Julie Goldsmith Reiser is a Partner at Cohen Milstein and Co-Chair of the firm’s Securities Litigation & Investor Protection group. Ms. Reiser’s practice focuses on public pension plans, institutional investors, retirees and plan participants, representing them in high-stakes, complex litigation, including securities, ERISA, and antitrust litigation.
In 2021, Law360 recognized Ms. Reiser as a “Titan of the Plaintiffs Bar,” not long after citing her as one of the “25 Most Influential Women in Securities Law.” The National Law Journal placed her among the “Elite Women of the Plaintiffs Bar” and, since 2018, Lawdragon has named her one of the leading 500 lawyers in America.
On October 2, 2020, Ms. Reiser was recognized by The American Lawyer as “Litigator of the Week,” for the historic $310 million settlement In re Alphabet Shareholder Derivative Litigation (Sup. Crt. Cal., Santa Clara Cnty.), a shareholder derivative action, which establishes a framework for stockholders to hold boards of directors accountable for long-standing patterns of corporate mismanagement of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims at their companies.
Ms. Reiser is highly regarded by clients, co-counsel, and opposing counsel for her tenacious advocacy, shrewd understanding of complex financial and economic issues, meticulous preparation, and dynamic leadership. Indeed, co-counsel and opposing counsel were quoted in Law360’s “Titans of the Plaintiffs Bar: Cohen Milstein’s Julie Goldsmith Reiser” profile:
- “I think [Ms. Reiser] is an excellent attorney. Very good in advocating in the courtroom and in settlement negotiations, a very good strategic thinker and a nice person.” Louise Renne, former City Attorney of San Francisco, founding partner of Renne Public Law Group, and co-counsel in Alphabet.
- Ms. Reiser is “a very candid, trustworthy person” and working with her and her co-counsel was a “highlight of the case.” Boris Feldman, partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and opposing counsel in Alphabet.
In addition to Alphabet and the precedent-setting Wynn Resorts Shareholder Derivative Action (Eighth Jud. Dist. Crt., Clark Cnty., Nev.), which she led to a total $90 million settlement, 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.
Currently, Ms. Reiser is litigating the following notable matters:
- In re Pinterest Derivative Litigation (N.D. Cal.): Cohen Milstein, as Interim Lead Counsel, represents the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island and other Pinterest shareholders in a consolidated shareholder derivative complaint against certain current officers and directors of Pinterest, including its Board Chairman and CEO, for breaches of fiduciary duty and other violations of Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act, relating to their alleged personal engagement in and facilitation of a systematic practice of illegal discrimination of employees on the basis of race and sex, from at least February 2018 through the present. As a result of this illegal misconduct, the Company’s financial position, goodwill, and reputation among users has been harmed. Ms. Reiser is lead counsel in this litigation.
- Bank of America Corp. Stock Lending Markets Antitrust Lawsuit (S.D.N.Y.): 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.
- Public School Teacher’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago v. Bank of America Corporation, et al. (S.D.N.Y.): Cohen Milstein is Co-Lead Counsel in this 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 interest rate swaps (IRS) market –one of the world’s biggest financial markets. Ms. Reiser represents the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association.
- In re Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. Third-Party Payor Litigation (D.N.J.) 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.
Ms. Reiser’s successes include:
- L Brands, Inc. Derivative Litigation: Cohen Milstein, in partnership with the State of Oregon, the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, and other shareholders, helped resolve allegations that officers and directors of L Brands, Inc., previous owners of Victoria’s Secret, breached their fiduciary duties by maintaining ties with alleged sex offender and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and fostering a culture of discrimination and misogyny at the company. Following a Delaware General Corporate Law Section 220 books and records demand and an extensive, proprietary investigation, L Brands and the now-standalone company, Victoria’s Secret, agreed to stop enforcing non-disclosure agreements that prohibit the discussion of a sexual harassment claim’s underlying facts; stop using forced arbitration agreements; implement sweeping reforms to their codes of conduct, policies and procedures related to sexual misconduct and retaliation; and to invest $45 million each, for a total of $90 million, in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and DEI Advisory Councils. Ms. Reiser led the Cohen Milstein team in this matter.
