Mark S. Willis

Partner
Overview

Overview

With nearly three decades of experience, Mark S. Willis’ practice focuses on domestic and international securities litigation. Mark advises leading pension funds, investment managers, and other institutional investors from around the world on their legal remedies when impacted by securities fraud and corporate governance breaches. Mark represents clients in U.S. litigation and maintains a significant practice advising clients of their legal rights abroad to pursue securities-related claims. 

Mark represents institutions from the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Japan, and the United States in a novel lawsuit in Texas against BP plc to salvage claims that were dismissed from the U.S. class action because the claimants’ BP shares were purchased abroad (thus running afoul of the Supreme Court’s Morrison rule that precludes a U.S. legal remedy for such shares). These previously dismissed claims have now been sustained and are being pursued under English law in a Texas federal court.

Mark also represents Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, one of Canada’s largest institutional investors, in an ongoing U.S. shareholder class action against Liquidity Services, the Utah Retirement Systems in a shareholder action against the DeVry Education Group, and he represented the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System in a shareholder action against The Bancorp (which settled for $17.5 million).

In the Converium class action, Mark represented a Greek institution in a nearly four-year battle that eventually became the first U.S. class action settled on two continents. This trans-Atlantic result saw part of the $145 million recovery approved by a federal court in New York, and the rest by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. The Dutch portion was resolved using the Netherlands then newly enacted Act on Collective Settlement of Mass Claims. In doing so, the Dutch Court issued a landmark decision that substantially broadened its jurisdictional reach, extending jurisdiction for the first time to a scenario in which the claims were not brought under Dutch law, the alleged wrongdoing took place outside the Netherlands, and none of the potentially liable parties were domiciled in the Netherlands. 

In the corporate governance arena, Mark has represented both U.S. and overseas investors. In a shareholder derivative action against Abbott Laboratories’ directors, he charged the defendants with mismanagement and fiduciary breaches for causing or allowing the company to engage in a 10-year off-label marketing scheme, which had resulted in a $1.6 billion payment pursuant to a Justice Department investigation—at the time the second largest in history for a pharmaceutical company. In the derivative action, the company agreed to implement sweeping corporate governance reforms, including an extensive compensation clawback provision going beyond the requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act, as well as the restructuring of a board committee and enhancing the role of the Lead Director. In the Parmalat case, known as the “Enron of Europe” due to the size and scope of the fraud, Mark represented a group of European institutions and eventually recovered nearly $100 million and negotiated governance reforms with two large European banks who, as part of the settlement, agreed to endorse their future adherence to key corporate governance principles designed to advance investor protection and to minimize the likelihood of future deceptive transactions. Securing governance reforms from a defendant that was not an issuer was a first at that time in a shareholder fraud class action.

Mark has also represented clients in opt-out actions. In one, brought on behalf of the Utah Retirement Systems, Mark negotiated a settlement that was nearly four times more than what its client would have received had it participated in the class action.    

On non-U.S. actions Mark has advised clients, and represented their interests as liaison counsel, in more than 30 cases against companies such as Volkswagen, Olympus, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Lloyds Banking Group, and Petrobras, and in jurisdictions ranging from the UK to Japan to Australia to Brazil to Germany. 

Mark has written on corporate, securities, and investor protection issues—often with an international focus—in industry publications such as International Law News, Professional Investor, European Lawyer, and Investment & Pensions Europe. He has also authored several chapters in international law treatises on European corporate law and on the listing and subsequent disclosure obligations for issuers listing on European stock exchanges. He also speaks at conferences and at client forums on investor protection through the U.S. federal securities laws, corporate governance measures, and the impact on shareholders of non-U.S. investor remedies.  

Education

Georgetown University Law Center
LL.M., 1993

Pepperdine University School of Law
J.D., 1989

Brigham Young University
B.A., 1986

Admissions

1990, Massachusetts
1999, District of Columbia

U.S. District Court
1999, District of Columbia