Kenneth E. McNeil
Partner
Houston Office Phone: (713) 653-7814 Email Download vCard Print Bio to PDF
Education
  • Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
  • J.D. cum laude, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Judicial Clerkship

Judicial Clerk for Judge Sam Johnson, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, 1981-1982.

As a 31-year partner with Susman Godfrey L.L.P., I have played a key role in some of the most significant lawsuits in the United States — half for plaintiffs and half for large corporate defendants.

And the result:  a long track record of success of in-court and out-of-court settlements involving disputes as large as hundreds of millions and billions of dollars.

There is a common theme in all of them: the ability to quickly organize, simplify and resolve big lawsuits — in many cases, within months of my first day on the file:

  • Around the world — including huge cases involving China, Australia, Canada, Morocco, and Dubai
  • In virtually every major industry and financial sector — pension funds, energy companies, airlines, HMOs, hospitals, many types of manufacturing, Internet, accounting, banking, railroads, power companies, pipelines, law firms, and the automobile industry
  • Across most areas of law — securities, antitrust, contract, ERISA, patent, fraud and other commercial torts, bankruptcy, accounting malpractice, actuarial malpractice, oil and gas law, international law, environmental law, administrative law, Native American law, libel/disparagement, enforcement of foreign judgments, Lanham Act trademark infringement and false advertising.
  • In complex crisis management for massive "perfect storm" situations — unexpected "bet-your-company" cases and other disastrous problems (ranging from HMOs to energy companies to pension funds)
Honors and Distinctions

Former U.S. Fifth Circuit Judicial Clerk

Former university professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ranked for at least the last four consecutive years in The Best Lawyers in America for Commercial Litigation in Houston (Woodward White Inc.)

Speaker,  Conference on Fiduciary Duty in Support of Responsible Investment and Financial Behavior, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, January 14, 2015

Co-Organizer and Speaker, "Helping Institutional Investors Increase Recoveries in Corporate Fraud Litigation" Conference, held at University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Chicago, Illinois

Speaker, American Conference Institute’s 16th Annual Summit on D&O Liability

Speaker, New York Law School Symposium on the Plaintiffs' Bar

Speaker, 29th Annual Securities Regulation Institute, sponsored by Northwestern University School of Law

Speaker, "Vanishing Trials" Seminar, ABA Litigation Section, San Francisco

Speaker, Canadian Institute Seminar on Class Actions, Toronto, Canada

Speaker, Seminar on Federal Class Actions, State Bar of Texas, Antitrust & Litigation Section, Houston, Texas

