People

Matthew T. Martens

Partner

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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.

Representative Matters

Trials

  • Lead trial counsel in a September 2016 civil jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, defending a major life insurer against bad faith and UCL claims. Case settled favorably mid-trial.
  • Lead trial counsel for major financial services firm for a federal civil jury trial set for July 2015. Case settled favorably a week before trial.
  • Lead trial counsel in an April 2014 federal civil jury trial, successfully defending a major financial services company against $180 million in consumer fraud class action claims.
  • Lead trial counsel in a July 2013 federal civil jury trial, successfully prosecuting a fraud case on behalf of the SEC concerning a $1 billion collateralized debt obligation (CDO) transaction.
  • Defended a major healthcare company through the jury trial of a $2.2 billion breach of contract claim. Case settled three weeks into trial when the plaintiffs dropped their entire case.* 
  • Defended a county government through the jury trial of an employment retaliation claim, resulting in a hung jury. Matter settled favorably thereafter.*
  • Defended a state government official in a state criminal jury trial on a corruption charge, resulting in a full acquittal.*

SEC Investigations

  • Lead counsel for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was sued (in his personal capacity) by the SEC for securities fraud. Obtained total dismissal with prejudice of all claims at motion to dismiss stage. 
  • Lead counsel for a major financial institution in a SEC investigation concerning FCPA issues arising out of the institution's hiring practices in China.
  • Lead counsel for a major financial institution in a SEC investigation concerning the marketing of structured notes.
  • Lead counsel for a foreign financial institution in a SEC investigation concerning the marketing of structured notes.
  • Lead counsel for a major broker-dealer in a SEC investigation concerning compliance with the Customer Protection Rule (SEC Rule 15c3-3).
  • Lead counsel for a Big Four auditing firm in a SEC investigation of a private equity firm.
  • Lead counsel for a major hedge fund in an examination by the SEC's Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) that raised sensitive intellectual property issues.
  • Lead counsel for a publicly-traded company in a SEC inquiry concerning whether the company's employee confidentiality agreements violated the SEC's whistleblower rules (SEC Rule 21F-17).
  • Lead counsel for a bank CFO in a SEC investigation arising from an accounting restatement.
  • Lead counsel for a bank CFO in a SEC investigation of an asset-backed securitization. 
  • Lead counsel for a technology company CEO in a SEC investigation.
  • Counsel for a major broker-dealer in a SEC investigation of AML issues.
  • Counsel for a major financial institution in a SEC investigation concerning FCPA issues arising out of the institution's hiring practices.
  • Counsel for a major broker-dealer in a SEC investigation concerning the integrity of blue sheet data. 

PCAOB Investigations

  • Lead counsel for a Big Four auditing firm in a PCAOB investigation arising from an accounting restatement.
  • Lead counsel for international affiliate network of a Big Four accounting firm in a PCAOB investigation.

 Criminal/DOJ Investigations

  • Lead counsel for an international consulting firm in a federal criminal public corruption investigation.
  • Lead counsel for a major financial institution in a federal criminal investigation regarding futures trading.
  • Lead counsel for a major financial institution in a FIRREA investigation regarding subprime auto lending.
  • Lead counsel for a major brokerage firm in a federal criminal investigation of fraud in the trading of collateralized loan obligations.

State Attorney General Investigations

  • Lead counsel for a Fortune 50 company in the litigation of a consumer fraud suit brought by the Washington Attorney General seeking more than $100 million.
  • Lead counsel for a Fortune 200 company in multiple state attorney general investigations.
  • Lead counsel for a Fortune 50 company in multiple state attorney general investigations and related consumer fraud MDL class actions.
  • Lead counsel for a banker in a NYAG investigation regarding high-frequency trading.
  • Lead counsel for a major financial institution in a NYAG investigation related to high-frequency trading.
  • Lead counsel for a Fortune 50 company in a NYAG false advertising investigation.

Bank Regulatory Investigations

  • Co-lead counsel for a loan servicer in a litigated UDAAP action brought by the CFPB.
  • Lead counsel for a company litigating the scope of the CFPB's investigatory jurisdiction.
  • Lead counsel for a major financial institution in a CFPB investigation.
  • Lead counsel for a bank executive in an OCC investigation.
  • Lead counsel for a financial services firm in a CFPB investigation.
  • Lead counsel for a senior executive of a major financial institution in an OCC investigation.

