The Sum of San Diego’s Greatest Plaintiffs’ Parts
By Karen Gordon
Nationwide Public Interest Litigation Firm, Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP, Ed Chapin, Jill Sullivan Sanford, and Charles Field Lead New San Diego Office.
Firm Focuses on Discrimination, Wage and Hour, Financial Abuse and Whistleblower Claims
In December 2015, Sanford Heisler Kimpel, a national public interest litigation firm, announced that San Diego based genetic testing giant Pathway Genomics Corporation agreed to settle a whistleblower suit and pay the United States government, 28 states and the District of Columbia $4.1 million. Sanford Heisler Kimpel brought that suit on behalf of a former Pathway sales representative, who had first-hand knowledge of the company’s wrongdoing. At the time of the settlement announcement by the government, David Sanford, Chairman of Sanford Heisler Kimpel, said that the settlement provided affirmation of the key role whistleblowers play in ensuring transparency in government procurement at every level. Sanford said that “every U.S. citizen owes the whistleblower a debt of gratitude for ensuring their hard-earned tax dollars are not squandered on products or services that are tainted by illegal kickbacks and other fraudulent conduct.”
In the first half of 2016, David Sanford will argue an appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a long-running wage and hour dispute against Costco filed in federal court in San Diego. That case involves low-wage hourly workers at Costco warehouses around the country who clock out at the end of the late shift but are required to remain in the warehouse after clocking out for up to 30 minutes without pay. Sanford Heisler is class counsel seeking to represent over 30,000 employees nationwide.
And in February 2016, Mr. Sanford will represent over one thousand female employees of Daiichi Pharmaceuticals in urging a federal court in San Francisco to approve a nationwide settlement of a gender discrimination class action.
These cases are representative of the types of matters Sanford Heisler routinely brings. Now the firm will bring those cases with the added talent and experience that its new San Diego office brings. Familiar faces of some of San Diego’s most experienced, respected, and reputable litigators and trial attorneys are leading the firm’s new Southern California office.
Growing from Three Attorneys to Thirty- Three Attorneys in Four Cities and has Recovered Over One Billion Dollars for Clients and the United States Government
Chairman David Sanford, a 1995 Stanford Law School graduate, has built a firm that has become one of the nation’s premier litigation firms focusing on whistleblower, discrimination, wage and hour, and financial abuse claims. Mr. Sanford was lead counsel in a gender discrimination case against Novartis, which culminated in the largest jury award in a discrimination matter in U.S. history.
Mr. Sanford recently represented the former CFO of the international law firm, Proskauer Rose, who worked for Proskauer for more than 18 years. She claimed in her suit that she was marginalized and fired after taking medical leave for breast cancer treatment. She said that Mr. Sanford “is very warm, he’s very smart, he made me feel like I was his only client. We never rushed when we had a conversation. He runs a fantastic office.” Ms. Rosenthal settled her suit after about one year of litigation.
The firm’s attorney’s hail from the most highly ranked law schools in the nation. In addition, about half of the firm’s attorneys have clerked for judges throughout the United States. Sanford said that “hiring the highest quality and best educated lawyers in the country is certainly one of the keys to the firm’s success. In addition, our lawyers need to have passion and a core belief that we are on the right side of justice.” The firm began with three attorneys in 2004. Since then, it has grown to over thirty attorneys in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and now San Diego: it is now the largest public interest litigation firm in the United States.
The firm has recovered over one billion dollars for its clients and for the United States government. Recoveries include a $762 million settlement with Amgen in a whistleblower case concerning allegations that Amgen had engaged in off-label marketing campaigns and kickbacks to physicians; a $253 million jury verdict against Novartis Pharmaceutical Company in the largest employment gender discrimination verdict in U.S. history; a $99 million recovery in a wage & hour class action; a $68.5 million settlement with Office Depot, in a whistleblower case alleging that Office Depot had violated the California False Claims Act by overcharging numerous governmental entities for office and classroom supplies; a $116 million settlement with Omnicare, in a whistleblower case alleging that the long-term care pharmacy engaged in unlawful kickbacks paid to nursing homes to induce drug purchases; and numerous 8-figure recoveries in gender discrimination and wage and hour class actions across the United States.
Mr. Sanford noted that, in addition to the talented attorneys and passion required in the litigation of complex matters, he expected attorneys to exercise creativity in moving the law in a positive direction for plaintiffs. He said, “The defense bar has capitalized on a conservative and corporate friendly Supreme Court. It is our job to advance the interests of individuals over corporate America by thinking outside of the box and offering lower courts expansive interpretations of the law consistent with precedent.”
A Firm Foundation: Ed Chapin Becomes Managing Partner
Ed Chapin, one of San Diego’s most respected trial attorneys and has stood as a beacon of service in the San Diego legal community for decades, heads up the new San Diego office. “No one other than Ed Chapin could serve as the lynchpin for our office in San Diego. I have worked with Ed in trial, have served as co-counsel with him in national litigation matters, and have been privileged to consider him a friend for the past seven years. There is no one who works harder on a case, is more dedicated to his clients, is more effective in the courtroom, and is more passionate about what we do than is Ed.”
Chapin needs no introduction to most of the San Diego legal community. He is a veteran civil trial lawyer, who has tried more than 100 cases in federal and state courts. Chapin has been a member of ABOTA for more than 20 years, and he has garnered nearly every legal award under the sun in the San Diego business and legal community. “I am first and foremost a civil trial attorney,” says Chapin. “I take a matter with the thought it will go to trial. I relish representing the underdog and doing my best to obtain a full measure of justice for my client. Typically, I represent clients who are the victims of discrimination or unfair practices in the workplace, who have been defrauded by unfair business practices, who are the victims of financial elder abuse, or who have been killed or seriously injured in accidents.”
Sanford and Chapin have tried cases together and continued to co-counsel on a number of other cases until Ed joined the firm in May 2015. Moreover, Chapin’s former partner, Harvard Law graduate Jill Sullivan, had joined Sanford Heisler in 2012 and married David Sanford, becoming Jill Sullivan Sanford.
One night, Chapin recalls he was sitting in a bar in the Bay Area with Sanford following a challenging day in a difficult case, when Sanford jokingly asked what the tenured, experienced, and highly respected Chapin “wanted to do when he grew up.” Without batting an eye, Chapin said, “I want to open the San Diego office of Sanford Heisler Kimpel.” In May of 2015, Chapin did just that.
Jill Sullivan Sanford Joins the Firm
Jill Sullivan Sanford has also earned her own stripes in the San Diego legal community, driven by ambition, hard work, and unwillingness to give up on herself or her clients. “I attended Harvard Law School right after I graduated from the University of Kansas. I borrowed every penny I needed to attend. Many, perhaps most, of my classmates had attended prestigious undergraduate schools. I constantly feared I didn’t belong there and worked very hard to prove otherwise,” she recalls.
Sullivan Sanford’s fears did not slow her down. Upon being admitted to the California Bar in 1996, she spent eight years at Latham & Watkins, working under “the tutelage of the late and truly great Jay Wheeler.” “When Jay and Ed Chapin asked me to start a firm with them in February 2005, with the goal of focusing on plaintiff’s side cases, I was honored and thrilled,” she says. After the death and devastating loss of her mentor, Wheeler, she and Chapin continued as partners for many years. Sullivan Sanford was drawn to Sanford Heisler’s social justice mission and began co-counseling with the firm in 2009. As fate would have it, she and Sanford fell in love. “We started dating in August 2011. We were working together so much that it made sense for me to join Sanford Heisler Kimpel in 2012. David and I were married in March 2013.”
The fact that Sanford’s firm had such a large practice focusing on discrimination claims appealed to Sullivan Sanford from the start. The firm itself is a mosaic of diversity, with female attorneys in leadership positions, and many partners and attorneys from different ethnicities and sexual orientations working at the firm. Because women and minorities face discrimination so frequently, Sullivan Sanford’s skills, coupled with the fact that some women filing gender discrimination suits feel more comfortable working with a female attorney, make her a perfect complement to the San Diego office.
Gender discrimination is not the only form of discrimination on which the firm focuses. Sanford Heisler Kimpel currently represents a former general counsel of Zara, the female clothing chain. Fearing he would soon lose his job because of religious and sexual orientation discrimination by Zara executives, he retained Sanford Heisler. A pre-suit demand letter was drafted offering mediation. Negotiations in mediation ceased at midnight, and a complaint was electronically filed with the court three hours later. The firm also represents the general counsel of Armani, the fashion design clothing chain who was fired while in the hospital being treated for cancer and after discriminatory comments were made about Mexicans. Both cases are in discovery and will be tried in about one year.
Cases like these drive Sullivan Sanford, Chapin, and the rest of their team to fight zealously for justice, whether the client is a Fortune 500 Executive, a fellow attorney, or minimum wage hourly workers. “I have represented dozens of executives and attorneys and have also represented classes of employees suing for discrimination or lost wages,” Sullivan Sanford says.
Fighting the Good Fight Against Financial Abuse: Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Matters; Securities and Investment Issues; Consumer Financial Fraud Cases; ERISA; and Financial Elder Abuse
In order to provide complete civil liberty services to clients in all socioeconomic classes, Sanford knew that the burgeoning Southern California office needed an experienced and trustworthy attorney to lead the firm’s financial abuse practice area in San Diego. Sanford found precisely this in San Diego attorney Charles Field.
With nearly thirty years of experience practicing in the securities law arena, Field spent many years as General Counsel of Nicholas-Applegate Capital Management and its successor, Allianz Global Investors Capital. He also held industry roles including Chief Compliance Officer, FINRA General Securities Principal, and General Municipal Securities Principal. Having worked for so many years on the sell-side with investment advisers, broker-dealers, and commodity trading advisers, he now puts his experience to work for plaintiffs in order to assess cases in which sellers have breached legal obligations and advise investors on the best strategies for recovering damages. In short, he now uses his expertise to work with the people, not those who hold the power.
“I began following Sanford Heisler Kimpel in 2011 when I was the General Counsel at Allianz Global Investors Capital and David Sanford was threatening to sue us for gender discrimination. I learned Sanford Heisler Kimpel handled big, important cases, but it was the firm’s frankness, obvious determination and above all, direct action and methods that impressed me. Sanford’s tone at the top sets the approach for the firm. He has the respect of his peers, including the defense bar.”
“We are committed to offering a broad array of both transactional and litigation services to participants in the financial services area. With 14 lawyers within the financial services practice group, we have handled securities and investment cases, Dodd-Frank whistleblower cases, and consumer financial fraud cases for victims who have been swindled by fraudulent actors in the financial world. In October 2015, we settled a financial elder abuse case against a nationally known securities broker-dealer. We have undertaken investigations of large scale front-running schemes, while at the same time are counsel to a Chinese investment group seeking to participate in the U.S. securities markets as a broker-dealer and investment advisory.”
Field’s tenure on the ‘other side’ is now also used to the benefit of employees who wish to challenge the handling of 401 (k) plans under ERISA laws. He also represents elders who are often targeted and victimized for financial abuse, under the California Elder Abuse Law.
Same Faces, New Name Fighting for Justice
Chapin, Sullivan Sanford, and Field have all been involved in the San Diego legal community for years. It is the coming together of these preeminent attorneys, backed by a firm with a track record of success in fighting for victims in every socioeconomic class, which has Chairman David Sanford excited about the firm’s future in San Diego.
“We will continue our firm’s focus on diverse sectors of the economy in Southern California, as a nearly 100% contingency fee firm fighting for social justice representing plaintiffs in discrimination, wage and hour disputes, and financial abuses including qui tam/false claims, said Sanford”
Sullivan Sanford is looking forward to the challenges that her position in the relatively newly established San Diego office will bring. “My dad is a lawyer and he has always loved practicing law. In fact, he was most passionate when he was working out difficult situations-he liked being the person who could resolve tough issues. His example of a happy and intellectually challenging life in law led me to my own happy and intellectually challenging life in law,” she says.
Finally, Chapin sums up his vision for Sanford Heisler Kimpel in San Diego by saying, “Our firm is unique in the United States: small yet practicing at the level of many behemoth firms. While we are located in four offices, we practice as one firm; the resources of all our offices can be brought to bear on a case in a given locale. Collaboration is a key to our success.”