- In re Alphabet Shareholder Derivative Litigation (Sup. Crt. Cal., Santa Clara Cnty.): Cohen Milstein, as Co-Lead Counsel, represented Northern California Pipe Trades Pension Plan and Teamsters Local 272 Labor Management Pension Fund in a shareholder derivative lawsuit against the Board of Directors of Alphabet, Inc. Shareholders alleged that the tech giant’s Board violated its fiduciary duty by enabling a double standard at Alphabet that allowed powerful executives to sexually harass and discriminate against women without consequence. On November 30, 2020, the court granted final approval of a historic settlement, including a $310 million commitment to fund diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Alphabet-owned companies, and workplace and corporate governance reforms including limiting non-disclosure agreements and ending mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation-related disputes. Ms. Reiser led this litigation.
- New York State Common Retirement Fund, et al. v. Stephen A. Wynn, et al. (Eighth Jud. Dist. Crt., Clark Cnty., Nev.): Cohen Milstein represented New York State Common Retirement Fund and the New York City Pension Funds as Lead Counsel in a derivative shareholder lawsuit against certain officers and directors of Wynn Resorts, Ltd., arising out of their failure to hold Mr. Wynn, the former CEO and Chairman of the Board, accountable for his longstanding pattern of sexual abuse and harassment of company employees. In March 2020, the Court granted final approval of a $90 million settlement in the form of cash payments and landmark corporate governance reforms, placing it among the largest, most comprehensive derivative settlements in history. Ms. Reiser led this litigation.
- NovaStar Mortgage Backed Securities Litigation (S.D.N.Y.): Cohen Milstein was Lead Counsel in this certified MBS class action. Ms. Reiser represented Iowa PERS, one of the class representatives. In March 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval of a $165 million all-cash settlement, bringing this decade-long lawsuit, the last of 11 MBS class actions Cohen Milstein successfully handled, to conclusion.
- In re BP Securities Litigation (S.D. Tex.): 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 (C.D. Cal.): 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. (S.D.N.Y.): 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.”
- ERIC v. Read (D. Or.): 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, retained as outside counsel, successfully defended OregonSaves from ERISA challenges, resulting in a settlement in March 2018.
Ms. Reiser also maintains an active pro bono practice. Recent notable successes include:
- Vivian Englund v. World Pawn Exchange, LLC (Cir. Crt., Coos Cnty., Or.): Cohen Milstein successfully represented the estate of a Kirsten Englund in a wrongful death case of first impression in Oregon state court and nationally, addressing the legal liability for federally licensed firearms dealers involved in online straw sales. The landmark settlement (October 2018) establishes important legal precedent at the state and federal levels regarding gun dealer responsibility for online sales of firearms. Given the precedential significance of this lawsuit, Cohen Milstein was named to The National Law Journal’s “2019 Pro Bono Hot List” and won Public Justice Foundation’s “2019 Trial Lawyer of the Year – Finalist” award.
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 has twice been named a winner of the Burton Awards, placing her among the “finest law firm writers” in the nation. She was a winner of the Burton Awards in 2019, as a co-author of “INSIGHT: Holding Firearms Dealers Accountable for Online Straw Sales,” Bloomberg Law (December 19, 2018), and in 2016 for “Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clauses: Taking the Alternative Out of Dispute Resolution,” Bloomberg BNA, Class Action Litigation Report (December 11, 2015). After the publication of “Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clauses,” 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 author or co-author of “Boards Must Be Held Accountable for Sexual Harassment Scandals,” Financial Times (January 1, 2020); “Event-Driven Litigation Defense,” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (May 23, 2019); “INSIGHT: Sandy Hook Decision Reins in Gun Industry Shield Law,” Bloomberg Law (March 28, 2019); “The Critical ABCs of Financial Antitrust Litigation & Recovery Opportunities,” an ISS Securities Class Actions Services White Paper (February 18, 2019): “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 is a noted speaker, often called on to discuss important issues such as pension system participation in class action litigation, the ABCs of antitrust litigation for investors, and trends in ERISA litigation.
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.