Articles Editor, University of Wisconsin Law Review

Order of the Coif

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Wins

2012-2017 RESULTS

  • Outside counsel for Fortune-500 company Apache Corporation and its Australian subsidiaries in overseeing defense at trial of a $2 billion lawsuit against them and others, including ANZ Bank.
    • The trial began in June 2016.
    • The plaintiffs were members of billionaire families in India.
    • Australian newspapers have described it as the largest trial in Melbourne, Australia’s history. We developed a half-billion dollar counterclaim.
    • We made Australian legal history at trial by using the first beginning-to-end PowerPoint narrative graphic opening statement.
    • And only a week after that presentation was made, the plaintiffs entered settlement negotiations and settled with Apache.
    • The agreement is confidential, but our client is happy with the results.
  • Lead outside counsel for Apache Corporation and certain Australian affiliates in overseeing a number of major Australian lawsuits by mining companies and others, relating to a gas pipeline explosion in Western Australia in 2008.
    • These claims involved hundreds of millions of dollars.
    • In 2015, these were successfully resolved, including with London-based insurers.
    • Although the terms of the settlements are confidential, the clients are happy with the results.
  • Lead outside counsel overseeing litigation in Australia brought against Apache Corporation by a plaintiff involving hundreds of millions of dollars in alleged claims relating to alleged violations of the Australian Trade Practices Act.
    • Less than one month before the 2015 trial, the plaintiff dropped his lawsuit and all claims in it.
    • Our client paid nothing.
  • Lead advocate in a major international arbitration matter in Dubai representing the owners of the one of the largest chains of hospitals in the Middle East
    • The matter settled in 2014 after only the second day of arbitration hearing - during my cross-examination of the opposing party's CEO
    • Settled confïdentially to the client's strong satisfaction, including settlement of a related matter as well
    • Opposing party was represented by a veteran British Queen's Counsel
      from a prestigious London chambers
  • Lead counsel defending one Fortune 500 company against another Fortune 500 company in a major products liability dispute involving over $200 million
    • Settled the case after a number of weeks of negotiation – before any lawsuit was filed
    • Settled very favorably to the client
  • Lead counsel for one of the largest energy companies in the United States in overseeing the defense of a criminal statutory fine prosecution in Australia over a major gas pipeline explosion
    • The matter involved an explosion of a major pipeline providing gas to Western Australian customers – including large mines and other plants.
    • The explosion temporarily disrupted 30 percent of Western Australia’s gas supply.
    • Nevertheless, the Western Australian state prosecutors ultimately dismissed the prosecution completely – well before trial.
  • Lead counsel for one of the largest energy companies in the United States in obtaining a stay against a major case filed in the U.S. over an Australian gas pipeline explosion
    • The plaintiff alleged damages of hundreds of millions of dollars.
    • We were able to stay the case – keep it from proceeding – for approximately 3 years.
    • Aterwards, it was dismissed on grounds that the United States was not a convenient forum.
    • Plaintiffs were unable to prosecute this case in the United States.
  • Lead counsel for one of the largest energy companies in the United States in obtaining a stay against a major case filed in the U.S. relating to a dispute over a huge gas supply contract in Australia
    • The plaintiffs alleged damages of several hundred million dollars.
    • We stayed the case – kept it from proceeding – for approximately two years.
    • The case has now been dismissed on grounds that the United States was not a convenient forum.
    • Plaintiffs were unable to prosecute this case in the United States.

 

OTHER RECENT TRIAL AND SETTLEMENT RESULTS

  • Lead plaintiff lawyer for Milwaukee County and the Milwaukee County Pension Fund
    • Obtained a $45 million settlement after two weeks of jury trial in Milwaukee federal district court
    • The recovery was paid by defendant Mercer, Inc., the largest employee-benefits company in the U.S
    • The lawsuit had allegations of actuarial malpractice in connection with passage of a new employee benefits package in 2000-2001 by Milwaukee County
    • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was then Milwaukee County Executive and worked closely on the case
  • Lead plaintiff lawyer overseeing Canadian trial team in a major Canadian trial victory
    • Was hired to oversee the Canadian trial team in a case in Canada where Apache Corporation's Canadian subsidiary faced a $300 million counterclaim in a dispute over drilling rights.
    • The trial lasted eight weeks.
    • The judge's decision just gave Apache a big victory — dismissing the counterclaim, and awarding disputed drilling lands and production proceeds to Apache worth tens of millions.
    • The court decision made new Canadian law on theft of confidential information
  • Lead plaintiff lawyer for Bank of Montreal in a major commercial dispute
    • Obtained a confidential settlement within 12 weeks of being retained to the client's satisfaction.
    • Settled the case before a lawsuit was even filed.
  • Lead plaintiff trial lawyer — JURY TRIAL LISTED IN "TOP 100 VERDICTS OF 2005" by Verdict Search magazine
    • The jury trial involved our client's purchase of a large Florida HMO from HIP New York (New York City's HMO for its government employees) — and was in state court, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
    • The jury returned a $38 million actual damages jury verdict — for fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment against HIP New York.
    • plus the jury had found clear and convincing evidence that punitive damages were warranted (rarely awarded in Florida in a commercial case). 
    • The case settled one day after verdict to the client's satisfaction.
    • Our client is now a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
  • Lead defendant trial lawyer settling a major patent dispute for Rockwell Automation, Inc., a Fortune 500 company
    • Was hired by Rockwell Automation to represent it as lead counsel in a major patent, antitrust and unfair competition dispute
    • The dispute had been ongoing for four years before I was hired
    • It was resolved approximately two months after I was hired
    • The settlement resolved the dispute and provided significant business benefits to Rockwell
  • Lead plaintiff trial lawyer for a North Carolina bankruptcy estate in settling a dispute with Ford Motor Company over alleged patent infringement by Ford
    • Was settled without filing any lawsuit
    • Settled after a mock trial before a U.S. bankruptcy court judge as part of a mediation
  • Lead settlement counsel for a leading national builder of housing projects for the working poor in a dispute with Sun Trust Bank
    • The dispute involved allegations of $20-$40 million against the client.
    • The case was resolved with the client paying nothing. 