Civil Litigation

  • Lead counsel for a major broker-dealer in a securities fraud and RICO class action in the Southern District of California.
  • Lead counsel for a bank CFO in a securities fraud class action in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
  • Lead counsel for a major financial institution in a False Claims Act qui tam action in the Southern District of Florida.
  • Co-lead counsel for a major financial institution in a financial crisis-related action in Missouri state court.
  • Co-lead counsel for a major quantitative trading firm in defending against a purported class action under the Commodity Exchange Act in the Southern District of New York.
  • Co-lead counsel for an investment adviser in a suit challenging the adviser's fees under Section 36(b) of the Investment Company Act in the District of Delaware.

Supreme Court Litigation

  • Counsel of record for amicus in Kokesh v. SEC (OT 2016).
  • Counsel of record for amicus in Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith v. Manning (OT 2015).
  • Counsel of record for amicus in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley (OT 2016).
  • Counsel of record for amicus in Zubik v. Burwell (OT 2015).

*These matters were handled at a time when Mr. Martens was associated with another firm before joining WilmerHale.

Honors & Awards

*No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Publications & News

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March 21, 2017

Judge Dismisses Securities Fraud Claims Against Texas Attorney General

The Wall Street Journal reported the dismissal as a “wholesale defeat” of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had brought the claims in a civil suit.

March 2, 2017

SEC Civil Claims Against Texas Attorney General Are Dismissed

Matthew Martens is quoted in this article in The Wall Street Journal, which discusses the dismissal of civil claims against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

March 2, 2017

Texas AG Beats SEC Fraud Claims

Matthew Martens is quoted in this Law360 article reporting on the dismissal of civil securities fraud charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for the second time.

January 4, 2017

Trump, Congress Should Break Up SEC's In-House Courts

In an op-ed piece in The Hill, Partner Matthew T. Martens calls on the incoming Trump Administration and Congress to rein in the use of in-house courts by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

January 3, 2017

SEC Settles Two More Whistleblower Protection Cases

Continuing its efforts to bring enforcement actions for violations of whistleblower protections, the Securities and Exchange Commission recently settled two more cases. Both cases involved severance agreements that contained provisions that, the SEC asserted, expressly prohibited former employees from communicating with the government about possible violations of law. This WilmerHale Client Alert was republished by Law360.

December 2, 2016

Change and Continuity in Securities Regulation

Given the fluidity of the regulatory environment, making accurate predictions regarding what to expect from the SEC under a new Administration and a new Chair is difficult. Nevertheless, in this Client Alert we explore possible key areas of securities regulation that may be affected under the new Administration. This Client Alert was republished by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation.

November 2, 2016

Four Key SEC Whistleblower Trends—And How Companies Can Prepare For Them

An article by Matthew Martens, Arian June and former Associate Caroline Schmidt, published in The Review of Securities & Commodities Regulation, discusses ongoing trends in the Securities and Exchange Commission's whistleblower program including: (1) increasing whistleblower bounties; (2) awards for mid-investigation tips; (3) use of the more lenient “objectively reasonable” standard for whistleblower protection from retaliation; and (4) the SEC's focus on confidentiality agreements.

October 31, 2016

SEC Examiners Focus on Investment Adviser and Broker-Dealer Compliance With Whistleblower Rules

Last week, the SEC's Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) issued a Risk Alert regarding examinations of investment adviser and broker-dealer registrants' compliance with key whistleblower provisions arising out of the Dodd-Frank Act.

October 13, 2016

Law360's Weekly Verdict: Legal Lions & Lambs

Matthew Martens is mentioned in this Law360 article, which discusses the dismissal of a fraud suit brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton over stock sales referrals.

October 11, 2016

New SEC Settlements Show Continued Focus on Whistleblower Protection and Severance Agreements

The Securities and Exchange Commission continues to pursue enforcement actions against companies for whistleblower-related violations. This WilmerHale Client Alert, which was also published by Bloomberg BNA's Securities Regulation & Law Report on December 5, 2016, examines the latest in a recent string of settled orders.

Practices

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Education

JD, with highest honors, University of North Carolina School of Law, 1996, Valedictorian

BA, Accounting, with highest honors, Cedarville College, 1993

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Pennsylvania (Inactive)

Clerkships

The Hon. William H. Rehnquist, US Supreme Court, 1997 - 1998

The Hon. David B. Sentelle, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1996 - 1997

Government Experience

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