Geoffrey L. Harrison
I joined Susman Godfrey in 1993, became a partner in record time in 1996, and serve on the firm's Executive Committee. I handle a wide variety of high-stakes, commercial litigation matters for plaintiffs and defendants, and have considerable litigation experience in the areas of accounting malpractice, antitrust, domestic and international arbitrations, contract disputes, environmental exposure, equipment leasing, fiduciary duty, fraud, oil and gas, securities, shareholder derivative, toxic torts, trade secrets, and other types of litigation.
I have a national and international practice and have handled domestic disputes in Alaska, California, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, and have handled international disputes arising in Brazil, England, France, Greece, Slovenia, Spain, and Venezuela. While I spend most of my time on trial and arbitration work, you might enjoy watching my 2007 and 2008 oral arguments in the Texas Supreme Court.
The University of Pennsylvania (1989, B.A. cum laude, B.S. cum laude)
The University of Chicago Law School (1992, J.D. with high honors)
The Honorable Gerald Bard Tjoflat, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (1992-1993).
- Chambers USA Guide to America's Leading Lawyers (2013)
- "Texas Super Lawyer," Texas Monthly Magazine (2004-present)
- "Top Lawyers of Texas," Texas Monthly Magazine (2012)
- "Houston's Top Lawyers," H Texas Magazine (2004-present)
- "Houston's Best Lawyers Under 40," H Texas Magazine (2004)
- Litigation Council, State Bar of Texas Litigation Section (2003-2006)
- The Advocate — State Bar Litigation Section Report, Editorial Board (2002-2008)
- Order of the Coif (1991-1992)
- The University of Chicago Law Review, Associate Comment Editor (1991-1992)
- Thomas R. Mulroy Award for Excellence in Appellate Advocacy (1992)
- Karl Llewellyn Memorial Cup Winner (1992)
- Author: "The Endangered Species Act and Ursine Usurpations: A Grizzly Tale of Two Takings," 58 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1101 (1991)
- Author: "Settlement Through Summary Jury Trials," 23 The Advocate — State Bar Litigation Section Report 22 (Summer 2003)
- Co-author: "Choose the Right Trial Lawyer, Not Anyone Who Will Take Case," Houston Business Journal — 2006 Business Survival Guide (April 14, 2006)
April 2012 – Conducted an internal investigation into a kickback scheme and other improprieties perpetrated by a former employee of our petrochemical company client. We compiled substantial evidence establishing that the former employee and certain of his coconspirators had engaged in tortious and illegal conduct to the company’s financial detriment. We provided information and assistance to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which secured plea agreements from multiple participants in the kickback scheme, including multi-year prison sentences, and $139 million in civil forfeiture awards.
February 2012 – Won a federal court case for Apache Corporation authorizing Apache to exclude a purported shareholder’s proposal from its proxy materials. Soon after Apache filed suit, challenged the defendant’s eligibility and shareholder status, and sought a speedy hearing, the defendant offered judgment in favor of Apache.
November 2011 – Settled a $48 million negligence case on behalf of our client Houston Refining LP against the owner and operator of one of the largest cranes in the world whose crane collapsed in Houston Refining's industrial facility. Before we were hired, the defendant crane company had won a partial summary judgment under the economic loss rule eliminating over 95% of Houston Refining’s damages. After we were hired, we developed additional facts, argued within a different legal framework, and persuaded the court to vacate its partial summary judgment, thus restoring our right to seek 100% of our client’s damages. The case settled on confidential terms two weeks before trial.
April 2011 - Won a federal court trial for KBR, Inc. authorizing KBR to exclude a purported shareholder's proposal from its proxy materials. KBR filed suit in federal court, sought a speedy hearing, and sought a declaration that it properly may exclude the proposal from its proxy materials under Rule 14a-8(b) because the purported shareholder failed to prove his status as a shareholder and his eligibility to submit a proposal. The Court ruled in KBR's favor. The other side's appeal is pending in the Fifth Circuit.
