Davis Polk & Wardwell
|Headquarters||450 Lexington Avenue|
New York City, NY
|No. of offices||10|
|No. of attorneys||982 (2018)|
|Major practice areas||Capital Markets|
Financial Services Regulation
|Key people||Neil Barr, Managing Partner|
|Revenue||$1.4 billion (2018)|
|Company type||Limited liability partnership|
Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (known as Davis Polk) is a white-shoe, international law firm headquartered in New York City with 982 attorneys worldwide, with offices in Washington, D.C., Northern California, London, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, and São Paulo. The firm has consistently been recognized as a global leader in banking and financial services, and in capital markets.
Davis Polk traces its origin to a one-man practice in Manhattan opened by a 21-year-old lawyer, Francis N. Bangs. The firm changed its name several times to account for new partners, using names such as Bangs & Stetson; Bangs, Stetson, Tracey & MacVeagh, and Stetson, Jennings & Russell. Towards the end of the 19th century, John Pierpont Morgan hired Francis Stetson, then name partner of the firm, as his chief counsel. During Stetson's tenure, the firm helped Morgan to restructure the Pennsylvania Railroad as well as create General Electric. The modern incarnations of Morgan's business, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, have remained key clients of the firm. Among other high-profile lawyers, President Grover Cleveland served as a member of the firm during the interval between his two non-consecutive presidential terms.
The firm was located at 15 Broad Street from around 1889 to 1962, and then at One Chase Manhattan Plaza until 1992. The firm voted in 1967 to take its current name from three of the firm's most influential partners from the early-to-mid 20th century: John W. Davis, Frank Polk, and Allen Wardwell.
In 1952, John W. Davis represented U.S. Steel and successfully challenged the constitutionality of President Harry S. Truman's attempted takeover of the company in a famous case that has been referenced by most legal scholars today to assess executive power (see Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952)).
In 1962, the firm opened its first overseas office in Paris.
In 1981, the firm played an important role in negotiating the financial aspects of the resolution of the Iranian hostage crisis.
From 1999 to 2010, the firm worked on the initial public offerings of United Parcel Service, AT&T Wireless, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Visa Inc., General Motors and Agricultural Bank of China, some of the largest IPOs in history.
During the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the firm represented many government clients, including the United States Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the firm had important roles in the AIG, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and Citigroup matters, as well as in the drafting of the Dodd–Frank Act.
In 2009, to bolster its financial regulatory practice, the firm hired three former Securities and Exchange Commission officials: Commissioner Annette Nazareth, Director of Enforcement Linda Chatman Thomsen, and Deputy Director of Trading and Markets Robert Colby—as well as former White House Staff Secretary Raul Yanes and former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation General Counsel John Douglas.
Controversy about race relations
John W. Davis's legal career is most remembered for his final appearance before the Supreme Court, in which he unsuccessfully defended the "separate but equal" doctrine in Briggs v. Elliott, a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education. Davis, as a defender of racial segregation and state control of education, argued that South Carolina had shown good faith in attempting to eliminate any inequality between black and white schools and should be allowed to continue to do so without judicial intervention.  He expected to win, most likely through a divided Supreme Court, even after the matter was re-argued after the death of Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson. After the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against his client's position, he returned the $25,000 (equivalent to $200,000 in 2020), that he had received from South Carolina, although he was not required to do so, but kept a silver tea service that had been presented to him. It has also been reported that he never charged South Carolina in the first place. He declined to participate further in the case, as he did not wish to be involved in the drafting of decrees to implement the Court's decision.
In Guinn v. United States, as Solicitor General, while he argued against the legality of the “grandfather clause”, he conceded the legality of the literacy tests, which was used to disenfranchise African Americans and others.  