 

Other Results in 2004-06

  • 2006 Selected to Special Counsel list for the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System.
  • 2004 Retained as special settlement counsel for the City of San Diego in a dispute with its auditing firm.
  • 2004 Selected to Special Counsel list for State Retirement System of Maryland, 2004

 

Other Recent Results (2000-2004)

Was lead trial lawyer for a joint prosecution group — the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (for a shareholder class), the Anicom bankruptcy estate, and several Chicago banks. 

  • $21.5 million settlement from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP 
  • $18.0 million settlement from certain officers and directors of Anicom, Inc. 
  • $40 million in total settlements were obtained in federal court in Chicago involving now-bankrupt wire distributor Anicom, Inc. 
  • Two directors paid $12 million out of their own pockets not from D&O insurer. 

First U.S. temporary restraining order ever obtained against three oil companies of the People's Republic of China 

  •  Lead trial counsel in a $100 million lawsuit filed by a subsidiary of Apache Corporation against Petrochina, et al.
  • Involved a $120 million investment in a major drilling project on the coast of China, where the Apache subsidiary is operator
  • Settled favorably for Apache 10 days after the TRO was obtained
  • Resolves issues holding up the project for 2 years 

Settlement of a major dispute against a "big-six" accounting firm in 6 months from filing the lawsuit 

  • Represented a multi-billion-dollar corporation as plaintiff
  • Settled favorably to client 

Settlement of a major dispute against a national insurance company in 13 days 

  • Represented an East Coast corporation in a dispute with its insurer over denial of coverage
  • Settled for the entire multi-million-dollar payment the client sought from the insurer 

Settlement of another major dispute against a "big-six" accounting firm in 15 months from filing of the lawsuit

Settlement of an employment termination dispute in 3 weeks on terms which the client sought 

 

Other Plaintiff Contingent-Fee Litigation 

Two major cases settled during May and June 1999 ($12 million)

  • lead counsel in June 1999 in obtaining $6.25 million settlement in an international oil and gas dispute 
  • co-lead counsel in May 1999 in obtaining a $6 million settlement for a terminated CEO of a telecommunications company 

The largest Employee Stock Ownership Plan recovery in history ($27 million)

  • lead counsel for much of the case 
  • settled in 1996 
  • one of the largest recoveries in the history of North Carolina courts 
  • defendants were Morgan Stanley, NationsBank, and Burlington Industries

$120 million stock appraisal award

  • won against Royal Dutch Shell in connection with its cash-out merger of Shell Oil U.S. stock 
  • upheld by the Delaware Supreme Court in 1992

$38 million disclosure violation award for class of Shell stockholders who tendered their Shell stock

  • resulted from my discovery of a $1 billion error in Shell's published oil and gas reserve calculations 
  • upheld by the Delaware Supreme Court in 1992

$40 million award for plaintiff class in antitrust class action

  • plaintiff class included Wisconsin Power and Light, and other electrical utilities suing for alleged bid-rigging in fabricated steel provided to construction projects 
  • final settlement occurred just before trial

Client attorney for our firm, which served as lead counsel for the first six months of the Exxon Valdez litigation against Exxon

  • worked with Steve Susman in setting up coordination among dozens of plaintiff-side law firms in the case 
  • left that role only because of a technical conflict that appeared with one of numerous defendants 
  • after our firm left the case, plaintiffs we organized won a substantial judgment and recovered hundreds of millions of dollars, net, of attorneys' fees and expenses.

