Attorney / Shareholder
John O’Connor is a business minded, first chair litigator that works hand-in-hand with his clients to develop dispute resolution strategies that make sense in both the court room and the board room. His litigation practice focuses on resolving complex commercial disputes across a broad spectrum of industries and has significant involvement representing clients in the financial services industry, including private equity firms, insurance companies, and financial institutions. He has particular experience with corporate and contractual disputes, business tort actions, securities and shareholder actions, fraud and bad faith litigation, class actions, False Claims Act/Qui Tam litigation, and technology litigation. John is well-versed in conducting internal investigations and advising the boards of directors and executives of sophisticated corporate clients. He has also litigated multiple contentious matters in some of the country’s largest bankruptcy proceedings, including plan confirmation disputes, claim disputes, and adversary proceedings.
Commercial Litigation Experience
- Served as nationwide counsel for major international financial institution and its affiliates in a series of multi-jurisdictional, multi-faceted disputes worth billions of dollars relating to syndicated real estate loans made to resort developments across the U.S., including obtaining the summary judgment dismissal of all claims and defeating class certification in a $24 billion RICO class action in Idaho federal court, which was upheld before the Ninth Circuit.
- National coordinating counsel for insurance company defendant in multiple cases in U.S. federal courts in Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Washington state in which long-term care policyholders allege fraud, bad faith and various other torts.
- Obtained summary judgment for defendant in state court lawsuit seeking rescission of stock purchase.
- Obtained favorable settlement as litigation counsel for portfolio company of private equity arm of major pension fund in dispute against former CEO arising from breach of separation agreement.
- Litigation counsel in state and federal derivative actions involving FCPA issues. Obtained favorable, no-money settlement.
- Won summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and accounting claims seeking more than $55 million in damages and equitable relief against a foreign limited partnership related to distributions made by the partnership to its various limited partners.
- Secured a complete dismissal of all claims against a post-secondary school in a federal False Claims Act qui tamaction regarding school programs and student financial aid.
- Obtained complete trial verdict and summary judgment in related cases for national transportation companies against local taxing authorities attempting to levy millions of dollars in taxes contrary to the Texas Tax Code.
- Obtained TRO, Temporary Injunction and ultimately permanent injunction and favorable agreed judgment in violation of non-compete matter.
- Lead counsel for insurance company in multiple errors and omissions cases asserting causes of action for negligence and fraud.
Bankruptcy Litigation Experience
John spent more than a decade working for the international law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges, and in that capacity as a commercial and bankruptcy litigator had the opportunity to represent the debtors in some of the largest bankruptcies in the history of the United States, including Lehman Brothers and General Motors.
General Motors Corporation— Representation of Debtor in the historic, multinational automotive restructuring. Responsible for expunction or resolution of all class action claims against Debtor. Also formed and administered mediation program for Debtor whereby more than $11 billion in claims have been resolved;
Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. — Part of the multi-disciplinary team that represented Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the fourth largest investment bank in the world, and its affiliated debtors in the largest chapter 11 cases in history. Described by presiding Bankruptcy Judge Peck as “the biggest, the most incredibly complex, the most impossibly challenging international bankruptcy that ever was,” the chapter 11 filing by Lehman Brothers during the 2008 financial crisis transformed an integrated global enterprise overnight to adverse factions of third parties and affiliates all over the world competing with each other over the billions of dollars at stake, with $630 billion of assets on its balance sheet. Intricately involved in the value-maximizing administration and wind-down involving the analysis of tens of thousands of claims comprising the asserted over $1.3 trillion in liabilities against the estate; and developing all strategy, preparing for trial and obtaining a favorable settlement in a related bankruptcy proceeding in the Bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Oklahoma where more than $100 million dollars was in dispute related to a credit facility extended by a Lehman affiliate.
Pilgrim’s Pride — Representation of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the largest U.S. poultry processor at that time, in connection with its chapter 11 case, which restructured approximately $2.4 billion in debt. In stabilizing Pilgrim’s Pride’s business, successfully litigated a number of contentious issues related to the closure of several processing plants. The chapter 11 plan that was confirmed was premised on 64% of the common stock of the reorganized company being sold to a plan investor, a subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian beef producer and exporter. Part of the team that helped Pilgrim’s Pride successfully reorganize its operations in just one year, pay creditors in full in cash, and allow equity holders to retain 36% of their equity.
Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. — Representation of Trump Entertainment Resorts, one of the largest casino operators/owners in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in its chapter 11 case. After a long and contentious 14 months in chapter 11 that included the appointment of an examiner, the filing of approximately 13 plans of reorganization, ten disclosure statement hearings, and nearly three weeks of highly-contested confirmation hearings, trial team secured confirmation of the plan of reorganization proposed by Trump Entertainment and an ad hoc committee of second lien noteholders over a competing plan of reorganization proposed by Trump Entertainment’s senior lenders, Beal Bank and Icahn Partners. The confirmed plan provided for a $225 million equity infusion by certain creditors, the restructuring of the company’s first lien credit facility through a $125 million cash payment and the issuance of new first lien term notes, the cancellation of $1.25 billion of second lien debt and all existing publicly-held common stock, and the execution of a new trademark agreement with Donald J. Trump in exchange for new common stock and warrants.
Texas Rangers (Bankr. N.D. Tex.) — Litigation counsel in restructuring of Texas Rangers culminating in the sale of the franchise via a historic auction.
Representative Work on Internal Investigations
- Conducted two separate investigations for Special Committees of the Board of Directors of a major airline in connection with a shareholder derivative action and for demand letters relating to (i) alleged aircraft maintenance issues and the imposition by the FAA of a large fine and (ii) with respect to an in-flight aircraft incident which resulted in no injuries to passengers or crew.
- Conducted an internal review of the firing of key employee following his controversial on-air remarks.
- Retained by General Counsel of publicly traded energy company to conduct an internal investigation into allegations of employment discrimination and disparate treatment.
- Conducted internal investigation for Special Committee of Board of Directors of publicly traded industrial manufacturer regarding shareholder derivative complaints related to executive compensation and financial reporting.
- Numerous internal investigations involving whistleblower, accounting and executive issues.
- J.D., cum laude, Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law, Dallas, Texas, 2007; President of the SMU Law Review Association
- M.A., Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, 2003
- B.S., Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California, 2001
Admitted to Practice
- State of Texas
- State of New York
- U.S. District Ct., N.D. of Texas
- U.S. District Ct., S.D. of Texas
Professional Memberships and Affiliations
- American Bar Association
- Dallas Bar Association
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Past Member, Board of Directors, Dallas Chapter
- Family Gateway, Host Committee, Day to Play Fundraiser
Honors and Distinctions
- Named Texas Super Lawyers’ Rising Star® by Thomson Reuters (2018, 2019)
- Selected to the Business Council for the Arts, Leadership Arts Institute (2016)
- Selected to Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Leadership Class (2014)
- Named 2012 Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year by the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program
- Recipient of the State Bar of Texas’s 2012 Frank J. Scurlock Award