J. Michael Hennigan is a founding principal of McKool Smith Hennigan. Michael specializes in the litigation and trial of complex commercial cases and has been lead counsel in more than 45 major jury trials in state and federal court. As lead trial counsel for plaintiffs, Michael has litigated judgments and settlements of more than $8 billion for his clients.
Michael is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and has been consistently identified in prominent legal publications as one of the country's top trial lawyers, including Chambers USA, Chambers Global, Who's Who in American Law, and The Best Lawyers in America. Chambers USA ranks him among the top litigators in California and the country, describing him as "the complete package" who is "highly regarded by many sources for his business litigation prowess." The publication also notes that he is a "classic trial lawyer" who is able to "see very well which elements will resonate and use the arguments to good effect."
Before entering private practice, Michael was a trial lawyer with the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice, as well as a lecturer in research and writing at the University of Arizona College of Law in 1973.
- Parmalat litigation. Pursued claims against Bank of America on behalf of institutional investors Prudential, Allstate, Aegon, Principal, and John Hancock, who had collectively sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in losses arising out of their purchases of Parmalat-backed securities in private placements agented by Bank of America. The cases, alleging violations of state blue sky laws and federal securities statutes, were settled on confidential terms.
- Sempra litigation. Represented Sempra Generation in connection with a series of challenges brought by the California Department of Water Resources to the multibillion-dollar long-term energy contract between Sempra and the Department executed in the wake of the California energy crisis of 2000-2001. In 2009, the team successfully defended Sempra in a jury trial in which the Department sought rescission of the multi-billion dollar energy contract. Following the four-week trial in San Diego Superior Court, the jury ruled in favor of Sempra on all claims. In two prior AAA arbitrations, Michael's team defeated the Department's efforts to rescind the energy contract. In the first arbitration, the panel ruled in Sempra's favor on most claims and awarded a fraction of the damages the Department had sought. n the second arbitration, which concerned energy deliveries from Sempra's power plant near Mexicali, Mexico, the panel rejected the Department's claims "in their entirety." In separate litigation related to the contract, the firm obtained for Sempra Energy an arbitration award rejecting Occidental’s claim for damages for Sempra's alleged breach of a partnership agreement.
- Enron litigation. Michael and his team of securities fraud litigators pursued claims against a number of Enron’s relationship banks on behalf of institutional investors Aegon, Principal, AIG, PIMCO, and Oaktree for nearly $1 billion in net principal losses arising out of their purchases of Enron-backed securities issued by special purpose entities in private placements, as well as Enron-related securities purchased in the open market. The cases, alleging violations of state blue sky laws and federal securities statutes, were settled on confidential terms.
- Oaktree Capital Management and Trust Company of the West. Represented plaintiffs in a securities fraud action against CIBC World Markets. After a four-week trial, the jury awarded his clients the full amount of economic damages Mr. Hennigan had requested in closing arguments.
- Orange County. Michael and his firm represented Orange County as lead litigation counsel in lawsuits filed against Merrill Lynch, numerous other broker-dealers and professionals retained by the County prior to the bankruptcy, including lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. Settlement recoveries in these cases included the largest litigation settlement ever recorded against a law firm, one of the largest ever against Wall Street, one of the largest ever against a major accounting firm, and collectively one of the largest recoveries for a single series of interrelated suits.
- Rabobank v. Royal Bank of Canada. Prosecuted fraud and other claims on behalf of Rabobank against Royal Bank of Canada, seeking to rescind in excess of $500 million in damages arising from transactions with Enron and Special Purpose Entities sponsored by Enron and Enron employees. This matter was settled on confidential terms.
- GATX/Airlog Co. v. Evergreen International. Tried and won a unanimous jury verdict for fraud and breach of contract on behalf of Evergreen International Airlines, an international airfreight company, in connection with three passenger planes that were defectively converted to cargo configuration by GATX. The dispute involved claimed damages to Evergreen of more than $150 million. Following the verdict, we settled the case on confidential terms with a substantial recovery to the client.
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Acts as lead counsel to the Archdiocese and has successfully settled over 500 separate cases alleging clergy misconduct.
Rankings & Honors
- Named the Best Lawyers real estate litigation "Lawyer of the Year" in Los Angeles, California (2019, 2016, and 2012)
- Recipient of the University of Arizona College of Law “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Honorees are selected by the law school’s faculty based on their distinguished and exemplary careers, contributions to the legal profession, support for public causes and law reform, and commitment to the pursuit of justice. (2017)
- Ranked in Chambers USA in California for Commercial Litigation. The 2021 edition describes him as "the finest trial lawyer I have ever seen."
- Ranked as a leading trial lawyer in the United States by Chambers Global
- Ranked by "Best Lawyers in America" as a leading lawyer in Litigation: Bet-the-Company, Commercial, Banking & Finance, Real Estate, and Securities, 2015-2017, 2020
- Named a "Local Litigation Star" by Benchmark Litigation, 2017-2020
- AV Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
- Listed in Southern California Super Lawyers, 2004-present
- Order of the Coif
- Note and comment editor, Arizona Law Review, 1969-1970
- Charles L. Strauss Award for Outstanding Student Contribution to the Arizona Law Review, 1969
- Ralph W. Aigler Award, Outstanding Student of the Class of 1970
- Prentiss Hall Tax Award, Outstanding Student of Tax, Class of 1970
Community & Professional Activities
- Lawyer representative, Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, 1993-1997
- Board of visitors, University of Arizona College of Law, 1976-1979 and 1990-present
- Board of directors, University of Arizona Law College Association, 1983-1985
- Trustee, Los Angeles County Bar Association
- Chair, Executive Committee, Litigation Section, Los Angeles County Bar Association, 1998
- Chair, Litigation Section, Los Angeles County Bar Association, 1998-1999
- Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers
- American Board of Trial Advocates, 1992-present
- American Law Institute, 1993-present
- Judicial Council Task Force on Complex Civil Litigation
Media & Events
- 20 McKool Smith principals recognized in the 2021 Edition of "Best Lawyers in America" and 11 attorneys recognized in "Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch"08.18.2020
- McKool Smith's IP Practice along with Mike McKool and J. Michael Hennigan Recognized in 2017 edition of Chambers Global03.27.2017
- McKool Smith's IP Practice along with Mike McKool and J. Michael Hennigan Recognized in 2015 edition of Chambers Global03.24.2015
- Los Angeles Daily Journal, 12.02.2009
- The American Lawyer, 12.01.2009
- Sign On San Diego, 12.01.2009
- Reuters, 12.01.2009
- Bloomberg, 12.01.2009
J.D., with distinction, University of Arizona College of Law, 1970
B.A., History, University of Arizona, 1966
- State of California
- State of Arizona
- American Bar Association, Sections on Antitrust Law and Litigation
- Los Angeles County Bar Association