Phillip J. Eskenazi

Partner

Los Angeles
T +1.310.442.8836
F +1.310.820.8859

Overview

Phil Eskenazi is a trial lawyer who focuses on complex business and securities litigation and class action defense. He represents clients in a wide range of industries, including retail, consumer products, manufacturing and professional services. He also has particular experience defending accounting firms on a broad spectrum of accountant liability issues.

Phil has served as lead counsel in more than 200 class actions involving employee or consumer claims. He also has an active trial practice, having been lead counsel in several notable trial victories, some of which have been noted in the Daily Journal and the National Law Journal.

Experience

Representative Trial Experience

  • Lead trial counsel in defense of a Silicon Valley software executive in an SEC enforcement action for securities and accounting fraud. The SEC alleged that the defendant engaged in insider trading, caused the company to improperly recognize tens of millions of dollars in revenue and was ultimately responsible for a 75% stock drop when the company restated its financials. The jury found in favor of the defendant and the case was recognized by the Daily Journal, California’s leading legal publication, in its annual listing of the top ten defense verdicts.
  • Lead trial counsel in defense of a national accounting firm against claims brought by a group of defrauded investors seeking to hold the accountants liable for investment losses of approximately $20 million plus punitive damages based on tax work performed for the alleged fraudulent entity and perpetrator of the fraud. The jury found in favor of the accounting firm and the case was recognized by the Daily Journal in its annual listing of the top ten defense verdicts.
  • Lead trial counsel in defense of a national CPA firm against claims for fraud and negligent misrepresentation by a group of broker-dealers seeking more than $100 million for being allegedly victimized by the firm’s role in a $2 billion Ponzi scheme. After defeating several claims on summary judgment, the remainder proceeded to trial, starting with a multiday evidentiary hearing on a motion to strike the broker-dealers’ damages expert and corresponding damages claims. The Court granted the motion, and with no damages expert for trial, the broker-dealers then settled on confidential terms.
  • Trial counsel for a major aerospace company against claims of fraud in the development of a weapons system, in the first case that the federal government tried before a jury under the False Claims Act after the Act was amended to make it easier for the government to prevail. The underlying allegations were initially featured on 60 Minutes. After a three-month trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant on all claims. The National Law Journal listed the case in its annual listing of the top defense verdicts in the country.

Representative Securities and Accountant Liability Litigation

  • Represented clients in a broad range of securities and corporate litigation, including shareholder disputes, fiduciary duty claims and financial reporting issues.
  • Led defense of various corporations, officers and directors in SEC investigations and enforcement actions, as well as private securities fraud suits and derivative actions.
  • Led defense of officer of a Fortune 500 company against claims of insider trading under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act.
  • Led defense of a majority shareholder of privately held company against claims of shareholder oppression by minority shareholders.
  • Led defense of numerous accountant liability claims arising out of audit, attest and tax engagements, including claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation and malpractice.
  • Led defense of audit malpractice claim brought by a California municipality against a national CPA firm. 

Representative Consumer Class Actions

  • Led defense of a home improvement retailer in nationwide class action alleging the sale of laminate flooring that emitted unlawful levels of formaldehyde gas. Individual settlement after dismissing class claims.
  • Led defense for a national retailer in a nationwide class action alleging that standard size bags of mulch were “under-filled” and contained less product than represented on the bag. Individual settlement after defeating class certification.
  • Led defense of a global appliance manufacturer in a class action alleging that over 300,000 consumers purchased defective washing machines that had a propensity to overflow. Defeated class certification.
  • Led defense of a global telecommunications provider in a class action alleging unlawful overcharges on long-distance calls. Prevailed at trial on a motion for nonsuit.
  • Led defense of a national supermarket chain in a California class action alleging the client and other leading retail pharmacies unlawfully assessed sales tax reimbursement on non-taxable items. After prevailing on the meaning of the applicable tax regulations following years of litigation, the defendants successfully argued that consumers could not state claims under California’s consumer protection laws based on the alleged overcharging of sales tax. The judgment was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal and ultimately the California Supreme Court.
  • Defended a multinational bank in a series of class actions wherein the plaintiffs sought to recover over $200 million on behalf of depositors who were allegedly victimized by the bank’s role in a Ponzi scheme. Prevailed on motions to dismiss; affirmed by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Defended a leading homebuilder in a nationwide class action alleging that the homebuilder engaged in fraudulent business and advertising practices related to its marketing and sale of new homes. Prevailed on a motion to dismiss; affirmed by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Defended multiple food and beverage companies in alleged false and misleading advertising claims, including product labels and packaging.

Representative Wage and Hour Class Actions

  • Led defense of a national accounting firm in a class action alleging its non-licensed associates were misclassified as exempt employees. Defeated class certification; order affirmed by California Court of Appeal in a published opinion.
  • Led defense of a national retailer in a series of statewide class actions alleging tens of thousands of independent contractors were misclassified. Defeated class certification in four states and secured one statewide court approved settlement.
  • Led defense of a national retailer in a class action alleging that over 55,000 employees work “off-the-clock”. Resulted in court approved settlement.
  • Led defense of an insurance company in a class action challenging the legality of its vacation policy. Prevailed on motion for summary judgment.
  • Led defense of a Fortune 50 retail company in multiple overlapping PAGA actions alleging misclassification of assistant managers. After successfully moving to coordinate and then stay the follow-on cases, secured a favorable settlement of the lead action that disposed of all subsequent actions and that obtained court approval over various objections.
  • Led defense of a major retail brand in class and PAGA claims on behalf of 37,000 employees seeking “separate rest break pay” under California law. Prevailed on motion for summary adjudication.

Representative Commercial Litigation Matters

  • Lead trial counsel of a global telecommunications provider in a multimillion-dollar contractual dispute with a telemarketing company. One-week bench trial in federal court; judgment affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Lead trial counsel in defense of an international retailer against claims for breach of contract and various business torts seeking more than $12 million and arising out of a private label credit card program for the retailer’s Mexican subsidiary. On the eve of trial, the court granted a motion in limine to preclude plaintiff’s witnesses from testifying as to plaintiff’s damages on the ground that they lacked the requisite competence to support the damages model. Having no other admissible evidence of damage in support of its claims, the court entered judgment in favor of the defendant, which was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
  • Represented Fortune 50 company in multibillion-dollar valuation proceeding arising out of termination of Australian joint venture.
  • Trial counsel in defense of a memory module manufacturer in claims for misappropriation of trade secrets and fraud arising out of a failed acquisition involving two competitors. Five-week jury trial in California state court.
  • Trial counsel for a nationwide lender against claims for fraudulent lending practices. Settled during a jury trial in California state court.
  • Led prosecution of misappropriation of trade secrets claim on behalf of a gaming company against a competitor. Obtained judgment that was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal.
  • Lead trial counsel for an insurance brokerage firm enforcing a restrictive covenant against a former employee and a competitor brokerage firm. Two-week jury trial in California state court.

Recognitions and Memberships

Recognitions

  • Daily Journal 
    • Top 20 Attorneys under 40 in California (2006)
    • Top 10 Defense Verdicts in California in 2004: Lead trial counsel 
    • Top 10 Defense Verdicts in California in 2008: Lead trial counsel
  • National Law Journal: Top 10 Defense Verdicts in the U.S. in 1996: Trial counsel
  • Southern California Super Lawyer (2006 to 2018)

Memberships

  • Los Angeles County Bar Association
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers
  • American Bar Association

Admissions

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of California
  • California

Education

  • J.D., University of California, Hastings College of Law, 1992, cum laude
  • B.S., Business Administration (Accounting emphasis), University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, 1988