In over twenty-five years of practice Steven N. Williams has handled successfully and with distinction all aspects of litigation and trial in state and federal courts and in private arbitration.
Steve has played a lead role in many of the most prominent antitrust class cases litigated in the United States over the last decade, including In re Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation, In re Static Random Access Memory Litigation, Precision Associates v. Panalpina World Transport, and In re Transpacific Air Transportation Litigation. Steve has helped recover more than $2 billion and has been responsible for new law including ground-breaking decisions narrowing the scope of the Filed Rate Doctrine and permitting civil damage claims in E. & J. Gallo Winery v. EnCana Corp., 503 F.3d 1027 (2007) and Wortman v. All Nippon Airways, 854 F.3d 606 (2017), and a ruling that “umbrella damages” are available under California state law. County of San Mateo v. CSL, Ltd., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116342 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 20, 2014).
Steve, previously a long-time partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, practices in the fields of litigation, trial, and client counseling, with an emphasis on representation of civil plaintiffs in antitrust matters. He has served in leadership positions in more than a dozen antitrust class cases throughout the United States. During his career, he has represented claimants in cases involving memory chips, pharmaceuticals, air passenger transportation, air cargo transportation, cathode ray tubes, capacitors, resistors, flash memory, lithium ion batteries, financial products and services, poultry, and water. He has been appointed to represent classes, and in non-class cases he has represented the Chief Justice of California, the Judicial Council of California, Consumers Union of United States, Inc., the United Farm Workers, Dolores Huerta, public pension funds, private investment funds, many cities and counties of California, public utilities including water districts, and individual consumers.
RECENT AND CURRENT LITIGATION MATTERS include:
- Representing a class alleging that Nestlé Waters of North America has been misleading consumers for years by falsely claiming that its “Poland Spring” water is natural spring water;
- Leading a class action alleging that Pfizer and Mylan—manufacturer and distributor of the EpiPen, respectively—have unlawfully created and abused a monopoly for the essential, life-saving product;
- Inductors Price-Fixing Cartel Litigation and Investigation: The firm is litigating and investigating an alleged anticompetitive conspiracy involving manufacturers of inductors, a widely-used passive electronic component. The investigation indicates, and the complaint alleges, that inductor manufacturers unlawfully agreed to fix the price of inductors shipped or invoiced to U.S. purchasers;
- Represented (as co-lead counsel) End-Payor Plaintiffs against automotive parts manufacturers in what has been called the largest antitrust conspiracy in history in terms of its impact on consumers. The case resulted in settlements in excess of $1.25 billion, perhaps the largest recovery ever in an indirect purchaser case;
- Represented (as co-lead counsel) direct purchasers on behalf of businesses and consumers of freight forwarding and logistic services alleging a world-wide conspiracy to fix prices for the shipment of goods. The case involved complex, overlapping conspiracies and discovery throughout the world. Ultimately, the class recovered almost $400 million dollars;Represented direct purchasers in an action against electronic component manufacturers for allegedly price fixing optical disk drive products;
- Represented (as co-lead counsel) a class alleging antitrust violations in the market for worldwide passenger air transportation into and out of seven Asian nations. This case led to a ground-breaking Ninth Circuit decision that civil damage claims were not barred by the Filed Rate Doctrine. Wortman v. All Nippon Airways, 854 F.3d 606 (2017). Wortman further developed the law established in E. & J. Gallo Winery v. EnCana, 503 F.3d 1027 (2007), which Steve briefed and argued to the Ninth Circuit;
- Represented (as lead counsel) class alleging antitrust violations in the market for SRAM. This action recovered overcharges to a nationwide class of consumers of SRAM memory chips, which were subject to concerted price-fixing by their manufacturers;
- Represented (as lead counsel) class alleging antitrust violations in the market for Flash memory. This action, similar to the SRAM action, sought to recover overcharges to a nationwide class of consumers of flash memory, such as memory sticks and cards routinely used to store and transfer data;
- Represented (as co-lead counsel) class alleging antitrust violations in the market for passenger air transportation between the U.S. and the U.K. This action led to a settlement valued at over $200 million for passengers overcharged by a price-fixing conspiracy involving air travel between the U.S. and London, England;
- Represented former Chief Justice of California Ronald M. George, California Judicial Council, and its members in an action brought by the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ challenging California’s Ethics Rules for Neutral Arbitrators. The New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ alleged that California’s Ethics Rules for Neutral Arbitrators were preempted by federal law;
- Represented California State Teachers’ Retirement System in separate actions recovering losses suffered due to securities fraud by AOL/Time Warner and Qwest. In these actions, California’s public school teachers recovered over $150 million in losses to their pension and retirement funds;
- Represented City of Oakland, California in defense of anti-predatory lending ordinance challenged by American Financial Services Association on preemption grounds. In this action, lobbyists for the banking industry challenged an ordinance passed by the City of Oakland to regulate certain predatory lending practices that were believed to cause damage to the City of Oakland and its residents. The ordinance was successfully defended at the trial court level and in a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals. Ultimately, in a 4-3 decision (with the majority opinion written by Justice Janice Rogers Brown), the decision of the Court of Appeals was reversed. Chief Justice George wrote a dissent expressing his view that the ordinance was not preempted;