November 2010 — Won a $4-plus million judgment on the jury's verdict for Frankel Offshore Energy against three of its oil and gas industry business partners, Grimes Energy Inc., Texas Standard Oil & Gas LP, and PetroVal Inc. Frankel Offshore has a 50% interest in a business venture and in certain oil and gas properties in Gulf of Mexico, and the other 50% is held by these three defendants. After a two week trial, the jury found that defendants engaged in fraud, breached their fiduciary duties, and breached multiple contracts with Frankel Offshore, and the court entered judgment based on the jury's verdict. The judgment was reversed on appeal. Before trial, we had settled for confidential amounts with other parties, including oil and gas exploration and production company Probe Resources US Ltd. and private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC.
October 2010 — Settled during trial a multi-million dollar breach of contract lawsuit in which we argued to the jury that our multinational chemical manufacturer client's freight forwarding company had failed to comply with the parties' written contract by charging fees we claimed the contract did not allow. Before trial, we obtained a plaintiff-side summary judgment ruling on liability, and we went to trial on defendant's affirmative defenses and on the issue of damages. We settled the case at the end of the first week of trial, and we agreed to keep the specific terms of the settlement confidential.
March 2010 — Won a federal court trial for Apache Corporation authorizing Apache to exclude a purported shareholder's proposal from its proxy materials. Instead of following the normal course of obtaining a "no action" letter from the SEC, Apache filed suit in federal court, sought a speedy hearing, and sought a declaration that it properly may exclude the proposal from its proxy materials under Rule 14a-8(b) because the purported shareholder failed to prove his status as a shareholder and his eligibility to submit a proposal. The proposal had been submitted by John Chevedden, a person Apache described in its pleadings as the single most persistent proponent or proxy of purported shareholder proposals in history. The Court ruled in Apache's favor. Click here to read the Court's Order.
January 2010 — As lead counsel for a global engineering, construction and services company, KBR, Inc., and for the company's directors, I successfully persuaded plaintiffs to dismiss their purported $550 million shareholder derivative class action claims against our clients. Through informal discussions and negotiations, and through formal procedural motions (such as special exceptions, motions to dismiss, removal to federal court) we persuaded plaintiffs that their claims were legally and factually flawed and not worth pursuing.
April 2009 — Won dismissal from the Delaware Chancery Court of a shareholder derivative lawsuit brought against our clients, certain officers and directors of an offshore oil services industry company. We worked cooperatively with counsel for the company's special litigation committee in seeking, and securing, dismissal of the plaintiff shareholders' complaint. We also defended these officers and directors in a similar shareholder derivative lawsuit filed in Texas state court.
April 2008 — Won a federal court trial for Apache Corporation against several New York-based pension fund shareholders who sought to have Apache include an improper shareholder proposal in its proxy materials. After obtaining a "no action" letter from the SEC, Apache excluded the proposal from its proxy materials because, under Rule 14a-8(i)(7), the proposal related to Apache's ordinary business operations. On April 7, the funds' trustee issued a press release criticizing the SEC staff for issuing the "no action" letter and for agreeing with Apache. On April 8, we filed suit in the Southern District of Texas, requested a speedy hearing, and sought a declaratory judgment that Apache properly had excluded the shareholder proposal based on Rule 14a-8(i)(7) and based on the SEC staff's "no action" letter. On April 9, the funds filed a parallel suit in the Southern District of New York, which suit subsequently was stayed. On April 21, we proceeded to a full trial on the merits in the Southern District of Texas, just 13 days after we filed suit, and the Court ruled in Apache's favor from the bench. Click here to read the Court's Order, and click here to read excerpts from an article about the case in Energy Law 360.
March 2008 — Settled the patent infringement claims of a generic pharmaceutical manufacturing company against a large pharmaceutical company that manufactured and sold the brand-name drug. We argued that the brand-name pharmaceutical company's manufacture and sale of its brand-name drug infringed two of our generic pharmaceutical company's patents. We settled the case less than a year after we served the lawsuit and during active document discovery. The terms and amount of the settlement are confidential. Click here to read excerpts from an article about the case in IP Law 360.
December 2007 — A foreign start-up company sued our international energy company client for alleged tortious interference with an alleged contract to explore and develop an offshore oil and gas field in the waters of Trinidad. Through investigation outside the traditional discovery channels, we discovered that the plaintiff company was run by executives with a remarkable track record of failure, a penchant for living off shareholder money, and other questionable attributes. We filed a motion for summary judgment and, while the motion was pending, settled the case for less than half a penny on the dollar of the damages plaintiffs told the Court they were seeking.
