Christopher G. Caldwell

"Reality is a question of perspective."
-Salman Rushdie

Chris Caldwell, one of the founders of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, practices in all areas of civil and criminal business litigation, with a particular emphasis on the entertainment industry, intellectual property (copyright and trademark), employment, professional liability, and white collar criminal cases. In his wide-ranging practice, he spends roughly half of his time as a plaintiff’s lawyer and half as a defense lawyer, and also equally splits his time in federal and state courts. He has been chosen repeatedly by senior executives at America’s largest companies to represent them in high stakes securities class actions, SEC enforcement proceedings, criminal investigations and/or personal disputes with their employers. He also works closely with many of the largest studios and major media companies, as well as with the Motion Picture Association of America.

An experienced negotiator and trial lawyer known for obtaining pre-trial rulings dismissing claims brought against his clients, he also has an extraordinary record of victories in trials and arbitral proceedings.

Early in his career, Mr. Caldwell served as a prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, DC. Prior to that he clerked for the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima, U.S District Court, Central District of California. He co-founded Caldwell Leslie in 1988, one year after he returned to Los Angeles from his service as a Department of Justice prosecutor.

He is a frequent commentator on entertainment and white collar criminal law issues for national news organizations including CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, and MSNBC. Mr. Caldwell has been honored as a "Southern California Super Lawyer" in every year since 2005 by the publishers of Los Angeles magazine and Law and Politics magazine.

Representative Cases

 Mr. Caldwell was chosen by the former president of America’s largest home mortgage lender to defend numerous lawsuits and investigations that followed the subprime mortgage crisis. This representation required negotiating the terms of the client’s departure from the company, coordinating the defense of more than ten lawsuits filed in multiple jurisdictions, and successfully protecting the client from follow-on SEC and criminal investigations of other officers at the company.

 Mr. Caldwell represented the chairman of one of the world’s largest home builders in numerous disputes arising from alleged stock option backdating. Mr. Caldwell negotiated successful resolutions of the executive’s wrongful termination claims against the company, the securities class action lawsuits that followed the executive’s termination, and an investigation by the SEC of the executive’s conduct.

 Mr. Caldwell has represented the six major motion picture studios in many lawsuits brought against the world’s leading computer chip manufacturers. In the first lawsuit, Mr. Caldwell successfully obtained a preliminary injunction prohibiting one of the chip manufacturers from selling chips that allowed copying of the studios’ encrypted DVDs. That result prompted the settlement of all subsequent lawsuits on favorable terms, including permanent injunctive relief against each of the defendants and recovery of legal fees.

 One of the many lawsuits handled by Mr. Caldwell involving copyright infringement, trademark infringement, or idea theft was a case alleging that the concept for the successful television series "Without a Trace" had been stolen by the creator of that show. Mr. Caldwell obtained summary judgment in his client’s favor.

 Mr. Caldwell represented a sitting member of the federal judiciary in a lawsuit against the Administrative Office of United States Courts. The case resulted in an important decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirming fundamental principles of judicial independence. Tashima v. Administrative Office of United States Courts, 967 F.2d 1264 (9th Cir. 1992).

 Mr. Caldwell represented a large Indonesian media company against a U.S.-based aerospace company in an international arbitration brought under the Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. The $160 million claim sought to rescind the sale of a defective communications satellite. The case was resolved on favorable terms shortly before the arbitration hearing was scheduled to commence.

 Mr. Caldwell and Mike Leslie represented defrauded investors in a fraud and RICO action against the financiers, attorneys, and promoters of a failed residential housing development. After pre-trial settlements with most of the defendants, Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Leslie tried the case to a multimillion-dollar verdict against one of California’s largest banks. It then settled on favorable terms, resulting in complete recovery for the sixty-two plaintiffs.

 Mr. Caldwell and Michael Proctor successfully defended a real estate property lease case on behalf of Gap Inc. The case pitted our client against one of the wealthiest commercial landholders in the U.S., who was seeking damages in excess of $6 million. After two weeks of pre-trial evidentiary hearings, the trial court rejected almost all of the claimed damages, and the plaintiff capitulated.

 In 2004, Mr. Caldwell represented hundreds of defrauded investors of self-proclaimed investment guru Reed Slatkin against the banks that handled Mr. Slatkin’s accounts. The federal class action settled for $26.5 million, resulting in almost complete recovery for the class members who had accounts at the banks, and partial recovery for the other victims of Slatkin’s Ponzi scheme.

 When three members of a Los Angeles law firm left to join new firms, Mr. Caldwell brought claims in an AAA arbitration to recover partnership funds wrongfully withheld from the departing partners. After a two-week hearing, the arbitrator awarded Mr. Caldwell’s client exactly the amount of damages presented by Mr. Caldwell’s expert.

 Mr. Caldwell defended the vice president of an aerospace firm who was charged with defense contracting fraud. After five weeks of trial in San Antonio, Texas, the court dismissed all charges against Mr. Caldwell’s client at the close of the prosecution case.

 Mr. Caldwell has been retained repeatedly by one of California’s largest law firms to defend malpractice claims. Many of these cases have been resolved in the firm’s favor on summary judgment.

Education and Honors

J.D., Harvard Law School, 1982
cum laude
Member, Board of Student Advisers
Teaching Assistant, Federal Litigation
Teaching Assistant, Alternative Dispute Resolution

B.A., University of Kansas, 1979 (with highest distinction and honors)
Phi Beta Kappa
Summerfield Scholar
New York City Urban Fellowship


Law clerk to the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima, United States District Court for the Central District of California, 1982 - 1983

Professional Achievements

Member, California State Bar; United States District Court for the Central, Northern, Southern, and Eastern Districts of California and the Western District of Texas; United States Court of Appeals for the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits; and the United States Supreme Court

Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section, 1983 - 1986
Editor, ABA Complex Crimes Journal, 1993
Member, Board of Advisors, David Bohnett Foundation
Co-Chair, Board of Directors, Family Equality Council, 1999 - 2004
Member, Board of Trustees, Whittier College, 2012 - present

Often venturing far from his Kansas roots, Chris is an avid world traveler who has lived in South Africa and Japan. He starts each day at 5:00 a.m. with a workout or swim.

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