- Represented residents of Avila Beach, California in action to redress damage caused by pollution throughout Avila Beach. In this action, Union Oil Company of California had permitted over 400,000 gallons of refined petroleum products to pollute the small seaside town of Avila Beach. The action led to the complete remediation and restoration of the town;
- Represented Consumers Union of United States, Inc. (publisher of Consumer Reports) in defense of defamation/product disparagement actions brought by Suzuki, Isuzu, and Sharper Image. In each of these actions, the manufacturers sought to silence Consumers Union and inhibit its free speech right to warn consumers of dangerous and ineffective products. In each action, Consumers Union’s free speech rights were vindicated. Steve’s accomplishments in the Suzuki and Isuzu cases resulted in being a “Trial Lawyers for Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year” Finalist in 2000;
- Represented residents of Santa Maria, California, whose community was devastated as a result of oilfield pollution left behind by numerous multinational oil companies, including Unocal, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Kerr-McGee. These actions have enabled residents to move to new homes, leaving behind their polluted neighborhood;
- Represented Cambria Community Services District, the sole water provider for the small coastside town of Cambria, in an action against Chevron to recover damages for harm caused when community water supplies were polluted with MTBE. The recovery permitted Cambria to provide replacement water for the community; and
- Represented class of mortgage borrowers from Ameriquest challenging Ameriquest’s business practices. This action uncovered Ameriquest’s mortgage scheme which was based upon intentionally placing borrowers in mortgages that Ameriquest knew they could not afford. Class-wide relief was obtained, including business practice changes.
Steve has written and lectured on various topics including antitrust, multidistrict litigation, complex litigation, electronic discovery, MTBE litigation, regulatory developments in environmental law, contractual issues in environmental cleanups, and habeas corpus. He has spoken at many venues, including the American Bar Association Antitrust Section Spring Meeting, the California State Bar Antitrust, UCL and Privacy Section, the New York State Bar Association Antitrust Section, and the Consumer Attorneys of California. He is the author or co-author of several publications, including: “A Practitioner’s Perspective: Why The Supreme Court Should Not Overturn Illinois Brick in Apple v. Pepper,” Competition, The Journal of the Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law Section of the California Lawyers Association; “Should United States Courts Defer to Foreign Governments?,” Chambers and Partners’s Cartels 2019 global practice guide; “‘Apple v. Pepper’ Will Enhance Private Antitrust Enforcement by Confirming Bright-Line Rule of ‘Illinois Brick,’” May 2019 The Recorder (with firm Senior Associate Jiamie Chen); “‘Pepper’ as a Back Door to ‘Illinois Brick’ (and ‘ARC America’)?” and “Should ‘Hanover Shoe’ and ‘Illinois Brick’ Be Discarded?,” August 2018 The Recorder (with firm Senior Associate Jiamie Chen); Antitrust Law Developments (Eighth), American Bar Association; “Federal and State Class Antitrust Actions Should Not Be Tried in a Single Trial,” The Journal of the Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law Section of the State Bar of California, Fall 2014; “Recoveries for Violations of Federal and California Antitrust Statutes Should Not Be Apportioned,” Competition, Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law Section, California State Bar, Fall 2014; “Antitrust Whistleblowers Get Clarity,” Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal, 2013; “Courts Rein in the Cost of E-Discovery When Lawyers and Their Clients Won’t,” California Lawyer, April 2012; and California’s 2009 E-Discovery Laws, Text and Analysis, LexisNexis 2009.
Steve was appointed by the Consumer Attorneys of California as a member of the California Discovery Subcommittee for revision of California discovery rules and statutes relating to electronic discovery and electronically stored information, 2007-2008. He has given yearly presentations to CAOC on topics of civil discovery in California. He is currently in leadership for the American Bar Association Antitrust Section and is a member of the International Cartel Task Force, the Advisory Board of the American Antitrust Institute, and the Executive Committee of the Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws. He is an advisor to the Executive Committee of the California Lawyers Association Section on Antitrust, Unfair Competition Law, and Privacy Law, and was chair of the 2017 Golden State Antitrust Institute. He is a Board Member of Public Justice and past Chairman of the Board of Community Gatepath, an organization dedicated to serving the needs of developmentally disabled children and adults. And in 2018 he was recognized as an “Outstanding Volunteer” by the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Justice and Diversity Center.
Steve has received numerous professional accolades during his legal career. Chambers USA has ranked him 2015-2018 as a Band 1 or Band 2 attorney for “Antitrust: Mainly Plaintiff—California” and 2017-2018 as a Band 2 attorney for “Antitrust: Plaintiff—Nationwide.” He has been rated AV Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell since 2002. He has been designated 2005-2018 as a “Super Lawyer” and 2016-2018 as a “Top 100 Northern California Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters’s Super Lawyers publication. From 2014-2018, he has been ranked by Who’s Who Legal as one of the top plaintiffs’ attorneys worldwide via Who’s Who Legal: Competition, a publication of Who’s Who Legal and Global Competition Review. And, in 2018 he was selected and profiled by the California Daily Journal as one of thirty “Top Plaintiff Lawyers” in California.