The 2010 Clay Awards
by the editors of California Lawyer
The California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year Awards recognize lawyers throughout the state whose legal work made a profound impact in 2009. They include a state Assembly member, law professors, sole practitioners, and lawyers from large international law firms. Their practice areas range from appellate law and intellectual property to employment law and disability rights. Among their successes: winning a record whistleblower settlement against a defense contractor, negotiating the first loan guarantee from the Department of Energy for a solar-panel manufacturing plant, and setting a precedent on the federal courts’ ability to cap state prison populations. Altogether, we identify 27 accomplishments in 17 areas of legal practice that reflect the breadth of the California State Bar. …
In the area of EMPLOYMENT LAW / FALSE CLAIMS the following are named 2010 Attorneys of the Year:
Nancy G. Krop
Sole practitioner, Redwood City
Robert J. Nelson
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, San Francisco
Cliff M. Palefsky
McGuinn Hillsman & Palefsky, San Francisco
Altshuler Berzon, San Francisco
These lawyers won a $78.5 million whistleblower settlement, the largest in U.S. Department of Education history, for a case involving improper incentive pay to recruiters at the University of Phoenix. In addition, the department has begun reviewing its rules on incentive compensation with an eye to reforms.
In 2002, two university recruiters came to Krop claiming that the nation’s largest for-profit university had defrauded the department by obtaining billions in federal student loans and Pell Grants while making improper incentive payments to admissions recruiters based on the number of students they signed. Though the Justice Department refused to intervene and the False Claims Act suit was dismissed early, Krop pursued an appeal. This time the Justice Department came in with amicus support. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the suit in 2006, and Krop called in Rubin. They pulled together a team with Nelson and Palefsky. That team defeated another motion to dismiss, took more than 40 depositions, and reviewed millions of pages of documents. Krop remained intensely involved throughout the case. The legal team concluded settlement negotiations in December.