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Education

The University of Texas School of Law

Robert S. Safi
Partner

Since joining Susman Godfrey’s Houston office in 2006, Rob Safi has achieved excellent results for plaintiffs and defendants before judges, juries, and arbitrators.  Safi’s peers selected him as a “Rising Star” of the Texas bar the last seven years in a row (Law & Politics Magazine, Thomson Reuters, 2010–2016).  He graduated with high honors from The University of Texas School of Law, where he served as Notes Editor of the Texas Law Review and was a member of Chancellors.  Before joining the firm, Safi was a law clerk to the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker, then-Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Safi enjoys a diverse practice.  He has represented plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of disputes arising from corporate acquisitions, power purchase agreements, price-fixing schemes, civil rights violations, voter referenda, insurance coverage, hospital management contracts, and major construction projects, among others.  

Safi has worked both sides of the class action bar, playing a significant role for the plaintiffs in litigation arising from unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.  The ground-breaking settlement in that case is valued at approximately $1.4 billion net to the class.

Safi’s energy experience runs across the industry, from oil and gas exploration and production, to power, to renewables.  Many of Safi’s energy-related representations in recent years have arisen “upstream,” and include disputes concerning joint operating agreements, exploration and development agreements, participation agreements, area of mutual interest agreements, oil and gas leases, royalties, and seismic data licensing. 

Notable Current and Recent Representations

Energy

Currently leading the defense of a subsidiary of a Fortune 100 exploration and production company against claims for an alleged breach of an area of mutual interest agreement concerning the Bakken shale play in North Dakota.  Obtained an early partial summary judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ multi-hundred million dollar damage claim.  See Spring Creek Exploration & Production Company et al. v. Hess Bakken Investments II, LLC et al., 2016 WL 1170105 (D. Colo. Mar. 24, 2016).

As lead counsel, currently representing two geologists as claimants in an international arbitration against two Asian state-owned oil companies arising from the non-payment of overriding royalty interests.

Currently representing, as plaintiff, a maker of oil and gas drilling fluid additives on claims against a competitor for monopolization and tortious interference with contract.

As lead counsel, represented an executive-level exploration geologist as a plaintiff in a dispute arising from the breach of various employment agreements and unpaid oil and gas net profits interests.  Safi was retained to take over as plaintiff’s counsel after the case had been underway for years, and within two months obtained a settlement more than 10 times the defendant’s last settlement offer before Safi entered an appearance.

Class Actions/Complex Litigation

Currently representing plaintiffs, individually and as representatives of a proposed class of certain Class B shareholders in CME Group, Inc. (“CME”) and certain Class B members of CME’s subsidiary, The Board of Trade of the City of Chicago, Inc. (“CBOT”). The lawsuit alleges that CME and CBOT breached their obligations under their respective corporate charters with respect to the exchanges’ Globex electronic trading platform.  Additional information about the case is available at cmelawsuit.com.

Represented, as a class action opt-out plaintiff, the Liquidating Trustee of the Estate of Circuit City Stores on antitrust claims against various defendants who engaged in a global conspiracy to fix the price of cathode ray tubes (“CRTs”), causing Circuit City to pay more for products containing CRTs (televisions and computer monitors) than it otherwise would have had to pay.  Achieved cumulative settlements in excess of $130 million.

Pro Bono

Currently serving on the legal team defending the International Rescue Committee (“IRC”) against a lawsuit brought by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that seeks to restrict the federal government’s and IRC’s ability to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas.  Obtained denial of a preliminary injunction and a subsequent dismissal of all claims asserted against IRC.  See Texas Health & Human Services Commission v. United States of America et al., 2016 WL 1355596 (N.D. Tex. Feb. 8, 2016).  The case is now on appeal.

Insurance Matters

Represented a private transportation company against its insurer for bad-faith failure to settle.  Safi was engaged after a South Texas jury returned a $25+ million verdict on personal injury claims against the client, far in excess of the insurance policy limits.  The matter was resolved without the need to file a lawsuit, and without the client paying anything out of pocket on the verdict.

Defended a major property and casualty insurer against claims for bad-faith failure to settle personal injury claims.  The South Carolina Supreme Court decided a key issue in the client’s favor, which effectively thwarted the insureds’ and the personal injury plaintiffs’ attempt to manufacture a bad-faith claim through a confession of judgment.  See Skipper et al. v. ACE Property & Casualty Insurance Company et al., 775 S.E.2d 54 (S.C. 2015).

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Past Successes

Working alongside Marc Seltzer, Safi played a strategic role in MDL 2151, In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation.  Safi helped design and execute a phase of discovery and motion practice dedicated to choice of law, conducted a far-reaching discovery program related to Toyota’s marketing and sales practices, presented discovery matters to the Court and Special Masters, assembled and coordinated a team of experts, and handled numerous depositions, including the depositions of a senior officer of Toyota and one of Toyota’s key experts on class certification.   The litigation resulted in a settlement valued at approximately $1.4 billion net to the class.

With Vineet Bhatia and Shawn Raymond, Safi defended an electric utility against claims asserted by one of the world’s “major” energy companies. The claims arose from a wind power purchase agreement. The claimant sought millions of dollars for power production losses associated with curtailments that were ordered by the regional grid operator. The case was tried to a panel of three arbitrators. Safi cross-examined the claimant’s liability expert and presented most of our client’s fact witnesses on direct. In a unanimous decision, the panel rejected all claims asserted against our client – and awarded our client all of its attorneys’ fees.

With Mark Wawro, Alex Kaplan, and co-counsel Barry Scheck, Safi obtained a unanimous jury verdict for George Rodriguez in a federal civil rights action against the City of Houston arising from the much-publicized scandal in the Houston Police Department crime laboratory. Mr. Rodriguez was wrongfully convicted in 1987 and spent 17 years in prison until he won his freedom in 2004 with pro bono assistance from Susman Godfrey and The Innocence Project. A federal jury returned a verdict for Rodriguez and the district court entered judgment in excess of $9 million. While the case was on appeal, the case settled for $3 million – and a public apology from the Mayor of Houston.

With Steve Susman, Safi obtained a unanimous jury verdict in favor of a fuel marketing and trading company that hired us to prosecute claims for breach of a letter agreement for the sale of biodiesel. The defendant repudiated the agreement after one of its investors, Goldman Sachs, decided it didn't like the deal. Safi gave the opening statement at an initial trial on whether the letter agreement was binding. The jury found for our client. All jurors who responded to a post-verdict questionnaire rated Safi to be as persuasive as Steve Susman.  Following the initial trial, Safi single-handedly developed the claim against Goldman for interference with contract. He handled all depositions and briefed, argued, and defeated Goldman's motion for summary judgment.  The case settled for a confidential sum on the eve of a second trial.

With Neal Manne and Johnny Carter, Safi represented the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County ("METRO") in a lawsuit arising from METRO's plan to build a light rail line in Southwest Houston. The plaintiff claimed that the route violated a voter referendum that authorized METRO to expand its light rail system. We persuaded the trial court to dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims. The dismissal was affirmed on appeal. See Scarbrough v. METRO, 326 S.W.3d 324 (Tex. App. — Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, pet. denied).

In MDL 1840, In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation, Safi was tapped by lead counsel to brief and present oral argument on a key issue related to class certification. The district court certified a class for purposes of liability and injunctive relief.

With Neal Manne and Shawn Raymond, Safi defended one of the world’s very largest companies against a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act for alleged violations of wage and hour laws.  Safi briefed and argued a key motion that resulted in our client obtaining discovery from hundreds of plaintiffs.  The case settled for a nominal amount that was far less than plaintiffs had originally demanded.

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