Named a 2021 Rising Star in securities law by Law360, Laura McNally defends clients in class and individual actions brought under federal securities law, challenges to mergers and acquisitions, derivative suits, and appraisals. She also represents clients in investigations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Laura’s experience arguing dispositive motions and at trial supported her recent recognition by Law360 as one of only seven nationally ranked Rising Stars in securities law. Coverage of that award is linked to her bio. In federal court, Laura has successfully argued multiple motions to dismiss putative class actions alleging violations of the federal securities laws. These dismissals were upheld on appeal and involved issues of first impression. In the Delaware Court of Chancery, Laura recently successfully argued a motion to dismiss a derivative suit against a multinational corporation and certain of its current and former officers and directors; this opinion was affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court, earning Laura a Shout Out as AmLaw's Litigator of the Week. On the appellate level, Laura has argued cases before both federal and state courts of appeal and in the Delaware Supreme Court. Law360’s recent coverage of Laura’s argument before the Eleventh Circuit is linked to this bio.
Laura has trial experience in both federal court and the Delaware Court of Chancery. Most recently, she was one of the lead trial attorneys in a Delaware Chancery Court appraisal trial and conducted direct and cross-examinations of expert and key fact witnesses (including the CEO of an international publicly traded company). Previously, Laura was a key leader of the Morgan Lewis team in another appraisal case in the Delaware Court of Chancery as well as in a federal jury trial.
Laura has also represented companies, executives, and related individuals in SEC investigations into insider trading, conflicts of interest, and accounting issues.
Laura has a master’s degree in economics with a specialization in law and finance. She uses her economics background to analyze damages and causation issues and works closely with economic experts.
Laura dedicates significant time to her pro bono work, focusing on prisoner civil rights cases in conjunction with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s Prisoner Civil Rights Panel. She was recognized by the court for her success in winning a prisoner civil rights jury trial, and has secured favorable summary judgment decisions in multiple cases. She also dedicates time to representing asylum seekers.
Finally, Laura is an advocate for and mentor to working parents. She was profiled by Law360 in a short film about balancing motherhood and the partnership track, and highlighted as part of Law360’s Mother’s Day tribute and in its article “5 Myths Attorneys Believed When They Started Out.”
Prior to joining Morgan Lewis, Laura worked at the SEC Division of Enforcement.
Deane v. Maginn (Del. Ch. 2022): Conducted cross examination of valuation expert in defense of breach of fiduciary duty claim against individual who allegedly misappropriated opportunity to invest in warrant for technology company
BCIM Strategic Value Master Fund, LP v. HFF, Inc. (Del. Ch. 2021): Lead trial counsel in a virtual appraisal trial in 2021 concerning the fair value of HFF, Inc.; conducted the cross-examination of the opposing side’s valuation witness as well as direct examinations of numerous fact witnesses, including the CEO of the acquiring company; Court of Chancery found that the fair value of HFF at closing was $46.59 per share, which was less than 2% more than the deal price at closing and far less than the $56.49 sought by petitioners
Verizon Partners Master Fund Ltd. and Verition Multi-Strategy Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc. (Del. 2019): Conducted the direct examination of the industry expert in an appraisal case; on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court found that the fair value of Aruba Networks, Inc.—a company that had been acquired by Hewlett-Packard Company for $2.8 billion—was HP’s $19.10 per share valuation of Aruba prior to the deal, which was significantly less than the deal price of $24.67 per share and far less than the $32.57 per share sought by the petitioners
Hyman v. City of Philadelphia, et al. (E.D. Pa. 2014): Led the trial team in a multiday prisoner civil rights federal jury trial, conducted direct and cross-examinations of expert and fact witnesses, argued evidentiary motions, and delivered the closing argument, securing a rare favorable jury victory for this type of case
In re Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc. Derivative Litigation (Del. 2022): Successfully argued before Delaware Supreme Court and Chancery Court the motion to dismiss derivative claims against Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. and certain current and former officers and directors; Supreme Court affirmed Chancery Court opinion that: accepted argument that plaintiffs failed to plead facts showing directors knew about regulatory compliance issues at one location and that these issues would negatively affect company’s financial performance; agreed that complaint lacked facts showing that either material nonpublic information had been shared with private equity funds or directors knew funds had access to material nonpublic information; and further agreed that facts pled in complaint contradicted any effort to plead failure of oversight and that fact federal court had denied motion to dismiss securities claim did not support plaintiffs’ argument that directors acted with requisite state of mind.