October 2007 — Argued and won in the Texas Supreme Court on behalf of our client Forest Oil Corporation. We sought to compel arbitration of plaintiffs' alleged claims for environmental contamination, intentional battery with allegedly radioactive oil well tubing, and other similarly specious claims. Instead of asserting their claims in an arbitration in Houston, Texas, as they had agreed in writing to do, plaintiff James A. McAllen, Jr. and his fellow plaintiffs filed suit in McAllen, Texas, the city named after Mr. McAllen's ancestors. Two weeks after the oral argument, the Texas Supreme Court issued an interim order granting our request for a stay of the entire case pending the Court's decision on the merits of the appeal. In August 2008, the Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion on the merits, reversed the court of appeals' judgment, and remanded to the trial court with instructions to compel arbitration — granting the complete relief we had requested. Click here to read the Texas Supreme Court's opinion. Click here to watch my oral argument before the Texas Supreme Court. Click here to read excerpts from an article written in The Texas Lawyer about the case shortly after the oral argument. Click here to read an excerpt from an article written about this case in the International Herald Tribune and click here to read an article written about this case in the San Antonio Express-News.
August 2007 — Settled a multi-hundred million dollar accounting malpractice case against one of the world's largest accounting firms. We represented a foreign industrial conglomerate that had acquired a United States company based in large part on the accounting firm's certification of the company's misleading (as it turns out) financial statements. After defeating multiple motions for summary judgment and to strike our experts, we settled the case on the Friday before the jury trial in New Jersey state court was set to begin. The amount of the settlement is confidential.
June 2007 - Settled an executive compensation lawsuit brought by the former chairman and CEO of our oil services industry client. The former executive alleged breach of his employment and stock option agreements. We filed a counterclaim based on the company's termination of the executive for cause, and sought cancellation of the executive's stock options and repayment of millions of dollars in compensation plus our attorneys fees. We filed an affirmative motion for summary judgment to establish our entitlement to this recovery as a matter of law. While the motion for summary judgment was pending, we were able to settle the case for a fraction of the amount that the executive claimed.
October 2006 - Negotiated an amicable resolution to a licensing agreement dispute between Tracey Technologies Corp. and Advanced Medical Optics, Inc. The terms of the resolution are confidential, except that the parties issued a joint press release in which they announced that "AMO will have a world-wide, non-exclusive license to Tracey Technologies' ray tracing wavefront technology under a new licensing agreement."
July 2006 — Settled several executive compensation, employment agreement, and stock option agreement disputes on behalf of an international oil services industry company. Former CFOs and other officers and employees filed suit or otherwise asserted claims seeking compensation under various employment and option related agreements. While the terms of each of the various settlements are confidential, the settlements generally were at steep discounts to the amounts of the claims asserted.
January 2006 — Settled the multi-million dollar antitrust claims of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company and Chevron Oronite against four international parcel tanker shipping companies. We initiated separate arbitrations for each of these two separate corporate entities and, in each arbitration demand, asserted that the parcel tanker shipping companies had violated antitrust laws by conspiring to increase prices and allocate shipping markets and trade lanes, all to the financial detriment of our clients and other chemical companies. Our arbitration demands were consistent with the U.S. Department of Justice's allegations in its various related enforcement actions and agreements. Over the course of several months, and before we engaged in any formal discovery, we negotiated separate settlements with all four shipping companies on behalf of both of our two clients. The amounts of these eight settlements are confidential.
December 2005 — Settled the multi-million dollar claims of T.C. Petroleum, Inc. against Canadian Natural Resources Limited. In an ICC arbitration in Paris, France, T.C. Petroleum asserted that Canadian Natural Resources and certain of its affiliates committed fraud and breached their contractual obligations to provide T.C. Petroleum with a carried interest in a large oil field off the coast of the Cote d'Ivoire in Africa. The parties settled their dispute just weeks before the arbitration hearing on the merits was scheduled to begin in Paris. The terms of the settlement are covered by a rather strict confidentiality provision that permits only this disclosure: T.C. Petroleum and Canadian Natural Resources "have amicably settled all their disputes and differences to the mutual satisfaction of all parties."
