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Joseph Russello is a partner in Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP’s Melville office. He principally prosecutes violations of the federal securities laws and breaches of fiduciary duty on behalf of individual and institutional investors. During his tenure at the Firm, Joe has achieved significant results in complex and challenging cases.
Currently, Joe is leading the Firm’s efforts in litigating securities claims against several companies in the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court, New York County, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver Cty. Emps.’ Ret. Fund, _ U.S. _, 138 S. Ct. 1061 (2018), which confirmed that state courts have concurrent jurisdiction of claims under the Securities Act of 1933. He is also prosecuting federal securities fraud cases against Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (known as Ericsson) and former executives and directors of Allied Nevada Gold Corporation, the latter of which was the subject of a favorable decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversing dismissal and reinstating the claims in their entirety (In re Allied Nev. Gold Corp. Sec. Litig., 743 F. App’x 887 (9th Cir. 2018) (summary order)).
Recently, Joe led the team responsible for recovering $50 million in litigation against BHP Billiton, an Australian-based mining company accused of failing to disclose significant safety problems at the Fundão iron-ore dam, in Brazil. Together with Brazilian mining company Vale S.A., BHP owned Samarco Mineração S.A., which operated the mining complex at which the Fundão dam was located. On November 5, 2015, the dam collapsed and unleashed a torrent of mining waste, resulting in the death of 19 people, the destruction of the town of Bento Rodrigues, and the decimation of the surrounding environment. Even today, this event is regarded as the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history. Joe and a team from Robbins Geller represented two institutional investors and an individual in defeating BHP’s motion to dismiss (In re BHP Billiton Ltd. Sec. Litig., 276 F. Supp. 3d 65 (S.D.N.Y. 2017)), and prosecuted and ultimately resolved the case on behalf of two sets of purchasers of American Depositary Shares (ADSs) trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The proposed settlement – which represents, by some estimates, almost 20% of total recoverable damages – is pending final approval, and the hearing is scheduled to take place in April 2019.
Before that, Joe represented a group of institutional investors in class action litigation against SAIC, Inc., a large defense contractor embroiled in a decade-long overbilling fraud against the City of New York. As alleged, improprieties on the City’s project caused its cost to balloon from $60 million at inception to over $600 million ten years later. Subsequently, the individual perpetrators of the scheme faced criminal prosecution, and a jury found them guilty. Ultimately, Joe and Doug Wilens, of Robbins Geller’s Appellate Practice Group, obtained a favorable decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Ind. Pub. Ret. Sys. v. SAIC, Inc., 818 F.3d 85 (2d Cir. 2016)), which reinstated the securities class case and broke new ground on the viability of securities fraud claims based on disclosure violations of Item 303 of SEC Regulation S-K – a developing area of the law, as exemplified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s later grant of certiorari to consider the issue (the case settled before argument). The proposed settlement is pending approval.
Joe also co-led the team responsible for recovering $85 million against The Blackstone Group, LLC on the eve of trial – a case that also tested the scope of omissions-based liability under Item 303 of SEC Regulation S-K, garnering a landmark decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals which revived the case (Litwin v. Blackstone Grp., L.P., 634 F.3d 706 (2d Cir. 2011)). The action, which alleged non-fraud securities claims on behalf of purchasers of common stock in Blackstone’s initial public offering in 2007, alleged that Blackstone failed to disclose information concerning adverse trends and uncertainties affecting its fund investments in the real estate segment and two private-equity portfolio companies – monoline bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Company (known as FGIC) and semiconductor manufacturer Freescale Semiconductor. The case resolved shortly before trial.
