Plaintiffs Bar Perspective: Jonathan Gardner

Law360
March 29, 2017

Jonathan Gardner is a partner at Labaton Sucharow LLP in New York. With more than 25 years of experience, Gardner focuses on prosecuting complex securities fraud cases on behalf of institutional investors and has played an integral role in securing some of the largest class action recoveries against corporate offenders since the onset of the global financial crisis.

He has secured several successes in high-stakes litigation and complex global matters, often serving as the lead attorney in several cases resulting in significant recoveries for injured class members. Recently, he led the firm's team in the investigation and prosecution of In re Barrick Gold Securities Litigation, which resulted in a $140 million recovery.

Q: What's the most rewarding aspect of working as a plaintiffs attorney?

A: We have an important role to play in keeping the integrity of the market in check so that when those in the position to manipulate information engage in fraudulent conduct, we will be there to hold them accountable.

Q: What skill do you feel is most important for achieving success as a plaintiffs attorney?

A: It’s important to have an entrepreneurial mindset and understand the business of law. Since plaintiffs attorneys are contingency-based, we take on risk with every case. Accordingly, we must be smart about the risks we undertake. One important part of that is early investigations, getting as much information as we can using all available resources — in our case our data analysts and our in-house investigative team — so that we better understand a case and properly advise our clients about the best way to proceed from the start.

Q: When it comes to trial strategy, what’s the biggest difference between representing a plaintiff and representing a defendant?

A: As a plaintiffs attorney, the burden of proof is on our end. It’s our job to build a solid case, while the defense’s job is to try to poke holes in it. At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to explain and build a case and convince the judge or jury that our claims are worthy of consideration and remedy.

Q: Share an example of a case that was particularly challenging, and how you handled it.

A: Our case against Barrick Gold was incredibly complex for several reasons. We represented investors who had accused Barrick Gold, one of the world’s largest gold mining companies, and some of its senior executives of violating securities laws regarding the development of the Pascua-Lama mine, which straddled Chile and Argentina. The company had touted the mine as one of the lowest-cost gold mines in the world, and its location on a glacier created a slew of environmental and regulatory concerns, eventually shutting down after its cost nearly doubled.

Early in the process, our team, which included our investigators, were able to track down confidential witnesses and documents that strengthened our case and allowed the case to proceed past the motion to dismiss. Tracking down former employees was complicated by the fact that the conduct at issue took place in a foreign country and revolved around the construction of a mine that was no longer operational. Figuring out who was in a position to know what was going on, finding them and getting past language barriers was challenging, but I applaud our investigation department on doing an excellent job.

Q: What advice would you offer to young lawyers interested in practicing as a plaintiff’s attorney?

A: Be prepared to work hard. Think about the business of law and the importance of developing and maintaining firm clients in addition to developing skills as a litigator, especially as a contingent lawyer. Give your best performance on every assignment as that is how you will be judged.