February 2005 — Settled a $48 million securities fraud case against Waste Management, Inc. on behalf of shareholders who opted out of a federal class action settlement. We filed suit in Texas state court and developed theories of liability and evidence that had evaded the federal class plaintiffs and every other group of opt out plaintiffs in the country. We claimed that Waste Management violated Sections 11 and 12 of the 1933 Securities Act, violated the Texas Securities Act, and made fraudulent and negligent misrepresentations in its June 1998 Proxy Statement in connection with its $20 billion merger. We defeated Waste Management's multiple motions for summary judgment and we filed a plaintiffs-side partial summary judgment motion of our own on liability. A few weeks before trial, we settled the case for more than 40 times what our clients would have received in the class action settlement. At Waste Management's insistence, the actual amount of the settlement is confidential.
September 2004 — Settled the multi-million dollar claims that we brought in the Southern District of Texas on behalf of our clients Jefferson Pilot Life Insurance Company, American General Annuity Insurance Company, and other insurance companies against Deutsche Bank AG, Lehman Brothers Inc. and others. We alleged that Deutsche Bank and Lehman violated federal and state securities laws in connection with the sale of $245 million worth of asset-backed securities pursuant to a placement memorandum that contained material false and misleading representations. As collateral for the asset-backed securities, Deutsche Bank and Lehman had used a portfolio of franchise loans and various pooled securities. We alleged that Deutsche Bank and Lehman misrepresented the "rigorous and conservative approach" in the underwriting, the borrowers' creditworthiness, and the sufficiency of the loan collateral to protect against the risk of default. Soon after we survived defendants' motions to dismiss, we settled the case for an amount that defendants insisted be kept confidential.
January 2004 — Won a $3.2 million jury verdict for Apache Corporation against two gas processing affiliates of Dynegy, Inc. We alleged that the Dynegy affiliates breached 18 different gas processing contracts by failing to account and pay for over 400 million cubic feet of gas that Apache produced and delivered from its wells. After a five day trial, the jury found for Apache on every issue. The jury found that the Dynegy affiliates breached all 18 of the contracts, willfully engaged in deceptive and unfair trade practices, and the jury rejected the Dynegy affiliates' counterclaims. Over a year before trial, the Dynegy affiliates had paid Apache an additional $1.38 million to resolve other breach of contract claims that Apache asserted in the case. After a partial JNOV and a modification of the judgment in the court of appeals, the Texas Supreme Court heard argument on several issues, and ruled for Dynegy. Click here to watch my September 2008 oral argument before the Texas Supreme Court. Click here to read excerpts from an article in The Odessa American about this case.
June 2003 — Settled a $20 million breach of contract and fraud case brought by our client, France-based Hexamedics, S.A.R.L., against two of the world's largest pacemaker manufacturers, Guidant Corp. and Intermedics, Inc. We filed suit in federal court in Minneapolis and alleged that Guidant and Intermedics improperly poached Hexamedics' sales representatives and cut off its supply of pacemakers en route to driving Hexamedics out of business. We settled the case a few months after surviving defendants' motion for summary judgment and two weeks before our trial date. The amount of the settlement is confidential.
February 2003 — A national Minnesota-based computer equipment leasing company called us after its lessee, a Texas-based seismic data company, had obtained an ex parte TRO that prevented the leasing company from retaking possession of millions of dollars worth of its leased equipment. After expedited discovery and a one day mini-trial, we persuaded a Texas court to deny the lessee's request for an injunction and, better yet, to dismiss its entire lawsuit. We then filed our own lawsuit in Minnesota against the delinquent lessee to enforce our Lease Agreement. We settled the case just seven months later with the lessee agreeing to pay us over $7.8 million, including payment of our attorneys fees.
