Lynda J. Grant ’82:
Taking the Plaintiffs’ Side
When talking to Lynda Grant ‘82, you can hear the zeal that she brings to her fights involving corporate wrongdoing and injustices in the market. As head of her own Manhattan firm, she handles cases ranging from multimillion dollar federal securities class actions and unfair mergers and acquisitions, to consumer frauds, serving shareholders, small institutions, funds, and consumers—always seeking justice in the wake of questionable business practices.
Grant’s career on what she calls “the side of right,” started during her final year in college when she worked in Washington, D.C., for the Carter Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs, then headed by the estimable Esther Peterson. “I loved Washington,” Grant says, but by the time she was out of Cornell Law School, the administration had changed, and “the Office of Consumer Affairs had been eliminated.”
Brought up on Long Island, she headed back to the Big Apple and went to work for a large securities defense firm, representing “all the companies and people whom I now sue.” But, Grant says, when her first client went to jail for a fraudulent tax shelter opinion, she thought, ‘Maybe I’m not on the right side here,’ and eventually moved to the other side of the “v” to work with plaintiffs.
“Doing plaintiffs’ work was not something we were really exposed to in law school,” Grant says. “I took a lot of ribbing from some of my classmates in large defense firms for that move.” In late 2009, after more than twenty years as a partner in two large plaintiff class action firms, she struck out on her own to found TheGrantLawFirm. “Being the chief cook and bottle washer is harder than working for a firm,” she observes. But it was the right choice: “It allows me to be far more creative and to provide representation to clients that a big firm would not think worthwhile.”
She often gets involved in large consumer cases as well, describing one brought to her attention by a Florida real estate contact who believed that J.P. Morgan Chase was thwarting homeowners’ attempts to get mortgage relief mandated by HAMP—the federal Home Affordable Modification Program. According to her informant, “There’s something going on. Chase keeps losing the clients’ documents supporting the mod.” When Grant investigated, she believed that she had found evidence that “something was going on—it looked like Chase was avoiding modifying mortgages.” As a result, she started a consumer class action on behalf of a class of Florida residents alleging that they should have been able to get HAMP mortgages.
She has stopped multimillion defensive recapitalizations, earned millions in securities fraud recoveries, and forced corporations soliciting shareholders’ votes to make appropriate disclosures. At present, she and several other attorneys are litigating Google’s recent proposal to issue a new class of non-voting stock to its current shareholders.
When she is not litigating, Grant co-chairs the American Bar Association’s Securities Litigation Committee, planning programs, holding meetings, putting out a quarterly newsletter, and coordinating a number of subcommittees. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort,” she laughs. She recently lectured at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.
As an undergraduate, Grant studied at SUNY Buffalo, from which she graduated with a B.A., summa cum laude. Accepted as a law student by both New York University and Cornell, she chose Cornell, in part, she says, because “upstate New York was good to me.” Her experience at Cornell was equally as good. As a New York-area native and state university grad, “I really hadn’t been intimately exposed to people from all over the country,” she says. “It was a great opportunity.” She also points to Professor Kevin Clermont’s guidance in civil procedure: “He taught me how to think like a lawyer.”
Grant has remained in contact with Cornell: for her thirtieth reunion this year, she served on the social committee and on a select panel presenting the topic “Ethical Issues in Securities Litigation.”
Although her cases take her all over the country, she has primarily lived and worked in a small district near the Empire State Building: “I have a unique view of it from my terrace.”
If Grant is not the only woman in her field running a firm, she is one of a very small handful and she takes her role seriously. “Some of the things going on in corporations can make your hair stand on end. Many deals proposed to shareholders are horrendous. Just when we think things are getting better,” she says, “another scandal breaks. I don’t think I’ll be running out of work any time soon.”