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Kirby McInerney’s Andrew McNeela Named Law360 Rising Star

03/13/2013 | Law360
By Jess Davis

Standout Kirby McInerney LLP partner Andrew McNeela has helped secure more than $830 million in settlements in securities fraud class actions in the last 18 months alone, landing him a spot among Law360’s five class action rising stars under 40.

McNeela, 39, joined the firm’s New York office as a partner in 2008, where he has played a leading role in some of the largest securities settlements to come out of the subprime mortgage crisis, landing high-dollar settlements and high-profile legal rulings.

Kirby McInerney management commitee member Dan Hume says McNeela acted like a senior litigator even when he joined the firm in his mid-30s and that his work ethic and ownership of each matter he’s working on make him a go-to partner.

“When we hired Andrew, we were looking for someone to come in at a senior level who could hit the ground running and handle all aspects of a complex litigation,” Hume said. “Not that many people can do it and fewer people can do it well, but Andrew has been that guy.”

In his banner work at the firm, McNeela played a key role in a class action against Citigroup Inc. that in August secured a $590 million settlement for claims the bank duped investors about its risky exposure to collateralized debt obligations. Plaintiffs alleged Citigroup and its top brass made repeated misstatements and omissions about the CDO holdings in 2007 and 2008, which then led to a massive stock loss when the claims were disclosed.

And a year earlier, in August 2011, he helped secure a $168 million settlement for New York’s pension fund in a class action that accused National City Corp. of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage loans behind securities and hiding the total amount of its subprime loans. That was quickly followed by a December 2011 settlement with Wells Fargo & Co., which paid $75 million to end a class action that alleged Wachovia Corp. misrepresented the quality of its mortgages between 2006 and 2008.

“These cases have an important policing function against corporate malfeasance,” McNeela said.

McNeela is currently representing a class of Singapore-based investors who say Morgan Stanley was wrongly enriched by a CDO swap that rendered $155 million worth of notes issued by Pinnacle Performance Ltd. nearly worthless.

McNeela came to Kirby McInerney from a five-year stint at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which he said gave him invaluable experience in the courtroom. He argued more than 20 cases before the Second Circuit, all while learning from senior attorneys at the U.S. attorney’s office who helped improve his work.

He likes class action work because it gives him the chance to test his mettle against top-notch defense attorneys who he can learn something from, whether or not they best him, he said.

“The nature of the beast is, you’ll go up against the biggest and best defense firms,” McNeela said. “That’s where I find the enjoyment in the work: being able to do well out there against the people who are very good.”