The firm is very active in representing its financial institution clients in litigation. This representation includes defending financial institution clients in business torts, RICO, securities class actions and related litigation. One of the best examples of this is our current representation of Bank of America in multiple cases brought in connection with the fraud and bankruptcy of Parmalat, formerly the largest Italian dairy company. These cases have been consolidated for pre-trial purposes in a multidistrict litigation proceeding now pending before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in the Southern District of New York.
In addition to representing financial institutions in these traditional types of commercial and business litigation, Sidley has a national practice in litigation involving consumer finance businesses and the laws and regulations governing financial services. The approach to these matters is integrated on several levels, across practice areas and across the firm’s offices. The approach begins with helping clients manage litigation risk through pre-litigation counseling, and a team approach to litigation engagements that combines both litigators who have specific experience in financial services disputes, class action defense and defense of complex litigation with regulatory lawyers who provide ongoing compliance and technical advice in this area. The practice is a truly national one, spanning the firm’s offices in California (Los Angeles and San Francisco), Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. On any matter, lawyers from one, two or more of the offices may form a team to best represent the client in the particular engagement.
Many of these lawyers work in the firm’s nationwide Financial Services/Consumer Class Actions practice. This practice includes lawyers who defend insurance class action cases as well as retail banking cases, and members of the practice area work closely with firm lawyers who represent defendants in retail securities brokerage class actions. These working relationships across industry lines allow the firm to provide clients with the benefit of experience in all these fields of financial services class actions.
The firm represents clients in a broad range of retail financial disputes involving mortgage lending, credit cards, automobile lending and leasing and other consumer financial products. Sidley lawyers represent clients in the retail financial services industry in both state and federal courts throughout the country and at all levels from the trial courts to the highest appellate courts. The issues that the firm has handled for clients include the federal laws and regulations applicable to this area - such as the Truth-in-Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act - as well as state and federal laws of more general applicability that apply to this industry as well - including deceptive trade practice statutes, federal and state RICO laws, antitrust laws and other matters. The firm has also represented clients regularly in seeking to enforce arbitration agreements in the context of consumer financial services.
In the past decade, Sidley has argued three of the most important cases before the United States Supreme Court involving clients in the industry. In 2003, the Supreme Court vacated a class-wide arbitration award entered against the firm’s client and remanded the case for further arbitration proceedings. See Green Tree Fin. Corp. v. Bazzle, 539 U.S. 444 (2003). In December 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the firm’s client, reversing the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and holding that an arbitration clause in a consumer contract is not unenforceable because it is silent with respect to the costs of arbitration. See Green Tree Fin. Corp. v. Randolph, 531 U.S. 79 (2000). In 1998, Sidley represented a mortgage lender in a Truth-in-Lending Act case before the Supreme Court, and in a 9-0 decision the Court adopted the position advocated by the firm. See Beach v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, 523 U.S. 410 (1998). In that same period, the firm has filed numerous amicus briefs in cases involving financial institutions, including in Wachovia Bank v. Schmidt, 546 U.S. 303 (2006), which decided the citizenship of national banks for diversity jurisdiction purposes, and Smiley v. Citibank (South Dakota), 517 U.S. 735 (1996), which held that late fees on credit card accounts are “exportable” interest charges under the National Bank Act.