September 2002 - Won an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and persuaded the Fifth Circuit to reinstate a $120-plus million breach of contract claim against Lucent Technologies, Inc. The Fifth Circuit held that the federal district court erred by dismissing claims brought against Lucent by the former owners of Herrmann Technology, Inc., a company Lucent had purchased with stock then worth over $400 million. The Fifth Circuit held that the former owners properly had stated a claim for breach of contract and remanded the claim to the district court for further proceedings. We settled the case ten months after the Fifth Circuit issued its ruling. The amount of the settlement is confidential. Click here to read excerpts from an article in The Texas Lawyer about this case.
March 2002 — Won a $21.5 million summary jury trial verdict in favor of Dallas based Tera-Force Technologies, Inc. against Silicon Valley based Cadence Design Systems, Inc. Tera-Force sued Cadence for breach of a multi-million dollar Asset Purchase Agreement that Cadence claimed never became effective. At the Court's urging a month before trial, the parties conducted a one day nonbinding "summary jury trial" in which the parties picked an actual jury and presented their evidence and witness testimony in the courtroom with the actual judge presiding. The jury's $21.5 million damages award opened Cadence's eyes about its potential exposure, and we settled the case the next day. Our thrilled client had its day in court, recovered an excellent settlement, and avoided years worth of promised appeals. The Texas Lawyer featured this settlement as one of the "Top 10 Settlements in Texas in 2002." Click here to read an excerpt from The Texas Lawyer about this case.
July 2001 — Won a $5.7 million executive compensation arbitration award for a former president and COO against his former employer, Budget Rent-A-Car. The seven day arbitration took place in Chicago and involved claims made under an executive compensation agreement following the executive's purported "for cause" termination. The arbitrator agreed with us and found that the termination was without cause, awarded our client a multiple of his attorneys fees, and awarded him more money than he would have been paid if Budget had honored the executive compensation agreement in the first place.
January 2000 — Medtronic, Inc. hired us to take over as lead trial counsel to defend it in a billion dollar antitrust case just six weeks before trial in federal court in Houston. The plaintiff, Sulzer Intermedics, Inc., alleged that Medtronic conspired to monopolize the U.S. pacemaker market and committed various torts along the way. We persuaded the court to grant summary judgment against all of the antitrust claims and some of the tort claims. Then, in early March, we settled what little was left of the case for pennies on the dollar. The amount of the settlement is confidential.
June 1999 - Settled a breach of fiduciary duty and fraud lawsuit brought by our two shareholder clients against Central Asian Petroleum and an Indonesian businessman. We alleged that the defendants engaged in a series of ownership interest shifting corporate shenanigans to eliminate our clients' 20% interest in a large undeveloped oil and gas field in Kazakhstan. We settled the case for $6.25 million just four months after we filed it.
November 1998 — Successfully defended mid-west public utility NIPSCO Industries, Inc. against a $30 million breach of contract claim in federal court in Chicago. We settled the case after a two week jury trial and just before closing arguments. NIPSCO was extremely happy with the settlement, while the plaintiff's lawyers were so sensitive about the low amount that they insisted that our firm not publicize it.
October 1998 — Successfully defended a software licensor in an arbitration in New York brought by a major national information systems company that had licensed the software. After one day of arbitration, we settled the case with the plaintiff company agreeing to pay our client cash and continuing royalties. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
July 1998 - Settled a $25 million accounting malpractice lawsuit brought by our client, the former owner of world-wide travel agency Lifeco Services Corp., against Ernst & Young. We alleged that Ernst & Young negligently advised our client on a major corporate restructuring and tried to conceal the effects of its negligent work. The amount of the settlement is confidential.
July 1998 — Settled a state-wide consumer class action against a major national direct marketing company for alleged violations of the Debt Collection Act. The case settled a few months after we persuaded the trial court to certify the case as a class action and to enjoin the defendant from continuing its allegedly illegal practices.
February 1998 — Won a no liability verdict for The Hertz Corporation in a high profile jury trial in which the plaintiff alleged violations of state insurance licensing laws and unfair and deceptive practices. In less than an hour of deliberations, the jury found for Hertz on all issues and rejected plaintiff's claims for attorneys' fees. Earlier in August 1997, we defeated plaintiff's motion to certify the case as a class action. Click here to read an article in The Houston Chronicle about this case.