Notable attorneys and alumni
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Among its current partners and counsel are:
- Uzo Asonye – former Deputy Chief of the Financial Crimes and Public Corruption office of the Eastern District of Virginia and member of the office of special counsel Robert Mueller
- Jon Leibowitz – former Chairman, Federal Trade Commission
- Gary Lynch – former Director, Enforcement Division, Securities and Exchange Commission, and former Vice-Chairman and Chief Legal Officer, Morgan Stanley, former Vice-Chairman, Credit Suisse, and former Global General Counsel, Bank of America
- Neil MacBride – former U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Virginia
- Annette Nazareth – former Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission
- Howard Shelanski – former Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
- Linda Chatman Thomsen – former Director, Enforcement Division, Securities and Exchange Commission
- Kenneth Wainstein – former Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, Department of Justice, and former Homeland Security Advisor
- Ronnie Abrams – U.S. District Court Judge, Southern District of New York
- Thomas J. Aquilino – Senior Judge, U.S Court of International Trade
- Richard M. Berman – U.S. District Court Judge, Southern District of New York
- Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum – Senior U.S. District Court Judge, Southern District of New York
- Denny Chin – U.S. Circuit Court Judge, Second Circuit Court of Appeals
- Hardy Cross Dillard – International Court of Justice
- Warren Eginton – Senior U.S. District Court Judge, District of Connecticut
- Thomas P. Griesa – Senior U.S. District Court Judge, Southern District of New York
- Cheryl Ann Krause – U.S. Circuit Court Judge, Third Circuit Court of Appeals
- J. Michael Luttig – Former U.S. Circuit Court Judge, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Amy J. St. Eve – U.S. Circuit Court Judge, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
- Louis L. Stanton – Senior U.S. District Court Judge, Southern District of New York
- John M. Walker Jr. – U.S. Circuit Court Judge, Second Circuit Court of Appeals
- Lawrence Edward Walsh – Former U.S. District Court Judge, Southern District of New York
- John Danforth – Former U.S. Senator (R-MO) and Ambassador to the United Nations
- Kirsten Gillibrand – U.S. Senator (D-NY)
- Ben McAdams – U.S. Representative, Utah's 4th congressional district
- Terri Sewell – U.S. Representative, Alabama's 7th congressional district
- Chen Show Mao – Member of Singaporean Parliament, Aljunied Group Representation Constituency, Workers' Party of Singapore
- Mondaire Jones – U.S. Representative-elect, New York's 17th congressional district
Law enforcement and financial regulation
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- Jerome Powell – Chairman of the Federal Reserve
- Randal Quarles – Vice-Chairman for Supervision, Federal Reserve
- Paul S. Atkins – Former Commissioner, Securities and Exchange Commission
- Roger W. Ferguson Jr. – Former Vice-Chairman, Federal Reserve System; President & CEO, TIAA-CREF
- Robert B. Fiske – Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
- Samuel Hazard Gillespie Jr. – Former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York
- Charles E. F. Millard – Former Director, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
- Ogden Livingston Mills – Former Secretary of the Treasury
- Lawrence Edward Walsh – Former Deputy Attorney General and Independent Counsel, Iran-Contra Investigation
Other government service
- John Bridgeland – Former Director, United States Domestic Policy Council
- John W. Davis – Former United States Solicitor General; Democratic Presidential Nominee, 1924
- Reuben Jeffery III – Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State
- Charles MacVeagh – Former United States Ambassador to Japan
- Richard Moe – President, National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Jennifer Newstead – Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State and Former General Counsel, Office of Management and Budget
- Frank Polk – Former Acting U.S. Secretary of State
- Peter Tufo – Former United States Ambassador to Hungary
- John E. Zuccotti – Former Deputy Mayor, New York City; namesake of Zuccotti Park
- Alexander Cushing – Founder and Chairman, Ski Corporation
- Eli Whitney Debevoise – Founding Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton
- Tom Glocer – CEO, Thomson Reuters
- Steven Goldstone – Former President & CEO, RJR Nabisco
- Robert Harrison – CEO, Clinton Global Initiative
- Lewis B. Kaden – Vice Chairman, Citigroup
- H. F. Lenfest – Founder, Lenfest Communications
- J. Michael Luttig – General Counsel, Boeing
- Axel Miller – Chairman & CEO, Dexia S.A.
