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Narrative History

CONSTANTINE CANNON’S UNIQUE HISTORY: FOCUS, GROWTH AND SUCCESS OVER A QUARTER CENTURY

From humble beginnings to one of the nation’s most prominent antitrust boutiques, Constantine Cannon is now also home to the foremost Whistleblower practice in the world, along with leading practices in Art & Cultural Property Law and e-Discovery

NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, SAN FRANCISCO, AND LONDON (April 15, 2019) – Twenty-five years ago, Lloyd Constantine left McDermott Will & Emery to open his own practice, with a single client and three McDermott associates headed his way.

In the 25 years since, the firm he founded, Constantine Cannon LLP, has grown to become one of the leading law firms in the world in three distinct practice areas: Antitrust, Whistleblower Litigation, and Art & Cultural Property law. The firm is also home to other key practices in areas such as e-discovery, commercial litigation and government affairs.

From that initial lawsuit, representing a local video distributor, Liberty Cable, in an antitrust case against Time Warner (which resulted in a reported nine-figure settlement), Constantine Cannon has grown to become a firm of 80 attorneys in four cities: New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and London.

Along the way, Constantine Cannon has employed a future New York Governor, saved the nascent Fox News Channel from early death, and has been the winning lead counsel for two of the three largest antitrust settlements in U.S. history, including the largest.

“We have stuck to our founding approach,” Lloyd Constantine said, reflecting on the firm’s growth over the past quarter century. “We don’t offer every type of law, but in our practice areas we can do anything, and have done everything.”

Among the other attorneys who played a key role in the firm in those early days were Abby Milstein, Jeff Shinder, Bob Begleiter, Yang Chen, and Eliot Spitzer.

David v. Goliath

As the nation’s first full-service antitrust boutique, Constantine Cannon has been at the center of cutting-edge antitrust matters since its inception. The firm’s David v. Goliath approach, pitting the nimble practice against massive firms, yielded extraordinary success: The record-breaking settlements reached in In re VisaCheck/MasterMoney and Discover v. Visa and Mastercard are just two of the many high-profile antitrust cases that have shaped the firm’s elite reputation.

From thwarting a plot to stifle the birth of the Fox News channel in News Corporation v. Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting to forcing the “untethering” of red and white blood cell boosters for chemotherapy treatment in Ortho Biotec v. Amgen, Constantine Cannon attorneys have leveled the playing field so competition can prevail.

On behalf of News Corporation in the 1990s and early 2000s, Constantine Cannon worked on a series of cases that helped Rupert Murdoch’s company compete in areas like technology, cable and satellite television. This included a lawsuit that halted then high-flying AOL’s attempt to monopolize the emerging market for hosting games played on the internet simultaneously by thousands of players—the precursor of today’s League of Legends and Fortnite.

Constantine Cannon then served as plaintiffs’ counsel for News Corporation in a case that thwarted Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting’s attempt to kill the newborn Fox News Network as a competitor to the then dominant CNN. Ted Turner had publicly stated that they would “squish Rupert like a bug” by having Time Warner Cable deny Fox News cable carriage in New York City and Los Angeles. In the end, it was Time Warner’s effort that was squished, as the lawsuit brought by Constantine Cannon on News Corp’s behalf ended the attack and the cable network thrived.

Constantine Cannon subsequently assisted News Corp in stopping the merger of DirecTV and the Dish Network, which would have resulted in a monopoly in the direct broadcast satellite TV market. DirectTV’s owners had promised to sell the company to News Corp, but then reneged. After a year of Constantine Cannon presentations to the federal Antitrust Division, forty state antitrust agencies, the FCC and key members of Congress, the merger was abandoned, and News Corp successfully acquired DirecTV in 2003.

The years between 1994 and 2001 also saw Constantine Cannon’s landmark victory in the  VisaCheck/MasterMoney antitrust case, which had dominated the first decade of the firm’s existence. Typical of Constantine Cannon’s David v. Goliath approach to antitrust, VisaCheck pitted the firm’s eight to 17 lawyers (from the beginning of the case to the end) against four big law firms—including (at the time) the world’s largest, Clifford Chance. Constantine Cannon again prevailed. When the case was settled, with a jury awaiting opening arguments, the District Court stated:

The compensatory relief by itself constitutes the largest settlement ever approved by a federal court. The injunctive relief will result in future savings to the Class valued… to $87 billion or more… Constantine [Cannon] is a premiere plaintiffs’ litigation firm specializing in antitrust litigation particularly… Its work is uniformly excellent, and thus it is no surprise that it has led the effort that produced the largest antitrust settlement ever.

