Michael Valerio's practice is focused on the representation of insurance companies, securities broker-dealers, and other financial services industry clients in class actions and other complex litigation at the trial and appellate levels, as well as in arbitration and regulatory enforcement matters. Mr. Valerio also represents business groups and industry associations as amicus counsel in significant appellate litigation throughout the country, with a focus on ERISA fiduciary liability, employee benefits, and class certification issues. In addition, he counsels insurance and other financial services industry clients on risk management and supervisory issues relating to retail sales, wholesale distribution, product development, and other business practices, with a recent focus on preparation for the United States Department of Labor’s highly controversial “investment advice fiduciary rule” (or “conflict of interest rule”) applicable to retirement account transactions. Mr. Valerio is the co-author of the chapter on fiduciary liability in the recently released Fourth Edition of the recognized treatise, Handbook on ERISA Litigation, published by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business/Aspen Publishers.
At the firm, Mr. Valerio's national litigation practice has encompassed many areas, including the defense of ERISA, RICO, securities fraud, consumer fraud, and unfair trade practices claims involving the sale of life insurance, fixed, equity-indexed, and variable annuities, mutual funds, privately placed securities, and retirement products, as well as claims involving the administration of self-funded and insured health plans, disability insurance claims-handling practices, and the marketing of long-term care insurance and corporate-owned life insurance.
Mr. Valerio is currently part of a legal team suing the United States Department of Labor to enjoin and vacate a key aspect of the Department’s new “fiduciary rule” regime. Among other representative matters, Mr. Valerio is defending a major health insurer/claims administrator in a putative nationwide ERISA class action relating to the denial of plan benefits allegedly in violation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Mr. Valerio was lead trial counsel in a lengthy FINRA securities arbitration alleging hedge fund losses in the aftermath of the world financial crisis. Mr. Valerio and his team secured the dismissal of all claims against the firm’s client at the close of plaintiff’s evidence. Mr. Valerio likewise argued successfully for the dismissal with prejudice of similar claims against a different industry client in a New York court action. He also was on the assembled trial team in a roughly billion-dollar-exposure, nationwide annuity sales and marketing practices class action that settled shortly before trial, and he argued successfully for the affirmance of summary judgment in his client’s favor on all claims and counterclaims in a high-profile, multi-million-dollar life insurance rescission case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Valerio has acquired significant complex litigation experience in numerous other areas, including matters involving alleged misappropriation of trade secrets, antitrust and unfair competition claims, high-exposure product liability and insurance coverage issues, professional liability, shareholder disputes, and financial reporting issues. He has litigated “Winstar” claims on behalf of savings and loan institutions against the federal government, and he has pursued and defended claims arising under federal procurement laws and civil fraud matters arising under the federal False Claims Act.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Valerio was engaged in private practice in Washington, DC. Earlier in his career, he was an in-house complex litigation and investigations counsel for a large international telecommunications provider, where he handled domestic and international disputes among and between telecommunications providers and commercial customers, as well as securities, antitrust, and other competitive and regulatory matters involving the telecommunications industry.