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 focuses on public pension plans, institutional investors, retirees and plan participants, representing them in high-stakes, complex litigation, including securities, ERISA, and antitrust and competition litigation.
Ms. Reiser is recognized as one of the top 25 Influential Women in Securities Law (Law360). She is highly regarded by clients and co-counsel alike for her tenacious advocacy, shrewd understanding of complex financial and economic issues, meticulous preparation, and dynamic leadership.
Ms. Reiser has led litigation teams in several of the country’s most complex class actions and landmark settlements, 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.
Ms. Reiser has generated remarkable results for the classes she represents.
Currently, Ms. Reiser is litigating the following notable matters:
- Bank of America Corp. Stock Lending Markets Antitrust Lawsuit: Ms. Reiser represents Iowa PERS, Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, Orange County Employees Retirement System and Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association in this ground-breaking lawsuit, in which plaintiffs allege collusion among six of the world’s largest investment banks to prevent modernization of the securities lending market, a critical component of a strong economy that enables trading activities like short selling and hedging while also ensuring that financial systems operate efficiently.
- Public School Teacher’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago v. Bank of America Corporation, et al.: On August 3, 2016, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC was appointed co-lead counsel in a lawsuit charging a number of the world’s largest investment banks with conspiring to engineer and maintain a collusive and anti-competitive stranglehold over the market for interest rate swaps (IRS) in violation of federal antitrust laws – an action that harms investors in one of the world’s biggest financial markets. Ms. Reiser represents the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association and is a key member of the leadership team.
- In re American Realty Capital Properties Inc. Litigation: Ms. Reiser represents the New York City Employees Retirement Systems, the country’s fifth largest public pension fund, which was appointed a class representative in this securities class action. Plaintiffs allege ARCP, a real estate investment trust now known as VEREIT, Inc., misrepresented its financials, including manipulating its adjusted funds from operations, a key measure of performance. Beyond the class action, criminal charges led to a guilty plea from ARCP’s former chief accounting officer and a June 2017 conviction of its former chief financial officer.
- In re Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. Third-Party Payor Litigation: Ms. Reiser represents a putative class of third-party payors arising from an alleged Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act 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.
- NovaStar Mortgage Backed Securities Litigation: Cohen Milstein is lead counsel in this certified MBS class action. Ms. Reiser represented Iowa PERS as a class representative in connection with class certification and merits-based discovery. In March 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York preliminarily approved a $165 million all-cash settlement, bringing this lawsuit, the last of 11 MBS class actions Cohen Milstein successfully handled, to conclusion. Final approval of the settlement is pending.
- ERIC v. Read: Oregon became the first state in the nation to implement a defined contribution savings program for private sector employees who either work for companies that don’t offer a retirement plan or aren't eligible to participate in their employer’s retirement plan, called OregonSaves. In October 2017, the ERISA Industry Committee, a national group representing large businesses filed a lawsuit, arguing that the program is preempted by ERISA. Ms. Reiser was retained as outside counsel to defend the OregonSaves plan from ERISA challenges.
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 re: Wheaton Franciscan ERISA Litigation: Cohen Milstein represented a class of defined benefit plan participants, who alleged that Ascension and Wheaton Franciscan wrongfully claimed the retirement plan was exempt from ERISA as a “church plan.” On January 16, 2018 the court granted final approval of the $29.5 million settlement.
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 “Trends in ERISA Litigation in 2017,” Law360, December 17, 2017; "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.