- David Schwimmer – CEO, London Stock Exchange
- Francis Lynde Stetson – Attorney for John Pierpont Morgan; former president, New York State Bar Association.
- Andrew Yang – entrepreneur, founder of Venture for America, and 2020 presidential candidate
- Reshma Saujani – founder of Girls Who Code
Media and entertainment
- George Bermann – Director, European Legal Studies Center, Columbia Law School
- Charles Black – Professor, Yale Law School
- Brian Casey – President, Colgate University
- Noah Feldman – Professor, Harvard Law School
- Barry E. Friedman – Vice Dean, New York University School of Law
- Linda Lorimer – Vice President, Yale University
- Jane B. Korn – Dean, Gonzaga University School of Law
- Julie O'Sullivan – Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
- Saule Omarova – Professor, Cornell Law School
- Jeannie Suk – Professor, Harvard Law School
- David Schizer – Professor & Dean Emeritus, Columbia Law School
- David E. Van Zandt – President, The New School, Former Dean, Northwestern University School of Law
- Mehrsa Baradaran – University of Georgia School of Law professor; author
- In 2012 and 2013, Davis Polk was named "America's Law Firm of the Year" by the International Financial Law Review.
- In 2010, Davis Polk was ranked third in "Revenue per Lawyer" by the American Lawyer's top 100 National Firms.
- Individual Davis Polk insolvency & restructuring lawyers were named “Dealmaker of the Year” by The American Lawyer.
- “Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyer” by Turnarounds & Workouts and “Lawyer of the Year” by Law Business Research’s Who’s Who Legal–International Who’s Who of Insolvency & Restructuring Lawyers.
- Davis Polk ranked in the first tier among New York law firms in U.S. tax matters by Chambers USA, which commented that “with a ‘terrific team of excellent tax lawyers,’ the group successfully mixes M&A and finance, establishing itself as one of the premier law firms in New York, and indeed across the USA”.
- In October 2008, a Davis Polk team working with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund won a $4.6 million judgment on behalf of immigrant workers who were being paid below the statutory minimum wage by their employer, a popular Manhattan restaurant.
- In March 2007, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) awarded Davis Polk its Heroes Honors 25th Anniversary Award for the corporate pro bono work the firm has done on the organization’s behalf.
- Andrew Yang credited the firm as "a pie-eating contest, and if you won, your prize was more pie."
- "As Its Chair Leaves for Big GC Role, Davis Polk Posts Best Year Ever".
- "Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP". Vault. Vault.
- Allan Nevins, Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage, p.450.
- Lat, David (January 5, 2012). "Oy Vey! Milbank Mistakenly Touts 'Only Orthodox Jewish Woman Partner' in Biglaw". Above the Law.
- Lat, David (September 18, 2008). "Davis Polk: Making Bank". Above the Law.
- "For Davis Polk, Dodd–Frank Pays" (PDF).
- Scannell, Kara (April 13, 2009). "Davis Polk Recruits Ex-SEC Aide". The Wall Street Journal.
- Mary Maruca Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site page 12 https://books.google.nl/books?id=xZJmJcHYnP0C&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=%22Briggs+v.+Elliott%22+%22john+davis%22&source=bl&ots=u3vlM-ruxW&sig=ACfU3U2ZxLrm1v44ugHL05fZQT9rKeeXhQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYloX7mqTqAhXF0aQKHfDIDToQ6AEwBXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Briggs%20v.%20Elliott%22%20%22john%20davis%22&f=false
- 1634 to 1699: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy ofthe United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700-1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How much is that in real money?: a historical price index for use as a deflator of money values in the economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
- Kluger, Richard (1976). Simple Justice: the History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle For Equality. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-394-47289-6.
