Robert S. Safi
Partner
Houston Office Phone: (713) 653-7850 Email Download vCard Print Bio to PDF
Education

The University of Texas Law School of Law, J.D. 2005, with high honors (Texas Law Review, Chancellors, Order of the Coif)

The University of Texas at Austin, B.A. 2002 (Plan II)

Judicial Clerkship

Hon. Vaughn R. Walker, United States District Court, Northern District of California

Named a “Lawyer on the Rise” by Texas Lawyer in 2018 (one of only twenty-three lawyers that received this recognition), Rob Safi has achieved exceptional results for plaintiffs and defendants before judges, juries, and arbitrators. Safi’s diverse practice has included 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.  

In recent years, Safi has focused on disputes in the energy sector, gaining experience across the industry, including upstream oil and gas, midstream, power, and renewables. He has been repeatedly recognized for his track record of success in this area.  In 2018, Safi was named an “Energy Rising Star” by Law360 and was included on Benchmark Litigation’s “40 and Under Hot List”  after being deemed “the most promising emerging talent in [his] respective litigation [community]” by peers and clients. Safi has also been recognized as a “Rising Star” in Texas the last nine years in a row (Law & Politics Magazine, Thomson Reuters, 2010–2018). 

Notable Representations

Energy

Spring Creek Exploration & Production Co. et al. v. Hess Bakken Investments II et al. 

Safi led the defense of a subsidiary of Fortune 100 exploration and production company Hess Corporation against claims for alleged breaches of an area of mutual interest agreement concerning the Bakken shale play in North Dakota.  In this matter that Law360 described as a “tangled case,” plaintiffs claimed over $400 million in damages. As the team’s leader, Safi conducted most key depositions, directed motions practice that substantially reduced the amount of the plaintiffs’ claimed damages, obtained an early partial summary judgment that dismissed what remained of plaintiffs’ multi-hundred million dollar damage claim, obtained a complete summary judgment on the remaining claims, and then argued and won the appeal in the Tenth Circuit. All of this crucial work culminated in a victory in the Tenth Circuit following Safi’s oral argument (which can be heard here).

Mirada Energy v. Oasis Petroleum  

Mirada Energy hired Safi to lead the prosecution of $100+ million claims in Texas state court in a dispute arising from a joint operating agreement that gave Mirada the right to participate in midstream facilities that Oasis is constructing to serve a sweet spot of the Bakken and Three Forks shale plays known as “Wild Basin.”  In March 2018, Safi argued and defeated the defendants’ motions for partial summary judgment.  Trial is set for May 2019.

Rogers v. Shell 

In Ohio federal court, Safi is lead counsel on behalf of hundreds of landowners in eastern Ohio in a $100+ million class action against affiliates of Royal Dutch Shell to recover unpaid signing bonuses for oil and gas leases covering the Utica Shale.  In February 2018, the District Court denied Shell’s motion to compel arbitration.  That ruling is now on appeal.

William Ade et al. v. PetroChina et al. 

In an international arbitration, Safi led the prosecution of claims to recover overriding royalties from PetroChina and Petronas (China and Malaysia state-owned oil companies, respectively) on production from the prolific “Jabung” gas field that Safi’s clients discovered off the island of Sumatra.  Before the final hearing, the respondents agreed to pay every cent of the millions of dollars owed to Safi’s clients.

Chemject International et al. v. American Gilsonite Company 

Safi represented Chemject, as plaintiff, on claims against a rival for monopolization and tortious interference with contract in connection with the South American supply of a sought-after bitumen used in drilling fluid additives.  The case reached a favorable settlement before trial.

Pennington v. Alta Mesa 

As lead counsel, Safi 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 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 appeared.

Confidential Wind Power Purchase Agreement Dispute 

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 his client – and awarded his client all of its attorneys’ fees.

Northville Product Services v. Green Earth Fuels & Goldman Sachs 

Second-chairing 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 and cross-examined key witnesses 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.

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.

Class Actions/Complex Litigation

In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation 

Safi played a critical role in this high-profile, billion dollar case that included helping to design and execute a phase of discovery and motion practice dedicated to choice of law, conducting a far-reaching discovery program related to Toyota’s marketing and sales practices, presenting discovery matters to the Court and Special Masters, assembling and coordinating a team of experts, and handling numerous key 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.

Farneth v. Walmart Stores, Inc. 

Safi is on the Susman Godfrey team representing Walmart in a certified class action pending in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania challenging Walmart’s collection of sales tax on certain in-store transactions.

Langer, et al. v. CME Group, Inc. 

Safi is on the Susman Godfrey team 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.

In re Cathode Ray Tubes (Circuit City). 

Safi was on the Susman Godfrey team that 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.  In large part to Safi’s significant contributions to the case, the team achieved cumulative settlements in excess of $130 million.

Confidential Wage Dispute 

Safi and a team from Susman Godfrey defended one of the world’s largest companies against a preliminarily certified 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.

Public Interest

Texas Health & Human Services Commission v. United States of America et al 

Safi served on the Susman Godfrey 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.  SG obtained denial of a preliminary injunction and a subsequent dismissal of all claims asserted against IRC.  

Rodriguez v. City of Houston  

Safi and a team from Susman Godfrey 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 Parties settled for $3 million – and a public apology from the Mayor of Houston.

Insurance Matters

Multi-million Private Transportation Matter 

Safi was hired to represent 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.

Skipper et al. v. ACE Property & Casualty Insurance Company 

Safi 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.  

Other

Scarbrough v. METRO 

Safi and a team from Susman Godfrey 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. Safi’s team persuaded the trial court to dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims. The dismissal was later affirmed on appeal. 

Honors and Distinctions

Named an Energy Rising Star by Law360 (2018)

Named an Attorney On the Rise by Texas Lawyer . Click here for the announcement article. (2018, ALM)

Included on Benchmark Litigation’s “40 and Under Hot List” (2018, Benchmark Litigation)

Named a Rising Star by Texas Super Lawyers (2000 – 2018, Thomson Reuters)

Named “Trial Lawyer of the Year Finalist” by Public Justice in 2014 for work on Toyota Unintended Acceleration Litigation

Legal Associations and Memberships

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth and Tenth Circuits 

United States District Court for the Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Western Districts of Texas

United States District Court for the District of Colorado

Publications

Beyond Unconscionability:  Preserving the Class Mechanism Under State Law in the Era of Consumer Arbitration, 83 Tex. L. Rev. 1715 (2005)