An Interview with Gary Fontana

What makes a high profile case different from any other case?

While points of law don’t change, there are often other considerations which require significant management skills. Media attention, if not understood and taken into account can be a distraction. Resource allocation, whether it’s time, staff or budget, can increase exponentially. Information overload is always a concern.  At the end of the day, experience with high profile cases is an important key to success.

Professional Experience
Fontana is a trial lawyer with 30 years of courtroom experience throughout the United States and in Europe. He has represented clients involved in commercial disputes and government investigations in a wide range of industries. While much of his reputation is based on his success in the courtroom, he has enjoyed equal success as a strategic advisor helping companies minimize litigation expense.

Fontana also has an extensive background in economics and in economic and environmental regulation. He worked as attorney and lobbyist in the White House and the Office of Management and Budget during the Carter Administration and was directly involved in the development and enactment of the National Energy Act and the other major energy and environmental statutes of the Carter years. He has represented clients before a wide range of state and federal regulatory agencies.

Fontana’s most recent trial experience is the successful prosecution of a fraud and conspiracy case against a group of French and Swiss companies on behalf of the California Department of Insurance. That litigation has already produced over $740 million for former policyholders of Executive Life Insurance Company and a $700 million jury verdict that is currently before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. In other cases he has represented banks, industrial corporations, insurance companies, government officials and individual officers and directors in virtually every type of commercial dispute.


Yale Law School (J.D., 1971)
Editor, Yale Law Journal 
Cornell University (A.B., with honors in economics, 1968)
Cornell National Scholar
Winner of the Vedder Prize (best undergraduate economics paper – 1968)

Bar Admissions
California, 1972
District of Columbia, 1981

Court Admissions
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Courts of Appeal for the 5th, 7th, 9th and D.C. Circuits
U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Central, Eastern and Southern Districts of California

Employment History
Partner – Thelen, Reid, Brown, Raysman & Steiner, San Francisco, CA (1986-present)
Partner – Van Ness, Feldman, Sutcliffe & Curtis, Washington, D.C. (1981-1986)
Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs ‑ Office of Management and Budget, Washington, D.C. (1979-81)
Staff Member – White House Office of Energy Policy and Planning, Washington, D.C. (1977-1979)
Litigation Associate – Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe, San Francisco, CA (1972-1977)

Professional Affiliations
Union Internationale des Avocats (Paris, France)
Federal Bar Association (Washington, D.C.)
American Bar Association
Board of Directors, Washington Office on Latin America
Member, Insurance Law Advisory Committee, Practicing Law Institute (New York, NY)

Speeches and Press Articles
Fontana has been a frequent speaker on professional panels concerning antitrust and economic regulation. He is scheduled to speak on a panel at the Fall 2007 Annual Meeting of the Union Internationale des Avocats in Paris regarding the role of the media in criminal prosecution of business in the U.S. and in Europe.
Fontana is regularly identified as one of Northern California’s “Super Lawyers” by San Francisco magazine.  He has been the subject of numerous articles in the US and European press. Most of the more recent stories are accessible via the Internet.
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