Cochran v. Penn Mut. Life Ins. (11th Cir. 2022): Successfully argued the motion to dismiss class action allegations against The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. and its brokerage subsidiary, Hornor, Townsend & Kent LLC (HTK) before the district court (N.D. Ga. 2020) and before the 11th Circuit; the complaint challenged as an alleged breach of fiduciary duty HTK’s marketing of tax-deferred annuities issued by Penn Mutual; the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal the district court accepted our argument that these class claims were precluded by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act; the Eleventh Circuit stated that the complaint should be evaluated based on its “gravamen” or “essence,” not the words it used and noted that plaintiff did not challenge the district court ruling granting our motion to compel arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority on the plaintiff’s individual claims
Rite Aid Headquarters Corporation v. Brines Refrigeration Heating & Cooling (Pa. Super. 2022) Successfully argued appeal of denial of motion to stay case suing contractor for failure to pay sales tax; court agreed that trial court correctly found that case did not have to be stayed to await ruling from Pennsylvania tax authorities
Spirrizzi v. Zyla Life Sciences (3d Cir. 2020): The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of a motion to dismiss that Laura argued, urging dismissal of a putative class action alleging violations of the federal securities laws for failure to predict how the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would act in approving a drug, In re Egalet Corp. Sec. Litig. in a sweeping 58-page opinion, the district court agreed with arguments in the brief, of which Laura was a key drafter, and ruled in favor of defendants on virtually all issues ranging from the protection afforded by the safe harbor for forward-looking statements to the type of facts necessary to plead that defendants acted with the requisite state of mind
Retail Wholesale & Dep’t Store Union Local 338 Ret. Fund v. Hewlett-Packard Co. (9th Cir. 2017): The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of a motion to dismiss that Laura argued, urging dismissal of securities fraud claims based on the company’s ethics code and statements relating to it; the Ninth Circuit ruled that there had been no affirmative misrepresentation because the statements were not objectively verifiable, that any alleged misrepresentation was not material, and that there was no duty to disclose any supposedly omitted facts “[b]ecause the affirmative statements did not create the impression of full compliance”; Laura was also a key drafter of the underlying briefing
Doshi & City of Livonia Emps. Ret. Sys. v. General Cable Corp. (6th Cir. 2016): The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a putative class action alleging violations of the federal securities laws based on two restatements, finding that the plaintiff had not adequately pled scienter
Motions to Dismiss Granted by Trial Courts
In re Micro Focus PLC Securities Litigation (San Mateo Superior Court, CA 2021): The San Mateo County Superior Court sustained a demurrer filed on behalf of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, and John Schultz raising a unique defense to putative claims for violations of the federal Securities Act of 1933. The Superior Court agreed that the complaint did not allege that Mr. Schultz did not consent to be named in the Registration Statement as a person to become a director of Micro Focus. Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint that, among other things, included allegations about consent. After Morgan Lewis filed another demurrer on behalf of Mr. Schultz and HPE raising this issue, plaintiffs requested to voluntarily dismiss their claims against Mr. Schultz and HPE, which the Superior Court ordered
Allegheny Cnty. Emps.’ Ret. Sys. v. Energy Transfer, L.P. (E.D. Pa. 2021): Argued the motion to dismiss this putative class action that was granted in part; the plaintiffs contended that issues relating to the construction of a pipeline resulted in violations of the federal securities laws; the district court agreed that the plaintiffs had failed to plead facts showing that certain challenged statements were actionable or knowingly false when made, and also dismissed claims against two individual defendants
