Robin Winchester

Partner

EDUCATION
  • Saint Joseph's University
    B.S. 1997
  • Villanova University School of Law
    J.D. 2000
ADMISSIONS
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • USDC, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • USDC, District of Nebraska
  • USDC, Western District of Tennessee
  • USDC, District of Colorado
  • USDC, Northern District of Ohio
  • USCA, Fifth Circuit
  • USCA, Ninth Circuit
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Robin Winchester, a partner of the Firm, represents private investors and public institutional investors in derivative, class and individual actions and has helped recover hundreds of millions of dollars for corporations and stockholders injured by purported corporate fiduciaries.

Robin has extensive experience in federal and state stockholder litigation seeking to hold wayward fiduciaries accountable for corporate abuses. 

Robin seeks not only to recover losses for the corporations and stockholders who have been harmed but also to ensure corporate accountability by those who have been entrusted by stockholders to act as faithful fiduciaries.  She litigates cases involving all areas of corporate misconduct including excessive executive compensation, misuse and waste of corporate assets, unfair related-party transactions, failure to ensure compliance with state and federal laws, insider selling and other breaches of fiduciary duty which impinge on stockholder rights.  Robin has successfully resolved dozens of cases which have required financial givebacks as well as the implementation of extensive corporate governance reforms that will hopefully prevent similar misconduct from recurring, strengthen the company, and make the members of the board of directors more effective and responsive representatives of stockholder interests.

Experience
Representative Outcomes
  • This shareholder derivative action challenged a conflicted “roll up” REIT transaction orchestrated by Glade M. Knight and his son Justin Knight.

    The proposed transaction paid the Knights millions of dollars while paying public stockholders less than they had invested in the company. The case was brought under Virginia law, and settled just ten days before trial, with stockholders receiving an additional $32 million in merger consideration.

  • Kessler Topaz represented an individual stockholder who asserted in the Delaware Court of Chancery class action and derivative claims challenging merger and recapitalization transactions that benefitted the company’s controlling stockholders at the expense of the company and its minority stockholders.

    Plaintiff alleged that the controlling stockholders of Erickson orchestrated a series of transactions with the intent and effect of using Erickson’s money to bail themselves out of a failing investment. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which Kessler Topaz defeated, and the case proceeded through more than a year of fact discovery. Following an initially unsuccessful mediation and further litigation, Kessler Topaz ultimately achieved an $18.5 million cash settlement, 80% of which was distributed to members of the stockholder class to resolve their direct claims and 20% of which was paid to the company to resolve the derivative claims. The settlement also instituted changes to the company’s governing documents to prevent future self-dealing transactions like those that gave rise to the case.

  • Kessler Topaz represented stockholders of four closed-end mutual funds in a derivative action against the funds’ former investment advisor, Morgan Asset Management.

    Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants mismanaged the funds by investing in riskier securities than permitted by the funds’ governing documents and, after the values of these securities began to precipitously decline beginning in early 2007, cover up their wrongdoing by assigning phony values to the funds’ investments and failing to disclose the extent of the decrease in value of the funds’ assets. In a rare occurrence in derivative litigation, the funds’ Boards of Directors eventually hired Kessler Topaz to prosecute the claims against the defendants on behalf of the funds. Our litigation efforts led to a settlement that recovered $6 million for the funds and ensured that the funds would not be responsible for making any payment to resolve claims asserted against them in a related multi-million dollar securities class action. The fund’s Boards fully supported and endorsed the settlement, which was negotiated independently of the parallel securities class action.

  • This derivative action challenged improper bonuses paid to two company executives of this small pharmaceutical company that had never turned a profit.

    In response to the complaint, Hemispherx’s board first adopted a “fee-shifting” bylaw that would have required stockholder plaintiffs to pay the company’s legal fees unless the plaintiffs achieved 100% of the relief they sought. This sort of bylaw, if adopted more broadly, could substantially curtail meritorious litigation by stockholders unwilling to risk losing millions of dollars if they bring an unsuccsessful case. After Kessler Topaz presented its argument in court, Hemispherx withdrew the bylaw. Kessler Topaz ultimately negotiated a settlement requiring the two executives to forfeit several million dollars’ worth of accrued but unpaid bonuses, future bonuses and director fees. The company also recovered $1.75 million from its insurance carriers, appointed a new independent director to the board, and revised its compensation program.

