After defending CBS and IBM in the mid-'80s, Boies became the go-to guy for “litigations when something’s already gone wrong and a company’s looking to alter course.”
Top Attorney David Boies, Who Has Won Some Big Ones, and Lost Some Too, Signs On With Terra Firma and Guy Hands for Its Citigroup Suit

When Terra Firma’s Guy Hands picked Boies, Schiller & Flexner founder/Chairman David Boies to represent him in his case against Citigroup, he chose one of the country’s top attorneys, dubbed by the Washington Monthly “a brilliant trial lawyer,” “a latter-day Clarence Darrow” and a “mad genius” after he represented the Justice Dept. in its successful 2001 antitrust suit against Microsoft.

And while Boies has won some extremely high-profile cases, including the one that launched his career—defending CBS in a libel suit brought against 60 Minutes by General William Westmoreland—he has also been on the losing end of several, including most famously, repping Al Gore vs. George W. Bush following the notorious 2000 “hanging chad” U.S. presidential election, as well as serving as Napster’s legal counsel in the RIAA’s successful suit against it for copyright infringement.

Born in Sycamore, IL, to two teachers, the oldest of five children, the now-70-year-old litigator grew up in Midwestern farm country before moving to California when he was 13. Boies graduated from Fullerton High School, attended the University of Redlands, then received a B.S. from Northwestern in ’64, a law degree from Yale Law School in 1966, and an LL.M. from N.Y.U. in ’67.

After graduation, he took a job at the N.Y. firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, rising to partner in ’73, leaving in 1997 after a major client objected to his representation of the N.Y. YankeesGeorge Steinbrenner as a conflict of interest. While there, the 34-year-old Boies assisted in defending IBM in a $400 million antitrust suit brought about by CalComp, at the time the largest private case of its kind. His preparation and phenomenal recall of details enabled him to persuade the judge to dismiss the suit even before it went to trial.

In 1985, while still at Cravath, Boies defended CBS, who were being sued for $120 million by Westmoreland over a documentary alleging the officer had deceived the public by understating the military strength of the Vietnamese, overwhelming the opposition so badly that the General finally raised the white flag after four months, before the trail could conclude. Boies’ cross-examinations were so biting, according to a Forbes magazine profile, that reporters in the gallery started humming the theme from Jaws when he got up to question a witness.

That case turned Boies into a media celebrity, the go-to guy for “litigations when something’s already gone wrong and a company’s looking to alter course.” He had already defended—and won—cases for both IBM and CBS at the time.

His representation of the Justice Department in the U.S. vs. Microsoft case resulted in a “victory” at trial, and the verdict was upheld on appeal, but the appellate court overturned the relief ordered (the breakup of the company) and sent it back to trial court for further proceedings. The case ended up getting settled by the George W. Bush administration.

There were several other court victories. Boies negotiated on behalf of American Express two of the highest civil antitrust settlements ever for an individual company, earning paydays of $2.25 billion from Visa and $1.8 million from MasterCard.

He also successfully defended Lloyd’s of London in the World Trade Center insurance litigation and NASCAR in an antitrust suit brought against it for monopolizing the market for auto racing.

Still, his publicized defeats in the Gore vs. Bush and Napster vs. RIAA cases show that the celebrated Boies is not infallible. And clearly the man has his hands full with Citigroup attorney Ted Wells, who just showed his own cross-examination chops by his relentless grilling of Guy Hands this week. Can Boies pull another rabbit out of his hat? We’ll see when he gets David Wormsley on the stand in the weeks to come.

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