Bart Williams is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. From January 2005 to December 2007, he served the firm as its Co-Managing Partner. Mr. Williams received his J.D. degree from Yale Law School.
Mr. Williams is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honor reserved for less than 1% of active lawyers who have “mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked with the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality.” He was profiled by Law360 as a Minority Powerbroker and is repeatedly recognized as a leading lawyer by Chambers USA. The Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal legal newspapers repeatedly have profiled Mr. Williams as one of the Top 100 lawyers in the State of California. In 2003, The American Lawyer magazine profiled Mr. Williams as one of the Top 45 Lawyers in America under the age of 45. Mr. Williams has appeared on the cover and been featured in both Black Enterprise and Savoy magazines as one of the premier African-American attorneys in the United States. In May 2002, California Law Business magazine listed Mr. Williams as one of the top 20 lawyers in the State of California under 40 years of age.
Mr. Williams’ practice focuses on complex civil litigation and trials; white collar criminal defense; and internal corporate investigations:
Complex Civil Litigation
- Mr. Williams has been selected to serve as lead trial counsel by Fortune 500 companies in a variety of cases, including commercial contract disputes, securities and class action trials, intellectual property disputes, anti-trust litigation, corporate governance disputes, attorney malpractice defense and employment law matters. He has handled matters on behalf of corporations in the entertainment, banking, computer, securities, aerospace, pharmaceutical and fashion industries, among others. Mr. Williams has also been retained by several celebrities and high level executives to represent them individually in high stakes matters.
Notable representations in civil matters:
- Mr. Williams is currently lead counsel for Wells Fargo Bank in connection with multiple highly publicized matters, including a national class action alleging that the bank has engaged in unlawful sales practices, as well as two other matters alleging disparate impact race discrimination in connection with mortgage lending.
- In 2013, lead trial counsel for Wells Fargo Bank in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, in a suit alleging mismanagement of pension investments in its securities lending program. Plaintiffs, which included pension funds for nurses, nuns, local philanthropic organizations and a local university, alleged that Wells Fargo placed plaintiffs’ securities worth billions of dollars into highly risky ventures and failed to disclose the deteriorating condition of the investments. Wells Fargo argued that it did not misrepresent its investment strategy and that the losses were attributable to the financial crisis. After a seven-week trial in St. Paul, Minnesota, the jury returned a unanimous verdict for Wells Fargo on all claims and awarded zero damages.
- In 2012, lead trial counsel at arbitration for one of the nation’s largest banks in connection with claims by a California insurance fund that the bank had mismanaged pension investments in its securities lending program. The bank argued that the due diligence performed by the bank on the subject securities met the standard of care and that the losses suffered by the plaintiff were attributable to the financial crisis. After a three-week arbitration in San Francisco, California, the arbitrator ruled that plaintiff should collect zero damages.
- In 2012, lead counsel for the nation’s largest home mortgage lender in connection with a nationwide enforcement action brought in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, alleging disparate impact discrimination in connection with sub-prime mortgage lending.
- In 2012, lead counsel for television producer Conrad Riggs in his breach of partnership action in Los Angeles Superior Court against reality television mogul Mark Burnett and Mark Burnett Productions, producers of Survivor, The Apprentice, The Contender and many other successful shows. The case settled on confidential terms after three years of litigation.
- In 2011, lead trial counsel for a prominent Los Angeles law firm sued for professional negligence in connection with its representation of Sonja Morgan, a star of the reality television show, The Real Housewives of New York. After a lengthy arbitration proceeding in Los Angeles, California in which Ms. Morgan alleged that the client’s negligent handling of a jury trial resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict against her and her company, Sonja Morgan Productions, the arbitrator issued a decision in favor of Munger Tolles’s client on all claims and ruled that Ms. Morgan should collect zero damages.
- In 2011, lead trial counsel for plaintiff Rambus, Inc. in connection with its multi-billion dollar anti-trust claims in San Francisco Superior Court against two of the world’s largest computer memory manufacturers, Micron Technology, Inc. and Hynix Semiconductor, Inc. Defendant Samsung Electronics America, Inc. settled this and other cases for cash and equity investments totaling $900 million. The trial against the remaining defendants, Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor, set a record in San Francisco Superior Court for the length of jury deliberations (eight weeks), after which the jury returned a 9 to 3 verdict for defendants.
- In 2009, lead trial counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America and six major motion picture studios in connection with high profile litigation against Real Networks, maker of a DVD player / copier that allegedly violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The studios obtained a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and, after a six day evidentiary hearing in San Francisco, California, obtained a preliminary injunction prohibiting the sale of Real DVD. Real Networks then dismissed the matter (including its anti-trust counter-claims) and agreed to pay the studios $4.5 million in attorneys’ fees. "What to expect from the RealDVD decision," CNET News May 22, 2009
CNET News Reported on May 22, 2009: “Real has hired some very able attorneys from the firm Wilson Sonsini to represent it. But should it go to trial, Real would do well to hire a lawyer with the same kind of charisma and courtroom presence as Bart Williams. He's the lawyer from Munger, Tolles & Olson who is representing the MPAA. I'm no legal expert, but I've got eyes and the judge appeared to be more engaged when Williams addressed her. He didn't drone on. He was well prepared and he simplified complex issues and technologies. Cases are supposed to be judged on facts but I'm guessing every advantage helps.”