October 1997 — Successfully defendedNIPSCO Industries, Inc. against claims for breach of an alleged joint venture and minority shareholder oppression. Plaintiffs were shareholders in an oil and gas marketing company owned 51% by NIPSCO, and sought $65 million plus exemplary damages. After two weeks of trial, plaintiffs settled for pennies on the dollar, not even enough to make their contingent fee lawyers whole.
September 1997 — Settled a $250 million lawsuit brought by our client, Telecom 21 L.L.C., a small telecommunications company, against Lucent Technologies, Inc. and AT&T Corp. We alleged that Lucent and AT&T breached their joint venture and fiduciary obligations to convert a former Soviet nuclear missile tracking site into a civilian wireless telecommunications network in Kazakhstan. Lucent agreed to settle the case only seven months after we filed suit. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
December 1996 — Won a no liability arbitration ruling for two natural gas pipeline affiliates of Enron Corp. on claims of fraud and breach of contract brought by a natural gas producer. Plaintiff sought $20 million plus exemplary damages. After three days of evidence and argument, an arbitration panel rejected plaintiffs' claims and ruled for us on all issues.
October 1996 — Won a no liability jury verdict for three natural gas pipeline affiliates of Enron Corp. against claims of fraud and breach of contract brought by 57 natural gas producers. The same lawyers who handled the arbitration above also tried this case. Most of the 57 plaintiffs abandoned their claims before trial. The remaining plaintiffs sought $88 million in actual and exemplary damages. After three weeks of trial, the jury rejected all of plaintiffs' claims and we won on all counts.
December 1995 — Won a $1.3 million jury verdict for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas against a Washington D.C. mortgage bank for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. We alleged the bank misappropriated pension funds from Teachers in breach of its service contract and then tried to cover up its wrongful conduct. The trial lasted two weeks.
October 1995 — Won a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction in federal district court in St. Croix that returned our clients to their positions as directors and officers of Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc., the phone company for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guyana. Our clients had been removed from their posts in violation of the federal securities rules through an improper secret consent solicitation. See 905 F. Supp. 248 (D. Virgin Islands 1995). The injunction hearing in St. Croix lasted two days.
October 1995 - Successfully defended former directors and officers of Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc. against a breach of contract claim brought in Delaware Chancery Court by a group of newly installed directors. In light of our success in St. Croix, the case settled on excellent terms before the Delaware court issued its ruling. Our clients regained their corporate posts and suffered no liability. The trial in Delaware lasted three days.
November 1994 — Won a $1 million verdict for Tri-Systems Corp., a local manufacturer of heat tracing cable, against two former salesmen. We alleged the salesmen breached their fiduciary duties, misappropriated trade secrets, and secretly set up a competing company to steal away our client's customers. After a three day trial, the jury found for our client and rejected the salesmen's $600,000 counterclaim. Click here to read an article in The Houston Business Journal about this case.
November 1993 — Won a $77.6 million accounting malpractice verdict against Deloitte & Touche in Texas state court. This was my first trial, and my partner Lee Godfrey and I represented a class of 10,358 limited partner investors in a limited partnership formed as a tax shelter to engage in agriculture and food production. We alleged that Deloitte was negligent and grossly negligent in its preparation of the partnership's tax returns by including a multi-million dollar "pasturage deduction" for the cost of keeping 800,000 head of cattle at pasture. We demonstrated at trial that there were no records to support the pasturage deduction, that Deloitte knew this, and that the alleged cows never were at pasture. The trial court entered judgment for $79 million, but the court of appeals reversed the judgment based on a new post-judgment statute of limitations opinion in an unrelated case.
My former clients, some of which are current clients, include: Apache Corporation; Inc.; Chevron Phillips Chemical Company; EOG Resources, Inc.; Eni Trading & Shipping; Enron Corp.; Forest Oil Corporation; Hertz Corp.; Hexamedics S.A.R.L.; Houston Pipe Line Company; Intratex Gas Company; Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.; KBR, Inc.; Key Energy Services, Inc.; LyondellBasell Industries; Winthrop Resources Corporation; and others.
- State Bar of Texas
- State Bar of New York
- American Bar Association
- Texas Bar Foundation, Life Fellow
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- Various federal district courts