Other notable results in securities class actions include settlements involving the following companies: NBTY, Inc. ($16 million settlement); LaBranche & Co., Inc. ($13 million settlement); The Children’s Place Retail Stores, Inc. ($12 million settlement); Prestige Brands Holdings, Inc. ($11 million settlement); Tile Shop Holdings, Inc. ($9.5 million settlement); Jarden Corporation ($8 million settlement); Broadwind Energy Inc. ($4 million); and TNS, Inc. ($3.6 million settlement). Joe was also involved in defeating dismissal motions, in whole or in part, as reflected in the following decisions, among others: Darquea v. Jarden Corp., No. 06 CV 0722 (CLB), 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40247 (S.D.N.Y. May 31, 2007); Darquea v. Jarden Corp., No. 06 CV 0722 (CLB), 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65739 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 5, 2007); Hall v. Children’s Place Retail Stores, Inc., 580 F. Supp. 2d 212 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); Brasher v. Broadwind Energy, Inc., No. 11 CV 991, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55194 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 19, 2012); and Beaver Cty. Emps.’ Ret. Fund v. Tile Shop Holdings, Inc., 94 F. Supp. 3d 1035 (D. Minn. 2015).
Joe also has significant experience in prosecuting claims of corporate misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty. In expedited litigation in the Delaware Court of Chancery involving Mat Five LLC, a Citigroup Inc.-sponsored municipal bond hedge fund, his efforts paved the way for an “opt-out” settlement that offered investors more than $38 million in increased cash benefits. See Marie Raymond Revocable Tr. v. Mat Five LLC, No. 3843-VCL, 2008 Del. Ch. LEXIS 77 (Del. Ch. June 26, 2008) (granting expedited discovery); see also Marie Raymond Revocable Tr. v. Mat Five LLC, 980 A.2d 388, 396 (Del. Ch. 2008) (chronicling litigation in approving settlement), aff’d sub nom. Whitson v. Marie Raymond Revocable Tr., 976 A.2d 172 (Del. 2009). In litigation involving the $1 billion acquisition of Art Technology Group, Inc., Joe led the team responsible for securing a preliminary injunction of the transaction pending the disclosure of material information concerning the preexisting business relationship between the target’s financial advisor and the proposed acquirer, Oracle Corporation. See In re Art Tech. Grp., Inc. S’holders Litig., No. 5955-VCL, 2010 Del. Ch. LEXIS 257 (Del. Ch. Dec. 21, 2010) (preliminary injunction order).
Additionally, Joe led the Firm’s litigation teams responsible for achieving meaningful disclosure-based or other relief in class actions arising out of the acquisition of, among others: Aeroflex, Inc. (disclosure of key aspects of background of transaction); Capital Gold Corporation (additional disclosure, elimination of proposed acquirer’s “walk away” right, and 44% reduction in termination fee potentially payable to proposed acquirer, which resulted in a competing transaction that provided investors with more than $18.4 million in additional consideration); Delphi Financial Group, Inc. ($49 million settlement); Goodrich Corporation (substantial disclosure of potential conflicts); Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (disclosure of prospects); RCN Corporation (disclosure relating to business and potential conflicts); Sunoco Inc. (disclosure and certain employee outplacement assistance services); and The Topps Company, Inc. (disclosure regarding nature of transaction and potential executive conflicts). Joe’s efforts in the Aeroflex case prompted Justice Ira B. Warshawsky (Retired), of the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, to comment that Robbins Geller is among “the cream of the crop of class action business law and mergers and acquisition litigators,” further noting that “from a judicial point of view it was a pleasure working with them.” In re Aeroflex, Inc. S’holder Litig., No. 003943/07, Transcript at 25 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Nassau Cty. June 30, 2009).
Joe has served on the Law360 Securities Editorial Advisory Board since 2017. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, with honors, from Gettysburg College. Joe received his Juris Doctor degree from Hofstra University School of Law.
- Super Lawyer, 2014-2018
- Hofstra University School of Law, J.D., 2001
- Gettysburg College, B.A., 1998, Philosophy, with Honors
- New York
- United States Courts of Appeals for the Second and Seventh Circuits
- United States District Courts for the Northern, Western, Southern and Eastern Districts of New York
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
- September 13, 2018
- September 20, 2017
- August 31, 2017
- September 21, 2016
- August 8, 2016
- April 1, 2016
- September 16, 2015
- April 21, 2015
- March 5, 2015
- April 16, 2014
- October 16, 2013
- August 30, 2013
- Law360 Securities Editorial Advisory Board, 2017