
- Public Client
- Securities Litigation & Investor Protection
- Whistleblower/False Claims Act
Cohen Milstein has earned its international reputation by winning complex cases that other law firms did not want to handle. The firm has litigated numerous groundbreaking cases, resulting in landmark decisions on previously untried issues involving antitrust, securities, consumer rights, civil rights and other far-reaching matters.
Cohen Milstein is deeply committed to providing pro bono representation to those who otherwise cannot obtain legal counsel. We litigate challenging, high-profile cases that are often a part of the national conversation. Our results frequently establish legal precedent, leaving a positive impact and lasting legacy. We are proud to partner with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Human Rights Defense Center and others in our pro bono work.
Cohen Milstein has been repeatedly recognized for its dedication to pro bono causes. Recent awards and recognitions include:
- In 2019, Cohen Milstein was named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List.”
- In 2019, Public Justice Foundation named Cohen Milstein one of five finalists for the “Trial Lawyer of the Year.”
- In 2018, Cohen Milstein’s Joseph M. Sellers received the NAACP’s“Foot Soldier in the Sand” pro bono award.
- In 2018, the Daily Business Review named Diane L. Martin among the “Most Effective Lawyers – Pro Bono.”
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is committed to a diverse workplace. We view diversity as an inclusive concept that encompasses, without limitation, race, color, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, nationality, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation. We believe that diversity enhances the quality of service we provide to clients and makes our firm a more vibrant and fulfilling place to work. Our commitment is to recruit, train, promote and retain talented attorneys and staff from wide range of backgrounds.
We are proud that, over the past decade, Cohen Milstein’s diversity efforts in the community and inside the firm have been recognized by the National Bar Association and The National Law Journal. Similarly, the NAACP and Chambers & Partners, among other diversity, equity, and inclusion organizations, have recognized our attorneys with their respective “Foot Soldier in the Sand” and “Outstanding Contribution to the Community in Advancing Diversity” awards.
With a long history of advocating for gender equality in the workplace, Cohen Milstein is proud to be recognized for creating a culture of equality and diversity within the firm. In its 2020 “Glass Ceiling Report,” Law360 ranked Cohen Milstein No. 3 in the nation (firms with 101 to 250 attorneys) for exceeding industry averages of female attorneys and female equity partners. Law360 has ranked Cohen Milstein in 2019, 2017, and 2015, repeatedly recognizing the firm as a “Ceiling Smasher” in the legal industry.
To ensure it maintains a diverse workplace, the firm has a Diversity Policy and an active Hiring and Diversity Committee that regularly reviews all aspects of its hiring, retention, and promotion practices. A Partner, Kalpana Kotagal, Chairs the firm’s Hiring and Diversity Committee and works closely with Human Resources staff and firm leadership to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Cohen Milstein has developed multiple ways to advance its Diversity & Inclusion goals:
- Recruiting: The firm posts job announcements with organizations, such as American Constitution Society, American Association for Justice, National Association for Law Placement, and other organizations with diverse memberships and advertises such announcements at law schools that have a high percentage of lawyers of color among their alumni. The firm specifically encourages applicants of diverse backgrounds to apply. Because of these and other efforts, the firm routinely fills 20 percent to 40 percent of its summer associate class with candidates of color.
- Mentorship & Training: Cohen Milstein has a formal mentorship program, whereby one partner is assigned to one or more associates to provide career development guidance in order to help ensure that their associate mentees thrive, professionally. Similarly, Cohen Milstein’s Summer Associate program and Fellowship program involve informal and formal mentoring initiatives. The firm also conducts an internal, firm-wide diversity and awareness training to prevent unintentional situations that could cause discomfort to minorities and women.
- Leadership: Eight of the firm’s 10 practice groups are led or co-led by female partners, including women of color, and the firm’s Executive Committee, which consists of five partners, includes two female partners, one of whom is a woman of color. Furthermore, the firm has multiple internal management committees, including the Compensation Committee, Hiring and Diversity Committee, and others – all include female partners, LGBTQ partners, and partners of color – in order to best reflect the current makeup of the firm and its future growth and staffing objectives.
- Thought Leadership: Cohen Milstein’s attorneys are nationally recognized thought-leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) – across industry, including the law. For example:
- Kalpana Kotagal, Chair of the firm’s Hiring and Diversity Committee, is one of the nation’s leading voices on how industry can implement DE&I initiatives. She is also the co-author of the "Inclusion Rider," a ground-breaking hiring contract provision that facilitates diversity in hiring best-practices. Originally created to address the gap in diversity hiring in Hollywood, it can be used in most all industries. Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand made the Inclusion Rider famous by referencing it in her 2018 Best Actress acceptance speech. It is now used by Warner Bros. and Hollywood luminaries, such as Michael B. Jordan and others.
- Anita Hill, whose role in ending workplace harassment is nothing less than historic, is most famous for testifying before Congress in 1991 on the discriminatory and sexually harassing behavior of her former EEOC and DOE supervisor and then Supreme Court Justice nominee, Clarence Thomas. Ms. Hill continues her public advocacy work on behalf of Cohen Milstein, while also teaching as a University Professor at Brandeis University.
- Betsy Miller, Chair of Cohen Milstein’s Public Client practice, speaks and publishes nationally on cultivating leadership and accelerating systemic change in the legal profession. For more than a decade, Ms. Miller served as the Chair of the firm’s Annual Evaluation Committee, where she reshaped the firm’s attorney review process and approach to bilateral feedback. As a member of Georgetown Law’s adjunct faculty, she teaches courses on conflict resolution and effective communication. Betsy is also a certified leadership coach and works with Cohen Milstein attorneys on an individual basis to achieve their full potential.
- Julie Goldsmith Reiser, Co-Chair of Cohen Milstein’s Securities Litigation practice, is pioneering the use of shareholder derivative lawsuits to hold corporate boards accountable for failing to prevent systemic discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. Two of these lawsuits alone have generated more than $400 million in financial relief and have established groundbreaking corporate governance reforms to improve board oversight in addressing these issues, while eliminating practices that have silenced victims, such as mandatory arbitration clauses, and instituting sweeping diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
- Sharon K. Robertson, a Member of Cohen Milstein’s Executive Committee, Professional Development and Mentoring Committee and the Diversity Committee, is also spearheading the firm’s legal efforts in cutting-edge and industry-defining pay-for-delay pharmaceutical antitrust lawsuits and generic price-fixing lawsuits. An accomplished trial lawyer, Ms. Robertson has been recognized as one of a few female litigators in the nation to secure court-appointed leadership roles in high-profile MDLs. She is leveraging her experiences in addressing issues of diversity in MDL leadership nationwide including by assisting the James F. Humphreys Complex Litigation Center of George Washington Law School develop "Guidelines and Best Practices for Judges Appointing Lawyers to Leadership Positions in MDL and Class Action Litigation."