New York Times; July 15, 2013
When Wall Street lawyers gathered at a conference in Orlando, Fla., during the 2008 financial crisis, one law firm posted an outsize picture of Sean Coffey’s head on the body of a wrestler, labeling him Public Enemy No. 1.
Five years later, Mr. Coffey’s role is reversed. Once famous for suing Wall Street — Mr. Coffey extracted $6.2 billion from big banks in the wake of WorldCom’s collapse — he is now defending a former Goldman Sachs trader, Fabrice Tourre, in one of the biggest actions stemming from the financial crisis.
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil case against Mr. Tourre went to trial on Monday in a federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, putting a spotlight on Mr. Coffey and a tightknit network of other legal players, many of whom are playing unusual roles in the case.
Mr. Coffey’s co-counsel is Pamela Chepiga, a former federal prosecutor who once played basketball with another diminutive lawyer, Mary Jo White, the chairwoman of the S.E.C. The defense team is facing off against the head of the S.E.C.’s trial unit, Matthew T. Martens, who typically supervises cases, but has never before led a jury trial at the S.E.C. (He is a friend of Mr. Coffey’s from private practice, though Mr. Martens temporarily unfriended Mr. Coffey on Facebook as a precautionary measure during the trial.) Rounding out the roster, the two sides will argue before Judge Katherine B. Forrest, a longtime corporate lawyer and relative newcomer to the bench who will face her biggest securities trial yet.
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