Vancouver, B.C., July 27, 2021 — Cozen O’Connor continues to grow its presence in Canada with the addition of distinguished commercial litigator Laesha J. Smith to the firm’s Vancouver office. The former litigation counsel for the British Columbia Securities Commission brings to the firm a nearly two decade career focused on civil and administrative litigation and regulatory investigative litigation matters.
“With the increase in international litigation and cross-border transactional activities, now more than ever it’s important for our clients to realize they have allies working directly with them who are familiar with their jurisdiction,” said Barry Boss, co-chair of Cozen O’Connor’s Commercial Litigation Department and co-chair of the White Collar Defense & Investigations Practice. “Laesha brings a tremendous depth of relevant experience with an excellent track record of persuasively liaising with senior counsel, clients, and public authorities to navigate often complex litigation. Cozen O’Connor clients will greatly benefit from her addition to the team.”
Smith spent over a decade at international law firms in New York and London, where she represented banks and foreign and domestic corporations in litigation involving securities, commodities, as well as violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. She focused on contentious regulatory work and acted for financial institutions in high profile, complex regulatory investigations, both in Canada and the United States, across a very broad range of regulatory issues, including market abuse, insider dealing, anti-bribery and corruption, fraud, regulatory reporting and other types of systems and controls failings.
She has successfully represented several major financial institutions against investigations commenced by multiple regulators in the UK (FCA), United States (DOJ, SEC & CFTC), Japan (JFSA), and Switzerland (FINMA) in relation to the alleged manipulation of various financial benchmarks, including inter-bank offered rates (LIBOR and EURIBOR), benchmarks for foreign exchange trading (FX), and commodities (gold & silver) trading. She has represented a diverse client base in hearings and trials in the Supreme Court of British Columbia as well as protected the legal interests of seven employees (oil traders), including a company director, against a joint FSA/CFTC investigation into their employer (a U.S. parent company and UK subsidiary) in relation to potential civil and criminal market abuse/manipulation of the oil markets.
Smith will be reunited with former colleague Brigeeta Richdale, Cozen O’Connor’s vice chair of the White Collar Defense & Investigations Practice, who previously served as a prosecutor in the Enforcement Department at the British Columbia Securities Commission. At the BCSC, Smith litigated complex enforcement proceedings before the commission’s administrative hearing panels and was a direct report to the executive director. She managed a full docket of enforcement cases related to alleged breaches of the Securities Act and played a significant role in facilitating enforcement investigations into potential misconduct in the securities market by delivering legal advice to commission investigators. She frequently collaborated with the chief enforcement counsel to develop and implement litigation branch policies and procedures and advised on legal aspects of complex or novel public policy concerns.
“I am so incredibly thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a colleague for whom I have the utmost respect. Laesha has always been a tenacious litigator with a stellar work ethic,” commented Richdale. “Commercial litigation is complex, and a successful attorney needs to have a deft touch at building relationships while being a trusted adviser to their clients. Laesha is exactly that person and this is a tremendous benefit for Cozen O’Connor clients.”
“It is such an honor to join a firm like Cozen O’Connor that truly values the collaborative nature of the law, and the importance of putting client’s interests first,” Smith said. “I am highly confident that my nearly two decades of commercial litigation experience will be a valuable addition to the already robust practice in Vancouver. I have the added benefit of reuniting with a colleague that I have the utmost respect for, and an excellent working rapport.”
Smith graduated with honors with a B.A. in English from Queens’ University, Kingston, Ontario, and a joint LL.B and BCL Law degree from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. She is a member of the Canadian Bar Association, the American Bar Association, The Advocates’ Society, and the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers.
Smith’s addition to the Vancouver office marks the continued international expansion for Cozen O’Connor. In June, four attorneys, Brigeeta Richdale, Shane Hardy, Peter Henein, and Rebecca A. Sim, joined Cozen O’Connor’s Vancouver and Toronto offices from Canadian law firm Cassels.
About Cozen O’Connor
Established in 1970, Cozen O’Connor has over 775 attorneys who help clients manage risk and make better business decisions. The firm counsels clients on their most sophisticated legal matters in all areas of the law, including litigation, corporate, and regulatory law. Representing a broad array of leading global corporations and middle-market companies, Cozen O’Connor serves its clients’ needs through 31 offices across two continents.