  • As lead counsel in this derivative action, we negotiated a settlement with far-reaching implications for the safety and security of airline passengers. 

    Our clients were shareholders of Southwest Airlines Co. (Southwest) who alleged that certain officers and directors had breached their fiduciary duties in connection with Southwest’s violations of Federal Aviation Administration safety and maintenance regulations. Plaintiffs alleged that from June 2006 to March 2007, Southwest flew 46 Boeing 737 airplanes on nearly 60,000 flights without complying with a 2004 FAA Airworthiness Directive requiring fuselage fatigue inspections. As a result, Southwest was forced to pay a record $7.5 million fine. We negotiated numerous reforms to ensure that Southwest’s Board is adequately apprised of safety and operations issues, and implementing significant measures to strengthen safety and maintenance processes and procedures.

  • In 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that three companies appeared to have “backdated” stock option grants to their senior executives, pretending that the options had been awarded when the stock price was at its lowest price of the quarter, or even year. An executive who exercised the option thus paid the company an artificially low price, which stole money from the corporate coffers. While stock options are designed to incentivize recipients to drive the company’s stock price up, backdating options to artificially low prices undercut those incentives, overpaid executives, violated tax rules, and decreased shareholder value.

    Kessler Topaz worked with a financial analyst to identify dozens of other companies that had engaged in similar practices, and filed more than 50 derivative suits challenging the practice. These suits sought to force the executives to disgorge their improper compensation and to revamp the companies’ executive compensation policies. Ultimately, as lead counsel in these derivative actions, Kessler Topaz achieved significant monetary and non-monetary benefits at dozens of companies, including:

    Comverse Technology, Inc.: Settlement required Comverse’s founder and CEO Kobi Alexander, who fled to Namibia after the backdating was revealed, to disgorge more than $62 million in excessive backdated option compensation. The settlement also overhauled the company’s corporate governance and internal controls, replacing a number of directors and corporate executives, splitting the Chairman and CEO positions, and instituting majority voting for directors.

    Monster Worldwide, Inc.: Settlement required recipients of backdated stock options to disgorge more than $32 million in unlawful gains back to the company, plus agreeing to significant corporate governance measures. These measures included (a) requiring Monster’s founder Andrew McKelvey to reduce his voting control over Monster from 31% to 7%, by exchanging super-voting stock for common stock; and (b) implementing new equity granting practices that require greater accountability and transparency in the granting of stock options moving forward. In approving the settlement, the court noted “the good results, mainly the amount of money for the shareholders and also the change in governance of the company itself, and really the hard work that had to go into that to achieve the results….”

    Affiliated Computer Services, Inc.: Settlement required executives, including founder Darwin Deason, to give up $20 million in improper backdated options. The litigation was also a catalyst for the company to replace its CEO and CFO and revamp its executive compensation policies.

  • Served as lead counsel on behalf of the Mississippi Public Employees’ Retirement System in an action alleging that Viacom, Inc.’s (Viacom) Board of Directors of Viacom, Inc. (Viacom) breached its fiduciary duties by paying excessive and unwarranted compensation to Executive Chairman and CEO, Sumner M. Redstone, and co-COOs Thomas E. Freston and Leslie Moonves, at a time when the company was suffering record losses.

    Specifically, in 2004, when Viacom reported a net loss of $17.46 billion, the Board improperly approved compensation payments to Redstone, Freston, and Moonves of approximately $56 million, $52 million, and $52 million, respectively. Under a settlement reached in 2007, Executive Chairman and controlling shareholder Redstone agreed to a new compensation package that substantially reduced his annual salary and cash bonus, and tied the majority of his incentive compensation directly to shareholder returns.