- Harbaugh, William Henry (1973). Lawyer's Lawyer: the Life of John W. Davis. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. pp. 507. ISBN 0-19-501699-8.
- Joe Patrice E Davis Polk Is Named After A Segregationist… Perhaps It’s Time To Consider A New Name 17 January 2020 https://abovethelaw.com/2020/06/davis-polk-is-named-after-a-segregationist-perhaps-its-time-to-consider-a-new-name/
- Lisa G. Materson For the Freedom of Her Race: Black Women and Electoral Politics in Illinois, 1877-1932 page 132 https://books.google.nl/books?id=GjGim031-CMC&pg=PA132&lpg=PA132&dq=Guinn+v+United+States+%22John+davis%22&source=bl&ots=Rf6APTXWQe&sig=ACfU3U1CTYtUoqKcUCn65hXwwHiGuvKXjw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi64POQmaTqAhVC-qQKHZ-qAyMQ6AEwAXoECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=Guinn%20v%20United%20States%20%22John%20davis%22&f=falsee
- Bob Navarro Solicitors General of the United States page 31 https://books.google.nl/books?id=0oy3DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=%22Guinn+v+United+States%22+%22John+davis%22&source=bl&ots=CHu5t72Zvo&sig=ACfU3U18iCbXT1L1LwLXlJbFfcBxcIWzZw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwizpa3AmqTqAhVmMOwKHReiDYoQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Guinn%20v%20United%20States%22%20%22John%20davis%22&f=false
- Lattman, Peter (July 29, 2011). "Davis Polk Lawyer Nominated for Federal Bench". The New York Times.(subscription required)
- LUBASCH, ARNOLD H. (July 26, 1985). "WALL ST. LAWYER WINS BACKING FOR U.S. JUDGEh". The New York Times.
- Han Wong, Chun (May 6, 2011). "Candidate Q&A: Chen Show Mao". The Wall Street Journal.(subscription required)
- GRIMES, WILLIAM (March 8, 2011). "S. Hazard Gillespie, Former U.S. Attorney, Dies at 100". The New York Times.
- Easton, Nina J. (March 27, 2002). "The Wings of an Idea". The Washington Post.
- DUNLAP, DAVID W. (February 25, 1996). "Lawyers Who Mold The Shape of a City". The New York Times.
- "Alex Cushing, Founder of Squaw Valley, Dies". Snowboard Magazine. August 21, 2006.
- HEVESI, DENNIS (July 1, 1990). "Eli Whitney Debevoise Dies at 90; Co-Founder of a Top Law Firm". The New York Times.
- "CGI Leadership". Clintonglobalinitiative.org. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
- Francis L. Stetson, Lawyer, Dies at 74,' New York Times, December 6, 1920
- "Traphagen Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series – Crystal McKellar '03". Harvard Law School. February 23, 2015.
- "David M. Schizer". Columbia Law School. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
- "Davis Polk Wins Again at IFLR Americas Awards". International Financial Law Review. March 22, 2013.
- "The Am Law 100 2010 – Revenue Per Lawyer (RPL) Falls Again". Law.com. 2012-09-09. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- Who’s Who Legal–International Who’s Who of Insolvency & Restructuring Lawyers (2007).
- Chambers USA (2007).
- Baxter, Brian (October 23, 2008). "Davis Polk Hands Big Tip to Saigon Grill Deliverymen". Law.Com(ALM/American Lawyer Magazine). Retrieved August 11, 2012.
- "Gay Men's Health Crisis to Commemorate 25 Years of Leadership in the Fight Against AIDS at GMHC Heroes Honors 25th Anniversary Dinner" (Press release). PRNewswire. March 7, 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
- Sullivan, Kevin (October 28, 2019). "Andrew Yang was groomed for a high-paying job at an elite law firm. He lasted five months". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 1, 2020. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
- Oller, John, White Shoe: How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business--and the American Century
- Stewart, James (1983). The Partners: Inside America's Most Powerful Law Firms. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-42023-2.