Craig Varnen is a member of Irell & Manella LLP’s Executive Committee and vice chair of its Litigation group. He is an experienced trial attorney who has represented clients in a broad range of complex, “bet the company” commercial disputes. Chair of the firm’s Securities Litigation practice and recognized as a leading practitioner in the field by Chambers USA, Craig has decades of experience representing public companies and their officers/directors in the defense of federal and state securities class actions, derivative actions and regulatory proceedings. These cases often involve claims related to public offerings, accounting and disclosure practices, mergers and acquisitions, insider trading, or allegations of breaches of fiduciary duties. Craig is also regularly retained to conduct high-profile internal investigations, as well as advise boards and officers on fiduciary duty issues.
Craig has a leadership position in the firm's Class Action Defense practice and has successfully litigated many different types of class action lawsuits, including a wide variety of consumer class actions. He also has deep experience litigating cases involving trade secrets and employee departures, and counsels clients in employment contract-related matters.
Craig has spoken on a variety of topics relating to securities litigation, and is listed as pre-approved panel counsel for the major D&O insurance carriers.
He serves on the board of trustees of the Curtis School.
- Defended, including acting as lead counsel in a successful two-week trial, a publicly traded Fortune 500 company in a complex securities class action litigation. (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, derivative and regulatory lawsuits arising from the demise of the mortgage banking industry.
- Defended a national bank in a securities fraud lawsuit relating to multiple auto loan backed securitizations.
- Defended the CFO of a Fortune 500 company in a high-profile securities fraud class action relating to alleged failures to disclose adverse information.
- Defended the world’s largest event promoter/venue operator in a high-profile consumer class action lawsuit.
- Defended multiple companies in lawsuits involving the theft of trade secrets by former employees.
- Defended one of the country's largest cable operators in complex securities class action and derivative lawsuits 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 an $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 (2012-2020)
- Named to the Southern California Rising Stars list (2004-2006, 2008)
- "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