- In 2008, lead trial counsel in successful defense of Brighton Collectibles, Inc., one of the nation’s leading manufacturers and retailers of women’s leather goods and accessories, and its Founder, Jerry Kohl, in a breach of contract action brought by the President of the management company responsible for operating 23 of Brighton’s retail stores. After a three week trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, the jury returned a defense verdict on all claims and awarded zero damages.
- Trial counsel for Michael Ovitz, former President of the Walt Disney Company and the Co-Founder of Creative Artists Agency, in a two-month trial in Delaware Chancery Court in Georgetown, Delaware, involving Disney shareholder claims that Mr. Ovitz’s compensation during his term as President was excessive. The Court found in favor of Mr. Ovitz on all claims and rejected in its entirety plaintiffs’ claim that Mr. Ovitz’s $140 million in compensation should be returned. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Chancellor’s findings in all respects.
- Lead counsel for Philip C. “Dr. Phil” McGraw in connection with a nationwide class action in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging unfair competition and false advertising claims relating to Shape Up! Dietary supplements, shakes and nutrition bars. The matter settled after two years of litigation.
- Lead trial attorney in the successful defense of a major national law firm sued for professional negligence in Los Angeles Superior Court by Alliance Atlantis, then the largest film distribution company in Canada. After a three-week trial the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict and awarded zero damages.
- Lead trial attorney in the successful defense of a national private security firm in an action alleging a nationwide practice of retaliatory termination. The jury returned a unanimous defense verdict and awarded zero damages after a 13-week trial in Oakland Alameda County Superior Court.
White Collar Criminal Defense
- Mr. Williams has used his expertise in complex criminal matters to develop a highly successful white collar criminal defense practice. Mr. Williams has successfully represented (i.e., no criminal charges filed) numerous companies and individuals -- including a sitting U.S. District Court judge, the brother of a former President of the United States, entertainment industry moguls, the general counsel of a multinational corporation, and other corporate executives -- identified as targets of grand jury investigations. He has also represented politicians and other public figures in connection with both state and federal corruption probes.
Notable criminal trial victories:
- Lead trial counsel for Keith Kaplan, the President of Sales of Latitude 90, a publicly traded internet advertising company, who was charged criminally in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California with conspiracy to inflate the company’s revenues and with causing the company to have false books and records. Despite the testimony of two executives who had pleaded guilty and were cooperating with the government, the jury acquitted Mr. Kaplan on all charges after only two hours of deliberation following a two-week trial in Los Angeles, California.
- Lead trial counsel for Paul Koh, a senior Hyundai Motor America executive, who was charged criminally in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California with violating the Federal Election Campaign Act. Mr. Koh was acquitted on all charges after a two-week jury trial in Los Angeles, California.
Internal Corporate Investigations
- Mr. Williams has also conducted numerous internal corporate investigations in the U.S. and abroad on behalf of Fortune 500 Companies, universities, and non-profit organizations. Those investigations – involving companies doing business in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, Thailand and Venezuela, among other countries – have involved a variety of subject matters, including corporate embezzlement, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and potential securities laws violations.
- In 2015, Mr. Williams was hired by the State Bar of California to conduct an internal investigation of whistleblower claims that its CEO had breached his duties to the Bar’s Board of Trustees. Following the preparation of the report, the CEO was terminated.
Mr. Williams served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California for four years. He concentrated on complex criminal prosecutions involving allegations of fraud or other business crimes, racketeering and money laundering, and obtained convictions in 11 out of 11 jury trials. He received several special commendations during his tenure, including one from The Honorable Louis J. Freeh, then-Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mr. Williams is active in community and professional organizations. From October 2004 to September 2010, he served as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. Mr. Williams served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Children’s Rights from April 2011 to April 2014. Since 2007, Mr. Williams has served as a founding Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate League, a non-profit organization devoted to organizing debate programs at inner-city high schools. Mr. Williams has also served in several leadership positions for the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association, including Co-Chair of the Government Litigation Committee and the Task Force on the Independent Counsel Act.
Mr. Williams has taught trial advocacy as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Loyola Law School and for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, and he has conducted mock trial demonstrations at five national ABA Conferences. He has lectured at the UCLA School of Law on a variety of topics, including federal criminal law and evidence, and he has been a featured panelist at numerous professional seminars on the topics of corporate criminal liability, corporate governance issues, securities law enforcement, internal corporate investigations, crisis management, federal election laws and trial advocacy topics of all types. He has appeared numerous times as a guest commentator on television “legal issues” programs.
Mr. Williams received his B.A. degree in Political Science from Yale University. He was a starting guard for four years on the Yale Varsity Basketball Team, and received the George McReynolds Award as the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player his senior year.