Craig Varnen is a member of Irell & Manella LLP’s Executive Committee and vice chair of its Litigation group. Although he has represented clients in a broad range of complex commercial disputes and internal investigations, Craig primarily focuses on securities litigation, serving as the director of the firm's Securities Litigation practice. This includes the defense of class actions, with an 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.
Craig’s securities litigation practice also covers parallel proceedings involving SEC enforcement actions, corporate investigations and shareholder class actions and derivative claims. He has a leadership position in the firm's Class Action Defense practice and has successfully litigated many different types of class action lawsuits, including consumer class actions. Additionally, Craig has 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.
Craig has spoken on a variety of topics relating to securities litigation.
- Defended, including acting as lead counsel in a 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.)
- Defended 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.
- Defended 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.
- Defended one of the country's largest cable operators in a complex securities class action lawsuit and government investigations relating to accounting and reporting practices.
- Defended a regional bank and its board of directors in a complex class action litigation resulting from a $851 million business combination with another bank.
- Defended 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.
- Defended 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.
- Defended a technology company in a complex securities class action lawsuit resulting from its $2 billion acquisition of a competing company.
- Defended one of the nation's preeminent private wealth managers in a FINRA arbitration.
- Prosecuted 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.
Honors & Awards
- Recognized as a leading practitioner in securities litigation in Chambers USA
- Named to the Southern California Super Lawyers list in the area of business litigation (2012-2018)
- Named to the Southern California Rising Stars list
- "Litigation Update: Supreme Court Limits Where Companies Can Be Sued," Marsh Insights (July 2017)
University of California, Berkeley School of Law (J.D., 1993); Order of the Coif; Editor, California Law Review
University of California, San Diego (B.A., Economics, 1990), summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa
- California, 1994
- U.S. District Court for the Central and Northern Districts of California
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- Hon. Cynthia Holcomb, Hall of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit