David K. Willingham

"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."
-Thomas Jefferson

David K. Willingham specializes in white collar criminal defense and complex litigation, and is Co-chair of the firm’s White Collar Crime and Corporate Compliance practice group. He is an expert trial lawyer who recently earned a $34 million judgment following a lengthy and hotly contested arbitration hearing on behalf of one of the firms corporate clients. In addition, Mr. Willingham was recognized in January 2010 by the state’s leading legal newspaper, the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal Corporation, as one of the Top 20 Lawyers Under 40 in California.

Mr. Willingham was the Deputy Chief of the Major Frauds Section of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California before joining the firm, and served as an Assistant United States Attorney from 2001 - 2007. As an attorney for the Department of Justice, he was primarily focused on the prosecution of corporate entities and investment frauds, and was also responsible for oversight of the sub-section prosecuting health care fraud matters. Since his return to private practice at Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, Mr. Willingham has represented numerous individuals and entities facing governmental investigations and other complex litigation matters.

Mr. Willingham has particular expertise in dealing with the high profile case, having prosecuted and defended many matters of public interest. He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience in the courtroom. Mr. Willingham has handled numerous parallel investigations with the SEC and other regulatory bodies. He has also handled several successful appeals that he argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the United States.

Mr. Willingham is also active in the legal community. He currently serves as the Co-Chair of the ABA’s National Committee on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He also previously served on the ABA’s Securities Fraud Committee and was also the Chair of the ABA’s White Collar Crime Committee for Southern California. In addition, he has been elected to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association of Los Angeles. Mr. Willingham was also selected to sit on the ABA’s national task force regarding Upjohn Co. v. United States, a working group tasked with revamping the processes utilized by attorneys nationwide during internal investigations.

Mr. Willingham is a graduate of the University of Southern California Law School, and received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Los Angeles. He is a frequent lecturer on white collar criminal issues. Mr. Willingham has achieved an "AV Preeminent" rating from Martindale Hubbell, and been recognized by numerous publications as a go-to lawyer for white collar criminal defense matters, including being continuously honored as a “Southern California Rising Star” by the publishers of Los Angeles magazine and Law and Politics magazine, which recently ran a feature article on him in their July 2010 issue. Mr. Willingham is also listed in Corporate Counsel magazine and Best Lawyer's Annual Guide to Criminal Defense Law.

Representative Cases

 In an engagement of national interest, Mr. Willingham and Chris Caldwell successfully defended the former President and Chief Operating Officer of America’s largest home mortgage lender in connection with the SEC’s investigation into the collapse of the company. At the same time, Mr. Willingham currently represents and has successfully defended the client in litigation related to the collapse of the company throughout the United States, including actions under ERISA, derivative suits, and several other related matters.

 Following a lengthy and hotly contested arbitration hearing before JAMS, Mr. Willingham and Robyn Crowther earned a Final Arbitration Award of more than $34 million in a case that involved two large, multinational corporations. In this high stakes litigation, the trial team convinced the JAMS arbitrator to award 100 percent of the damages, fees and costs they requested on behalf of their client at the arbitration.

 In a highly publicized investigation by the Department of Justice and others under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Mr. Willingham represents a senior executive of a multi-national corporation faced with intensive scrutiny for conduct occurring in several overseas jurisdictions.

 In a case that garnered an intense national media focus, Mr. Willingham lead the defense of the individual charged with taking clandestine video of Erin Andrews, an international media figure and sports reporter for ESPN.

 Mr. Willingham represented the Honorable Michael Chertoff, former head of the Department of Homeland Security, and successfully gained dismissal of a civil suit attempting to hold him personally liable for conduct that occurred under his tenure.

 In a Mortgage Backed Securities (“MBS”) investigation conducted by the SEC, Mr. Willingham represented an officer of an entity who was accused of fraudulent misrepresentation in connection with the sale of MBS to investors. Mr. Willingham persuaded the SEC to terminate their investigation of the client, and no charges were brought against him or the entity.

 In a corporate securities fraud case, Mr. Willingham represents a former executive of a company with more than $1 billion a year in revenue against unfounded allegations that he and others obstructed an internal investigation into alleged inappropriate revenue recognition practices at the company.

 In a federal criminal investigation emanating out of Detroit, Mr. Willingham represented the former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of an entity accused of illegally operating as a conduit for campaign contributions in a high profile state-wide campaign. The U.S. Attorney’s Office informed the firm that it would indict the client for his alleged conduct. However, following an innovative defense presentation by Mr. Willingham, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to bring charges against the client.

 Mr. Willingham represents a Los Angeles business accused by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of participating in a scheme to launder funds. The government had seized without notice over $1 million from the business and its owners in connection with its investigation. To date, Mr. Willingham has persuaded the government to return well over half of the seized funds, and no charges have been brought against the business, its owners, or its employees.

 In a corporate securities fraud case, Mr. Willingham represents a former executive of a company with more than $1 billion a year in revenue against unfounded allegations that he and others obstructed an internal investigation into alleged inappropriate revenue recognition practices at the company.

 Mr. Willingham has represented several major corporations in connection with the internal investigation of criminal activity within each entity. Each representation has included counsel with regard to the referral of that activity for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement entities.

 Mr. Willingham represents an executive accused of insider trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission. During the course of a two-year investigation, Mr. Willingham presented the Commission with an innovative defense strategy that successfully ended the investigation without any action being brought against the client.

 In a corporate embezzlement case, Mr. Willingham was hired by an entity to bring an action against a former employee who had embezzled from the company. In less than one week, Mr. Willingham successfully recovered approximately $1 million for the client.

 In a high profile case, Mr. Willingham and Michael Proctor represented a Hasidic Rabbi charged with tax evasion, money laundering, and other offenses against the United States.

 In an environmental crimes investigation, Mr. Willingham represented the Captain of a large vessel in connection with unfounded allegations that log books on the vessel were falsified to hide evidence of an oil spill in waters near Los Angeles. Following a lengthy investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to bring charges against the client and his employer.

Mr. Willingham represents an individual accused of colluding with others to artificially inflate prices in a high profile investigation conducted by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in Washington D.C.

Mr. Willingham represents a sales executive accused of illegally exporting military parts to China in alleged violation of the Arms Export Control Act.

In a securities fraud prosecution, Mr. Willingham successfully convicted at trial a number of securities brokers involved in a scheme to artificially inflate the stock value of publicly traded companies for the benefit of themselves and their employer.

Mr. Willingham led the prosecution of the operators of a $250 million investment fraud that operated within the United States, Belize and Canada. Six defendants entered guilty pleas, including the former counsel to the Alberta, Canada parliament.

In an environmental crimes case, Mr. Willingham litigated environmental charges against an oil refining company in the Central District of California, and three of its employees who were involved in the illegal injection of wastewater produced during the refining process into the ground, in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Education and Honors

J.D. University of Southern California Law School, 1998
Samuel L. Williams Scholarship
Public Interest Law Foundation Pro Bono Award

B.A. University of California at Los Angeles, 1994
Degree awarded cum laude
Recipient, Chancellor’s Service Award

Professional Achievements

Member California State Bar; United States District Court for the Central District of California; United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, 2001 - 2007; Deputy Chief, Major Frauds Section, September 2005 - August 2007

Attorney, Lightfoot, Vandevelde, Sadowsky, Crouchley, Rutherford & Levine, 1998 - 2001

Member, State Bar of California, Client Security Fund Commission, since 2005

Member of the Board of Directors, Los Angeles Federal Bar Association, since 2006

Co-Chairperson, American Bar Association, West Coast White Collar Crime Committee, since 2006; Program Co-Chair, American Bar Association, West Coast White Collar Crime Committee, 2004 - 2006

President, Cutthroat Lawyers' Bar Association

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