Education

  • University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall) (J.D., 1993), Order of the Coif; Editor of the California Law Review
  • University of California, San Diego (B.A., Economics, 1990), summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa

Craig Varnen is a litigation partner in the Los Angeles office of Irell & Manella LLP, where he is a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. Although he has represented clients in a broad range of complex commercial disputes and internal investigations, the primary focus of Mr. Varnen's practice has been securities litigation. This includes the defense of class actions, with emphasis on securities and shareholder claims against public corporations, and the defense of corporations and their boards of directors in "deal" lawsuits stemming from mergers and other business combinations. Mr. Varnen's securities litigation practice also includes parallel proceedings involving SEC enforcement actions and shareholder class actions and derivative claims. Mr. Varnen has also litigated a wide variety of business tort disputes, and has counseled numerous professionals, particularly in the investment banking and private equity fields, in employment contract related matters.

Mr. Varnen has spoken on a variety of topics relating to securities litigation.

In 2012-2016, Mr. Varnen was selected for inclusion in Los Angeles Magazine's Southern California "Super Lawyers" in business litigation. Previously, he was consistently selected for inclusion in Los Angeles Magazine's Southern California "Super Lawyer Rising Stars."

Mr. Varnen graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, San Diego, with a degree in Economics.  Mr. Varnen attended the University of California, Berkeley School of law (Boalt Hall) (J.D., 1993), where he graduated Order of the Coif and served as an Editor of the California Law Review.  Before joining Irell & Manella, Mr. Varnen served as a law clerk to the Honorable Cynthia Holcomb Hall of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Representative Matters

Mr. Varnen's recent engagements include the following:

  • Defense, including acting as lead counsel in an entirely successful two week trial, of a publicly traded Fortune 500 company in a complex merger litigation arising from its acquisition by way of mergers of several limited partnerships in which it served as the general partner. (See "Public Storage Defeats Shareholder Class Action" in the Los Angeles Business Journal and "Irell Locks Up Win for Public Storage" on Law.com.)
  • Defense of the former Chairman/CEO of Countrywide Financial Corporation in a series of securities fraud and regulatory lawsuits arising from the demise of the mortgage banking industry.
  • Defense of a chief executive officer and chief financial officer of a publicly traded television manufacturer in a complex securities class action lawsuit and related bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Defense of one of the country's largest cable operators in a complex securities class action lawsuit and government investigations relating to accounting and reporting practices.
  • Defense of a regional bank and its board of directors in a complex class action litigation resulting from a $851 million business combination with another bank.
  • Defense of one of the country's largest oil companies and its board of directors in a complex class action litigation resulting from its $18 billion merger with another oil company.
  • Defense of the chief financial officer of a publicly traded software company in a complex securities class action lawsuit and government investigation relating to accounting and reporting practices.
  • Defense of a technology company in a complex securities class action lawsuit resulting from its $2 billion acquisition of a competing company.
  • Defense of one of the nation's preeminent private wealth managers in a FINRA arbitration.
  • Prosecuting litigation on behalf of a municipal agency that was one of the largest investors in the Orange County Investment Pool against Wall Street securities professionals following the Pool's collapse due to its investment in complex derivative securities.
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Bar & Court Admissions

  • 1994, California
  • U.S. District Court, Central and Northern Districts of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit