Interview with Gary Fontana
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The Law of Large Numbers - View the article

California regained its place as the golden state last year, with the state's top 10 verdicts totalling $1.986 billion, almost double the previous year's tally.

In 2004, the top 10 barely topped the billion-dollar mark as the 2003 cap on punitive damages put a crimp in awards. In 2003, the top 10 had totalled just over $2 billion.

--The Recorder - By Leigh Jones and Greg Mitchell
March 17, 2006

The Humbling of a Tycoon

“Once again, France and America are buried in a thorny dispute…Three French Cabinet ministers have raised the issue…President Jacques Chirac has weighed…It’s a decade-old criminal investigation involving allegations that formerly state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais illegally acquired a California insurer, Executive Life.

“….But Gary Fontana, a lawyer representing the California Insurance Dept., which is pursuing a civil suit stemming from the same allegations, told BusinessWeek:  ‘What (Pinault) says is contradicted by documents.’” 
--BusinessWeek, Dec. 8, 2003, page 22

A French Connection in a U.S. Insurer’s Demise

“Paris, Aug. 19—Was it a brilliant bit of risk-taking and some routine corporate legerdemain, or the biggest fraud in California history?

“’They are saying, ‘We are innocent as the new-blown snow,’ said Gary L. Fontana, a San Francisco lawyer who representing the California insurance commissionere in the case.”
--The New York Times, Aug. 22, 2001, page N1

How State’s Junk Became French Riches

“PARIS—When fears of a financial meltdown stalked John Garamendi’s first hours as California’s newly elected insurance commissioner a decade ago, his search for a white knight seemed solved by an eager French financier riding to the rescue…

“Attorney Gary L. Fontana, representing the California Insurance Commission in another lawsuit against Credit Lyonnais, scoffed at  Henin’s claim… ‘That’s the kind of public relations gesture we’d all like to make,’ he said.”
--Los Angeles Times, Sept. 9, 2001, page C 1

Artemis Fined $189M over Executive Life
--FTOL, Nov. 24, 2005

The Dirtiest Bank in the World
--Forbes, Dec. 13, 1999

The scandal continues
--May 19th 2001

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.

What should a client look for in a litigator?

As with the best surgeons, it is the knowledge of when to select surgery as the best course of action, in litigation it is important not to lose sight of the fact that litigation is not always required.  I am a litigator, but I also know that some of my successful cases have not gone to litigation.  How and when to litigate is often best decided as a cooperative effort between attorney and client.

What has been the most gratifying point in your career?

The truth is that every case has its high point.  But one of the best moments for me was when the State of California Insurance Commission asked me to represent it for the Executive Life case. The importance to me was that I had twice successfully represented plaintiffs against the State and now the Commission was acknowledging my courtroom skills and case management expertise.

Some would argue that litigation skills are more art than substance. How do you react to that?

I would never belittle the communications skills required of a litigator, but I sincerely believe that the best litigators are also the best case managers, the best at synthesizing information and the best at creating and implementing a case strategy. Once, a case gets to court, if that behind-the-scenes preparation has not been accomplished, the chances of a favorable verdict are more problematical.

Do you approach a case with the notion that it will eventually end up in court or do you weigh other options?

I believe that before a decision is made to litigate in court that all available options should be explored, discussed and laid out on the table.  Litigation is often the best course of action.  But there are certainly times when negotiation is a better option.  The bottom line is obtaining the most favorable outcome for your client in the most intelligent and efficient manner.

Your cases have spanned a variety of industries and issues.  Is there a common thread or a particular strength that they all represent?

At the end of the day, the law is the law.  As an attorney, you may well have specialties, but the truth is that the best lawyers understand how the legal process works, how to assemble strong legal teams and then how to create an effective argument.  I’ve spent more than three decades representing clients and pride myself in understanding not only what I know but what I don’t know.  The key is then being able to get the information and build it into your knowledge base.

News Commentary Availability and Expertise

Gary L. Fontana is an accomplished speaker and articulate spokesperson who has been interviewed extensively in print and broadcast media.  Often quoted regarding major cases, he is available to comment on broad areas of law, litigation and judicial processes.

His primary areas of expertise are:

  • Litigation Tactics and Strategy
  • The Insurance Industry
  • Antitrust litigation
  • Constitutional Law
  • Punitive Damage Awards
  • Law and Regulation

You may contact him at: [email protected]



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