Colleen Smith, an experienced trial lawyer and Local Chair of the San Diego Litigation & Trial Department, represents emerging and Fortune 500 companies and their officers and directors in high-stakes complex litigation.
Ms. Smith has secured major trial victories for clients facing enterprise-threatening liability, including in the first securities class action to go to trial in over a decade. In that matter, the jury reached a unanimous verdict in the client’s favor on the majority of claims, awarding miniscule damages.
Ms. Smith regularly defends companies and their executives against private plaintiffs claiming disclosure fraud, often achieving early dismissals on motion practice.
Ms. Smith also represents executives and boards of directors facing SEC subpoenas and investigations, as well as board committees in connection with internal investigations. Representing a technology company CEO in one such matter pursued by the SEC, Ms. Smith helped secure a unanimous defense verdict following a three-week jury trial — a Daily Journal Top Defense Verdict of 2014.
Before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Smith served as a US Naval Surface Warfare Officer on the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73), and was one of the first women to serve in a combatant role. After law school, she served as a law clerk for Judge David R. Thompson of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge James H. Michael of the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
In 2020, Ms. Smith was recognized as Next Generation by Legal 500 US for Securities Litigation: Defense.
In 2019, Ms. Smith was named one of San Diego’s Most Influential Women by the San Diego Daily Transcript.
In 2017, Ms. Smith was named as a California Lawyer of the Year by the Daily Journal for her pro bono work representing US military veterans.
Ms. Smith has represented clients in a variety of major litigation matters, including:
Securities Litigation & Trials
- At trial, defeated more than 95% of plaintiffs’ claimed damages in rare Section 10(b) securities class action to go to jury verdict. Named one of the Top Defense Verdicts of 2019 by the Daily Journal. Hsu v. Puma Biotechnology, Inc. (C.D. Cal. 2019).
- Won complete dismissal of securities claims on behalf of Zogenix, Inc., in connection with claims regarding its NDA submission. Lake v. Zogenix, Inc. (N.D. Cal. 2020).
- Obtained dismissal of nearly all claims and damages on behalf of medical device company Obalon Therapeutics, Inc. in a securities class action involving disclosures related to its medical device and related accounting. Hustig v. Obalon Therapeutics, Inc. (S.D. Cal. 2019).
- Successfully represented Abbott subsidiary medical device company Thoratec, Inc. in connection with securities class action claims involving its HeartWare heart pumps. Cooper v. Thoratec (N.D. Cal. 2018).
- Successfully represented Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and was part of the team that secured dismissal of a securities fraud class action against Walmex. City of Pontiac General Employees’ Retirement System v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (W.D. Ark. 2018) & Fogel v. Vega (S.D.N.Y. 2018).
- Successfully represented Weatherford International in securities fraud class actions related to the Company’s restatement of certain financial statements due to tax accounting errors. Dobina v. Weatherford International, Ltd. (S.D.N.Y. 2014); Freedman v. Weatherford International Ltd. (S.D.N.Y. 2015)
- At trial, won unanimous defense verdict after a three-week jury trial on behalf of the CEO of technology company STEC, defeating SEC insider trading action seeking US$800 million. The case was named one of the Daily Journal Top Verdicts of 2014. SEC v. Manouchehr Moshayedi (C.D. Cal. June 6, 2014); In re STEC, Inc. Securities Litigation (C.D. Cal. 2013).
- Won dismissal of securities fraud claims against medical device company Alphatec Spine and senior executives based on alleged misrepresentations and breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with related-party acquisition. This case was named by the Daily Journal as one of the Top Verdicts of 2013, and was affirmed on appeal by the Ninth Circuit. Mallen v. Alphatec Holdings, Inc. (S.D. Cal. 2013), aff’d (9th Cir. June 5, 2015).
- Won motion to dismiss securities and breach of fiduciary duty claims against Ligand Pharmaceuticals in litigation involving its acquisition of a commercial development license. Schmidt v. Skolas (E.D. Pa. 2013 aff’d (3d Cir. 2015).
- Won dismissal of securities fraud claims against online education provider K12 in multiple securities class actions involving alleged misstatements regarding academic performance and recruiting practices. Hoppaugh v. K12, Inc. (E.D. Va. 2013) & Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Ret. Sys. v. K12, Inc. (E.D. Va. 2014).
- Secured dismissal of a “say-on-pay” derivative lawsuit against BioMed Realty’s officers and directors, commended by The Financial Times as a “notable victory.” Weinberg v. Gold (D. Md. 2012).
- Represented biomedical testing manufacturer Beckman Coulter and its officers and directors in securities fraud class action and derivative lawsuits following reduction in guidance. In re Beckman Coulter Securities Litigation (C.D. Cal. 2010).
- At trial, led and won a unanimous defense verdict on behalf of the City of San Diego in mass action involving estimated damages of US$200 million.
M&A and Corporate Control Litigation
- Represented Oncternal Therapeutics in its reverse merger with GTx (D. Del. 2019).
- Represented Ignyta in US$1.7 billion sale to Roche (S.D. Cal. 2018).
- Defeated activist shareholder of biopharmaceutical developer Puma Biotechnology in his failed proxy contest for control of board. Eshelman v. Puma Biotechnology, Inc. (Del. Ch. Ct. 2016).
- Represented BioMed Realty Trust in its US$8 billion sale to Blackstone Group. In re BioMed Realty Trust, Inc. Shareholders Litigation (Md. 2016).
- Won dismissal of claims against Pulse Electronics Special Committee in connection with its take-private by Oaktree Capital Management. Odinotski. v. Vazales (S.D. Super. Ct. 2016).
- Defeated shareholder attempt to enjoin Excel Trust’s US$2 billion sale to Blackstone Group. Branagan v. Excel Trust, Inc. (Md. 2015).
- Represented Receptos in US$7.2 billion sale to Celgene (Del. Ch. Ct. 2015).
- Secured preliminary injunction against would-be hostile acquirer Valeant and co-conspirator Bill Ackman and his hedge fund management company Pershing Square for insider trading in connection with a US$54.6 billion hostile takeover attempt of specialty pharmaceutical company Allergan, in a transaction named The American Lawyer’s 2015 Global M&A Deal of the Year US. Allergan, Inc. v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. (C.D. Cal. Nov. 4, 2014); PS Fund 1 v. Allergan, Inc. (Del. Ch. Ct. 2014).
- Won summary judgment of shareholder class action against Allergan and its directors alleging breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with the company’s bylaws and responses to a hostile takeover attempt by Valeant and Pershing Square. In re Allergan, Inc. Stockholder Litigation (Del. Ch. Ct. Nov. 7, 2014).
- Represented Cadence Pharmaceuticals in US$1.3 billion sale to Mallinckrodt (Del. Ch. Ct.; S.D. Super. Ct. 2014).
- Represented Medicis in US$2.6 billion sale to Valeant Pharmaceuticals (Del. Chancery Ct.; Maricopa Cty. Sup. Ct.; Ariz. 2012).
- Represented Volcom in US$607 million sale to PPR (Del. Ch. Ct.; Orange Cty. Sup. Ct. 2011).
- Represented financial advisor to ev3 in US$2.6 billion sale to Covidien (Del. Ch. Ct.; Minn. 2010).
- Represented financial advisor to ATS Medical in US$370 million sale to Medtronic (Minn. 2010).