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Gayle Klein is a principal in the New York Office. She focuses on business litigation, particularly including disputes over complex financial transactions, breaches of fiduciary duty, theft of trade secrets, and violations of non-competition agreements. She also has extensive experience defending against consumer class actions. Gayle regularly litigates against financial institutions and high-profile companies and is co-chair of the firm's financial products team. The firm’s banking and financial litigation practice is ranked “Tier 1” both nationally and in New York City by U.S. News – Best Lawyers in the 2016 edition of Best Law FirmsThe Wall Street Journal has also recognized McKool Smith as one of the premier firms in the country taking on this kind of work.  

Gayle is recognized for commercial litigation in New York by Chambers USA, ranked a New York "Litigation Star" and one of the "Top 250 Women in Litigation" nationally by Benchmark Litigation, and has been named among the "500 Best Lawyers in the United States" for the past three years by Lawdragon. She is licensed to practice and has practiced law as a resident in New York, California, and Texas.

Efficient discovery and rigorous trial preparation are the hallmarks of Gayle's practice philosophy. Gayle first seeks to understand her clients' ultimate goals and then designs case strategy around those goals. Her precise focus helps companies get out of litigation what is best for their businesses. Gayle's confidence in her team's abilities often is demonstrated through the use of success-based fee engagements for both plaintiffs and defendants. 


Representative Matters

Complex financial transactions:

  • Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities. Lead counsel and counsel for multiple hedge funds and institutional investors in residential mortgage-backed securities put-back litigation.
  • Lavigny Holdings Ltd. Lead counsel in New York state court for three companies seeking to recover in excess of $300 million in damages for Coller Capital's repudiation of its agreements to sell the firm's clients three patent portfolios alleged to be worth in excess of $1 billion.
  • National Home Builders. Served as lead counsel for defendants KB Home, Lennar, Meritage Homes, Pulte Homes, Ryland, and Toll Brothers in a case brought by Wachovia Bank in New York. In its suit, Wachovia claimed the defendants and their subsidiaries breached their duties to construct a master planned community in Las Vegas, Nevada, under various “completion guaranties” and sought to recover more than $500 million. Dealing with fewer than 15 published opinions relating to completion guaranties and important legal issues that never before had been decided, Gayle’s team created leverage that allowed her clients to settle the matter on highly favorable terms.
  • Highland Capital. Won a motion to dismiss all causes of action against Highland Capital relating to a complex financial transaction to purchase a cable company. Highland Capital’s subsidiary entered into a deal to purchase James Cable, and when the deal did not close, James Cable alleged that Highland Capital had orally agreed to fund the transaction, but, instead, prevented it from consummating. In a lengthy opinion, the court adopted McKool Smith’s arguments that Highland Capital had no duty to fund the deal and that it cannot be liable for any breach of contract by its subsidiary.
  • Smith Electric Vehicles US. Served as lead counsel for the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial electric vehicles with zero emissions in a multimillion-dollar dispute with its investment bankers, Jefferies & Co. Based upon Smith Electric's stated business goals, Gayle was able to design a case strategy that allowed Smith Electric to resolve the dispute on favorable terms before even having to file an answer to the complaint.

Consumer class actions:

  • Lennox International. Represented several affiliates of Lennox International—one of the world’s leading providers of climate control solutions for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration—in two consumer class actions in California federal and state court challenging the safety of Lennox’s glass-front fireplaces and seeking nearly $1 billion in damages. The cases settled on terms providing that Lennox will make no financial payment to the class. McKool Smith was named Lennox’s 2010 “Law Firm of the Year” based on outstanding service and achievement in litigation. When asked about the representation, John Torres, chief legal officer of Lennox International, said, “McKool Smith played a critical role in obtaining a favorable resolution for us in the defense of a complex national class action. Their strategic thinking, business-oriented legal advice, and intensely focused approach earned them our ‘Law Firm of the Year’ recognition.”
  • Airborne Health Inc. Served as counsel for this dietary supplement company relating to its advertising claims, including in a nationwide class action consumer protection/false advertising case and administrative inquiries by the Federal Trade Commission and multiple state attorneys general. The representation concluded with successful global settlements in all matters.

