Although there are a few principles and philosophies by which Carol Gilden operates, mentors, and leads, she says the guiding principle of her legal work boils down to a basic—or, at least, what should be a basic—fact of life.
“It’s about doing the right thing and making the right choices. I’m proud of my work because we are fighting for people and institutions who have been harmed by illegal business practices. Fraud is never sustainable,” she says. “Illegal business practices are never sustainable as a business model. The truth always comes out.”
In her role as a partner in the securities litigation and investor protection practice group in Cohen Milstein’s Chicago office, Gilden maintains a relentless pursuit of that truth as she represents public pension funds, Taft-Hartley pension plans, and health and welfare funds as well as other institutional investors in securities class actions and transaction and derivative litigation. She also handles complex litigation in addition to class actions in state and federal courts nationwide and advises clients regarding foreign securities litigation.
It might sound like she covers a lot of varying ground, but Gilden says she sees all the work she does as having a unified mission.Carol Gilden
“It all falls under the same idea of accountability,” she says. “At the end of the day, fraud is rampant in our marketplace, and investors have the right to invest based on full information and without someone cooking the books or rigging the system against them. The reality is that fraud manifests itself in a variety of different ways, so when misconduct is uncovered, we have to be creative and look at all the laws available to address the problem.”
Gilden’s pursuit of accountability has included work as lead, colead, or executive committee counsel on numerous high-profile securities cases. One among them: MF Global, in which a federal court determined that companies that make false, misleading statements cannot hide behind risk disclosures to escape liability. She was also lead counsel in one of the first securities class actions to be certified following the Supreme Court’s decision in Halliburton II, which established a road map for obtaining class certification to other cases.
That’s not to say that every decision goes the way she would hope. Gilden can think of some cases where she feels a decision was wrong or that goalposts were moved. Still, she says she doesn’t lose sleep at night over the losses, as she knows she and her team have given it their all and fought with integrity. “At the end of the day, if something doesn’t turn out the way I want, I know we’ve done the right thing and given it our all, so I accept the ruling and move on.
“I don’t cut corners in my cases,” she continues. “There are firms out there that take cases based on how much money or notoriety they can get. We believe in taking cases to right wrongs—and then work relentlessly to get the best result.”
The decisions and strategy surrounding the cases on which Gilden works are not all her own. She advocates for a collaborative environment where all team members are encouraged to speak their minds so that every possible angle is considered. Besides creating a forum for the widest possible expanse of ideas and input, Gilden says a collaborative environment fosters a sense of deeper investment and challenge throughout her team.
“I don’t shy away from making decisions when they need to be made,” she says. “At the same time, I feel it’s important for people’s growth, and it’s also fun, when people raise issues and come up with different ideas or push back on a strategy. It means we’re all coming to the challenge with different, valuable perspectives.”
Looking back on her career, Gilden says she’s heartened by the changes that she’s seen in the legal sphere when it comes to women taking more leadership roles in firms and on major cases. As a young attorney, she says one of the biggest challenges she faced in the industry was simply finding her voice—not letting herself be talked over or have her ideas and input be overlooked.
“The reality is that fraud manifests itself in a variety of different ways, so when misconduct is uncovered, we have to be creative and look at all the laws available to address the problem.”
“I’ve never been one to go in a room and sit there quietly,” she says. “But there was a process of learning to be assertive. Saying, ‘Excuse me, I’m not done’ when people would try to talk over me. You see more women taking the lead now, but we’re only getting started. For too long, women have been denied a seat at the table or minimized because of their gender, to be frank.
“The days of overt sexism ended years ago,” she adds. “But it doesn’t mean sometimes there aren’t holdover attitudes in the industry.”
Moreover, Gilden says she plans to keep striving for excellence. She embraces the challenge each day brings and says there is satisfaction to be found in the details.
“No two cases are ever the same,” she says. “I don’t always know what I’ll face when I come into work in the morning. I’m continually learning new things and loving every second of it.”
With her track record, it’s likely that a lot of young attorneys, regardless of gender, will be looking up to her as an example.
“I am honored to work with trailblazers like Carol Gilden. With a proven track record of excellence, Veritext is the established leader in providing superior court reporting and litigation support services.” www.VERITEXT.com
–Debra Neiderfer, Sr. Executive