Long before Michael Hausfeld revealed he’s stepping back from leading the firm he founded, he said he knew the announcement would make waves.
“That’s why it took us this long to devise this transition,” Hausfeld, 75, the firm’s sole name partner, said in an interview.
The firm announced Wednesday Hausfeld will shift to chair emeritus on Jan. 1 from his current role of chair. Vice-chairs Brian Ratner and Anthony Maton will become global co-chairs.
Brent Landau will continue his current job as global managing partner, the firm announced. Partners Lianne Craig and Melinda Coolidge will become Hausfeld’s managing partners in London and the U.S., respectively. Coolidge, like Hausfeld, is based in Washington.
Hausfeld, who founded his firm in 2008 after splitting with what is now called Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, said his team began to formulate transition plans in 2019. He said he recognized that stepping down might raise issues with current and would-be clients about the firm’s direction.
In his new role, Hausfeld said he plans to act as kind of a cross between a gyroscope and a compass. “I’d like to help set the course for the firm.”
The firm will keep its name and commitment to quality and professionalism, he said. “The name has become a brand.”
The firm, which has 12 offices, including seven in Europe, has built a reputation for representing individuals and classes of plaintiffs in antitrust and discrimination cases.
It represented basketball and football players in an antitrust case against the NCAA and connected groups over use of player images. It represented owners of Volkswagen diesel cars in a case that involved the company admitting it used software to cheat emissions tests.
Michael Hausfeld and David Boies of Boies Schiller Flexner are co-lead counsel in a claim involving more than 30 firms seeking $627 million in legal fees in an antitrust suit against Blue Cross Blue Shield, which the insurance company agreed to settle for $2.7 billion.
He said a major achievement of the firm has been to help bring about use of class actions for the first time in several European countries, including England, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Class cases have become a needed tool to address the access-to-justice crisis, Hausfeld said. The ability to use multiple compelling anecdotes from class members shows judges “similarity of conduct,” he said. “There are no results without class cases.”