Costanzo v. DXC Tech. (N.D. Cal. 2020 and 2021): The district court three times granted motions to dismiss a putative class action alleging violations of Sections 11 and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 arising from the prospectus and registration statement issued in connection with the merger of Computer Sciences Corp. and the Enterprise Services division of HPE to form DXC Technology Co.; we represented HPE and four of its officers named as defendants, including former CEO Meg Whitman; the district court’s decision held that the allegations of the complaint, even if taken as true for purposes of the motion, did not support the plaintiffs' claim that the registration statement included false or misleading statements, and further found that certain alleged misstatements were forward-looking and protected by the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, and that other alleged misstatements were nonactionable puffery or statements of opinion. After giving plaintiffs leave to amend after the first two dismissals, the third ruling was with prejudice
Antczak v. TD Ameritrade Clearing, Inc. et al. (E.D. Pa. 2018): The district court dismissed a putative class action alleging violations of the federal securities laws and state laws arising from losses an investor suffered when her financial advisor made investment decisions based on the advice of a registered independent investment advisor, not any TD Ameritrade defendant
Plumley v. Sempra Energy (S.D. Cal. 2017): The district court dismissed putative class action claims alleging violations of the federal securities laws arising from the natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility; the court examined both pre-leak and post-leak statements and found that the plaintiff failed to plead facts showing that the challenged statements were false or that the defendants acted with scienter; the court allowed the plaintiff 21 days to file an amended complaint addressing the deficiencies that it identified
Fischman v. Reed (S.D. Cal 2017): The district court dismissed for failure to show demand futility the derivative claims filed by the plaintiff, purporting to sue on behalf of Sempra and SoCal Gas, who alleged failure of oversight by the companies’ officers and directors to prevent the natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility; the court required that the plaintiff file a motion for leave before filing any amended complaint
Cockle v. Coustas (Marshall Islands 2013): The High Court of the Republic of the Marshall Islands granted our motion to dismiss the derivative suit against a Greek shipping company, based on claims relating to payment of management fees and terms of a private financing
Zucker v. Andreessen (Del. Ch. 2012): The Delaware Court of Chancery granted our motion to dismiss derivative claims, based on the severance package awarded to HP’s former CEO
Saginaw Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Hewlett-Packard Co. (N.D. Cal. 2012): The district court granted our motion to dismiss derivative claims, based on the board’s alleged failure to prevent False Claims Act (FCA) and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations; the plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit but dismissed its appeal days before oral argument was scheduled
Gammel v. Hewlett-Packard Co. (C.D. Cal. 2012): The district court granted our motion to dismiss this putative securities fraud class action based on HP's announcement that it was discontinuing webOS development; in 2013, the district court granted in part our motion to dismiss a further amended complaint, cutting the putative class period to a few weeks running from June to August 2011
Denial of Injunction
Ehrlich v. Arconic Inc. (C.C.P. Phila. Cty. 2017): Served as co-counsel and in five days filed a motion to reconsider an order granting sweeping expedited discovery (which was granted), an opposition to an emergency motion for preliminary injunction, and preliminary objections to the complaint; after a hearing on the emergency preliminary injunction motion, the court denied the request to issue a preliminary injunction that challenged the board’s actions during a proxy fight and found that the plaintiff failed to prove either irreparable harm or that greater injury would result from refusing the injunction than granting it; preliminary objections are pending
Recent Motion to Compel Arbitration
Estate of Sharon Groth v. E*TRADE Sec. LLC, et al. (M.D. Pa.): Successfully moved to compel to arbitration an individual action alleging federal securities violations
Temple University, Beasley School of Law, 2011, J.D.
Temple University, 2011, M.A., Economics
University of Pennsylvania, 2007, B.A., magna cum laude
US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Awards and Affiliations
Board of Directors, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (2022–Present)
Rising Star, Securities, Law360 (2021)
Recommended, Dispute resolution: Securities litigation: defense, The Legal 500 US (2020)
Member, Law Firm of the Year, Securities Regulation, US News/Best Lawyers – Best Law Firms (2019)
Recipient, TASA Prize for Outstanding Performance in the Field of Evidence
Recipient, US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s Prisoner Civil Rights Panel Appreciation Certificate