In the months following, these comments were endorsed by the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, which also noted that VisaCheck was 

“a clash of commercial titans… involving almost every U.S. bank and more than five million U.S. merchants… the government piggybacked off of plaintiffs’ counsel’s work… and the settlement produced significant and lasting benefits for America’s merchants and consumers.”

Following the monumental VisaCheck victory, Constantine Cannon opened its Washington, D.C., office in 2005. The new branch was helmed by Steve Cannon, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division, chief counsel antitrust committee U.S. Senate and general counsel of Circuit City and its spinoff, Carmax. The firm’s new proximity to regulatory agencies brought new opportunities and talent including antitrust legend Douglas Rosenthal.

Constantine Cannon’s 45 antitrust attorneys are leading advocates for open and competitive markets. As Constantine Cannon celebrates a quarter century, it is lead counsel in two cases that typify its antitrust practice: challenging the alleged dominance and predatory conduct of Sutter Health in many Northern California healthcare markets and representing 64 of the nation’s largest merchants (including Amazon, Starbucks, Lowe’s, AMC and 7-Eleven) in the latest round of litigation against Visa and MasterCard.

Premier Whistleblower Practice

The success of Constantine Cannon’s antitrust practice attracted to the firm a stream of lawyers representing whistleblowers in qui tam cases. Since the firm launched its whistleblower practice out of its new San Francisco office in 2015, it has become the largest and foremost group in the country exclusively serving whistleblowers. These 24 lawyers navigate clients through the complicated landscape of federal and state whistleblower programs.

The expansion of the whistleblower practice has been marked with many high-profile wins. Constantine Cannon represented the whistleblowers who exposed an illicit incentive-laden recruitment program enrolling unqualified students at for-profit schools, which eventually led to the U.S. Department of Education’s largest False Claims Act recovery. In a scandal that rocked headlines worldwide and led to the recall of nearly 100 million faulty air bags, Constantine Cannon attorneys helped two Takata whistleblowers recover the first award under the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act.

In 2017, the firm added to what has become the largest global whistleblower practice with an outpost in London. From the U.K., attorneys support international whistleblowers bringing their cases to the American justice system. In 2018, they settled one of the first False Claims Act cases brought by a U.K. whistleblower, who revealed that his employer, a luxury clothing retailer in Britain, had been fraudulently avoiding U.S. customs duties. Recently, another international client exposed a bid-rigging conspiracy targeting American military bases in South Korea; this is the largest False Claims Act antitrust recovery and the largest False Claims Act settlement involving bid-rigging in American history.

Art Law and other Key Practices

The firm’s London office has also expanded to include a burgeoning Art and Cultural Property practice. The fluidity of the international art world has created unprecedented jurisdictional and legal challenges. This team of attorneys represents art collectors, artists, galleries, museum foundations, and private banks in litigation and negotiations, including on cultural heritage and contentious art-related issues. As a group, they have unparalleled experience in representing collectors relative to claims that artworks were looted by the Nazis. Constantine Cannon represented a dealer in the widely reported “Persepolis Relief” case, recovering the ancient piece that had been seized by the Manhattan district attorney while on tour.

Back in the U.S., other practice areas grew to leverage Constantine Cannon’s strengths. The firm’s independent Commercial Litigation practice represents plaintiffs and defendants in all matters of litigation and arbitration. The Intellectual Property and Technology practice represents clients creatively expanding the legal framework of technological disruption in copywrite, trademark and patent law. Through the firm’s diverse caseload, the e-Discovery Counseling practice has established itself at the forefront of discovery theory and practice in the digital age. The Compliance, Monitoring and Investigations practice conducts efficient and effective internal reviews and investigations for its clients.

Richard Aborn, Managing Partner of the firm, said: “Lloyd’s vision was for a firm with a laser-like focus on key areas of the law that have the most impact—not just on our clients, but on a free and fair marketplace for all. The past quarter century has been an exercise in fulfilling this original vision, and through the right combination of practice areas and people, we believe we’ve created a firm that does great work,but is also on the right side of some of the most important legal issues of the day.”

Reflecting on the first 25 years of the law firm, Lloyd Constantine firmly believes that Constantine Cannon’s best days are still ahead.

“It’s been 25 years of having fun, doing well and doing good,” Constantine said. “We thank our clients, our worthy adversaries—and the founding fathers for the good doctrine they bestowed upon us—and look forward to the journey ahead.”

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