Restrictive covenants:

  • North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. In the current economic climate, healthcare plays a major role, and a hospital’s cadre of physicians often is one of its greatest assets. Gayle regularly provides advice and counseling to the North Shore-LIJ Health System—the largest hospital system in the greater New York area—relating to its recruitment of physicians who have been alleged to be subject to covenants not to compete and non-solicitation agreements.
  • American Airlines. Served as lead counsel for plaintiff American Airlines when its head of sales for the New York region suddenly resigned to join Delta Airlines in the identical position. Based upon evidence that the employee downloaded and copied certain information as he was leaving, Gayle secured a three-week temporary restraining order precluding the employee from working for American’s competitor while the court sorted through the legal issues.
  • United HealthGroup Incorporated. Represented this Fortune 100 company in a variety of matters as both plaintiff and defendant. Notable representations include lawsuits against former employees (both with and without non-compete agreements) seeking to restrain their competitive activities with competitors and nationwide class actions relating to payment of out-of-network reimbursements. Additionally, Gayle represented the company in its stock option backdating matter, during which time she was seconded on sight in what amounted to an executive role.

Other complex litigation:

  • Finmeccanica. Served as counsel for Finmeccanica, an Italian company, in its claims that General Motors misappropriated Finmecannica’s hybrid and electric wheel drive motor technology and then improperly filed for an American patent claiming the technology as its own. Reached a highly favorable settlement on the eve of trial.
  • Bankruptcy liquidating trustee for Excite@Home.  Served as counsel for the plaintiff bankruptcy trustee (for the company’s claims) in a misappropriation of trade secrets (high-speed internet network design) and breach of fiduciary duty case. Reached a highly favorable settlement on the eve of trial.
  • Bertlesmann AG. Successfully sought a stay and appeal in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a trial court’s order to produce all lawyer-client communications relating to a $50 million loan.
  • Hughes Electronics. Served as counsel for Hughes Electronics in a purchase price adjustment arbitration against Boeing resulting from the sale of Hughes’ satellite business to Boeing. Boeing sought adjustments of over $650 million in the arbitration, which was conducted by KPMG LLP.


Rankings & Honors

  • Ranked by Chambers USA as a leading lawyer in New York for Litigation: Securities – Institutional Plaintiffs matters and for Commercial Litigation. The 2019 edition notes that she is “very zealous in advocating for her clients." (2016-2019)
  • Recognized among the "Best Lawyers In America" for Commercial Litigation, 2020
  • Recognized among Lawdragon's 500 Leading Plaintiff Financial Lawyers (2019)
  • Named among the “500 Best Lawyers in the United States” by Lawdragon, 2013-2017
  • Recognized as one of the "Top 250 Women in Litigation" by Benchmark Litigation, 2016-2017, 2019
  • Ranked as a New York "Litigation Star" by Benchmark Litigation, 2015-2019
  • Profiled in Chambers USA "Women in Law," 2012
  • Listed in Super Lawyers for Business Litigation, 2014-2018
  • Named a fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America based upon effectiveness and accomplishment in litigation and trial work, along with an ethical reputation, 2016


Community & Professional Activities

  • Member of the Executive Committee, Madison Square Park Conservancy Board of Trustees
  • Past president and current member of her Condominium Association's Board of Managers
  • Keeton fellow, University of Texas School of Law 
  • Co-Chair, Fifteenth Reunion of the University of Texas School of Law Class of 1996

Media & Events



J.D., with honors, The University of Texas School of Law, 1996

  • Teaching Quizmaster
  • Friar Society
  • Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics Council
  • Chancellor’s Student Advisory Board
  • Chair, Cabinet of College Councils

B.S., with high honors and special honors, The University of Texas, 1993

  • Top graduate in Advertising Department
  • Senior Fellows Honor Program
  • Robert & Virginia Pulver Scholarship in Advertising
  • Dean’s List
  • Student Body Treasurer
  • Cactus Goodfellow

Court Admissions

  • States of New York, Texas and California
  • The U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York
  • The U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Texas
  • The U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Southern, Central, and Districts of California
  • The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second and Ninth Circuits

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association
  • State of New York
  • State Bar of Texas
  • State Bar of California
  • Texas Bar Foundation
  • New York City Bar Association
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