Matthew Martens is an experienced litigator of complex, high-stakes criminal and civil matters, with more than 20 jury trials in both state and federal courts in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois and California. He joined WilmerHale after a long career of government service, first in the US Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration, and later as Chief Litigation Counsel for the Division of Enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Since joining WilmerHale, Martens served as lead trial counsel in April 2014 for a major financial services company in a three-week federal jury trial in California in which he successfully defended the company. In that consumer fraud class action, the plaintiffs sought damages of more than $180 million. Martens defeated all 22 of the plaintiffs' claims (11 tried to the jury, and 11 tried to the bench). In June 2015, he was lead trial counsel for a leading financial institution in a case in federal district court in Massachusetts. That case settled the week before trial. In September 2016, Martens was lead trial counsel for a financial services company in a jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court that settled mid-trial. He is currently lead counsel for a prominent public official in an enforcement action brought by the SEC in federal court in Texas alleging securities fraud.
During the Bush administration, Martens was Chief of Staff and Counsel to then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff in the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. Martens was also an Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) in the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina, eventually serving as Deputy Criminal Chief, where he supervised the white-collar/general crimes unit. With regard to Martens' trial skills, Mr. Chertoff was quoted by the New York Times as stating that Martens is "really good at explaining things in plain English."
As an AUSA, Martens prosecuted the hackers who compromised the Lowe's computer system in order to access the home improvement chain's central computer system and capture customer credit card information (US v. Salcedo). The case was the subject of national media attention and resulted in what was at the time and remained for years the longest prison sentence ever imposed for computer hacking. Martens was also lead trial counsel in the successful prosecution of a real estate attorney who committed a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud that contributed to the failure of a community bank (US v. Sprouse). The trial of that matter generated significant media attention.
Later, Martens led the SEC Enforcement Division's litigation program, managing cases nationwide and supervising a trial unit of approximately 40 attorneys in Washington DC, as well as coordinating the activity of litigators throughout the SEC's 11 regional offices. He personally developed and directed the Commission's nationwide litigation response to the Supreme Court's decision in Janus Capital, for which he received the SEC's prestigious Chairman's Award for Excellence.
While at the SEC, Martens also prevailed as lead trial counsel in the securities fraud trial against former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre for his role in the structuring and marketing of a $1 billion collateralized debt obligation. After a three-week trial in New York, the jury found the defendant liable on six of seven claims, including the most serious intentional fraud claims. The trial was covered from beginning to end by several major news outlets, and the verdict was the front-page story in The Wall Street Journal. The Economist observed that, in his trial summation, “Martens transformed days of bland videos, testimony and documents into a sweeping story of deception that” made Mr. Tourre “appea[r] to noticeably age and sag.” For his win, AmLaw Daily named him Litigator of the Week.
In addition to his role as lead trial counsel in the Tourre matter, Martens directly supervised the first three (and to date only) litigated FCPA matters ever brought by the SEC. Martens frequently advised the commissioners concerning complex issues arising in enforcement matters, with former SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro describing Martens to Reuters as having "this extraordinary ability to, in a very cogent, concise, logical way, pull all the information together that was necessary for us to make a decision."
Martens began his legal career serving as a law clerk to the Honorable David B. Sentelle of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and to the Honorable William H. Rehnquist of the US Supreme Court. Martens is also a Certified Public Accountant (Registered) in Illinois.