 

Other Plaintiff Litigation on an Hourly Basis

Lead counsel in a successful 3-day trial in 1999 defending my client for filing an involuntary bankruptcy petition against an opposing party for failing to pay $10 million

  • I was lead lawyer for a large publicly-traded oil and gas company creditor 
  • Opponent debtor filed a $17 million arbitration claim as offset 
  • Opposing party was represented by distinguished counsel 
  • Court held the opponent did not even raise a "bona fide" dispute over the vast majority of its claims 

Lead counsel in 1998 in a very favorable settlement for our clients (majority shareholders of a telecommunications company), just one month after minority shareholders instituted this legal dispute

Lead counsel in a 1998 case in which our client, president of a large title company, was allowed by settlement to become president of a competing title company in the same city within weeks of leaving the first company, despite an attempt to enforce a non-compete restriction on him.

Lead counsel in a case representing Enron Oil & Gas against Meridian Oil

  • Won bench trial in North Dakota 
  • Opinion issued in 1997 

Lead counsel in 1996 in a major dispute over a $50 million trust fund

  • Several major law firms in Atlanta initially represented my client, the trust beneficiary 
  • I entered the case four years into the litigation 
  • It settled three weeks later, and my client got what she wanted 

Head of expert witness work for Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines in largest antitrust litigation in airline history — against American Airlines (1994)

  • organized expert work among economics professors from M.I.T., Stanford and University of Chicago, and attacked expert work of American Airlines witnesses 
  • worked with lead trial lawyers David Boies of Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Joe Jamail 
  • American Airlines stopped the practice in dispute after this lawsuit got underway 

 

Other Defense Litigation on an Hourly Basis
Lead counsel in 1998 successful defense of a $30 million lawsuit, brought against our client, a major midwest public utility holding company

  • Was retained by client, NIPSCO, to try this six-year-old case just weeks before trial 
  • Case was tried in federal district court in Chicago 
  • After two weeks of trial, confidential settlement was reached 

Successful defense in 1997 of NIPSCO Industries (Northern Indiana's public utility holding company) against allegations of $60 million actual damages and $140 million punitive damages

  • Case settled two weeks into trial at a tiny fraction of alleged actual damages 
  • Contingency-fee lawyers who brought the case failed to get from the public settlement anything close to even their regular hourly billing rates 

Co-lead counsel in successful defense in 1997 of Sysco Corporation, one of the largest food distributors in the nation, against allegations by the owners of the popular Houston-based Ninfa's restaurant chain for tens of millions of dollars

  • Case settled within five months after the opposing side filed the case 
  • Sysco received a public apology from Mama Ninfa, the founder of the Ninfa's restaurant chain, for ever bringing the lawsuit 
  • Sysco was allowed to keep its entire creditor claim in bankruptcy against the plaintiff

Representation of Placid Oil, Penrod Drilling, and Hunt Trusts in $1.5 billion counterclaim lawsuit against 22 banks (1986)

  • An estimated 200 lawyers on other side 
  • Five to six main lawyers working on our side 
  • Headed up key parts of discovery in the case 

 

Track Record for Quick Settlement
I have a long track record of resolution of cases ranging from $5 million to $600 million or more in dispute — some even without taking them to court. Some recent settlements involve times as short as 2 days in dispute, 5 days, and 30 days. Among the clients for whom these have occurred are Apache Corporation, Bank of Montreal, Enron Oil and Gas, Rockwell Automation, and the owner of a major HMO. 

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Professional Associations and Memberships
  • Member, Board of Directors, Lawyers' Committee on Civil Rights, founded by President John F. Kennedy (2006- )
  • President, Wisconsin Law Alumni Association (national association of 12,000 alumni of the University of Wisconsin Law School) (1999-2001)
  • Member of 12-person Civil Justice Institute of the American Bar Association, Litigation Section (2001-2004)
  • Chair of the Antitrust & Business Litigation Section of the State Bar of Texas (1996)
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Notable Representation

Chief outside litigation counsel for almost 20 years for what was at one time the fourth-largest U.S.-based energy company.

Lead trial lawyer for plaintiff shareholders and creditors in Chicago "mini-Enron" case that was cited in American Lawyer article in 2005 naming Susman Godfrey LLP as one of the top two boutique commercial litigation law firms in the United States.

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