The name to note in San Francisco is Marc Axelbaum; his ‘superb industry knowledge,’ ‘diligence’ and ‘intelligence’ earn him particular praise from clients.
The Legal 500 U.S.

Marc Axelbaum, a Pillsbury Litigation partner, leads the firm’s Northern California Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense practice.

Marc represents U.S. and international clients in criminal and civil cases and in corporate, SEC and regulatory investigations. He has represented clients from numerous industries, including energy (traditional and renewable), life sciences and health care, technology, banking, investment funds, real estate and construction. Marc also represents public officials. He is skilled at helping clients avoid charges and litigation in the first place, but also adept at defeating and resolving cases once brought.

Representative Experience

Served as lead counsel for a former senior executive at a renewable energy company in high-profile fraud investigations by the Justice Department and federal regulators. No charges were ever brought.


Conducted an internal investigation into the valuation/risk ratings of a regional bank’s loan and real estate owned portfolios, and alleged misstatements by officers to the bank’s finance department and outside auditors.


Defended a real estate investment fund in three-judge arbitration arising from the client’s foreclosure on a substantial mezzanine loan. Defeated all claims and recovered attorneys’ fees and costs.

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  • Criminal, Regulatory and Internal Investigations, Parallel Proceedings
    • Energy (Traditional and Renewable)
      • Lead counsel for a former senior executive at a renewable energy company in high-profile fraud investigations by the Justice Department and federal regulators. No charges were ever brought.
      • Represent client in DOJ and Treasury Department investigation of energy company’s valuation of renewable projects.
      • Represented leading energy company in criminal and SEC investigations of certain allegedly fraudulent accounting practices. No charges or complaint were ever filed against our client.
      • Represented a high-profile individual defendant in one of the first criminal cases brought by the Enron Task Force. 
      • Represent a renewable energy company in referral of fraud and embezzlement scheme to federal prosecutors.
    • Health Care, Life Sciences and Related Matters
      • Lead counsel for global manufacturer of durable medical equipment in criminal and civil False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute investigations.
      • Represented a senior executive in criminal and civil investigations of the alleged off-label promotion of pharmaceutical.
      • Lead counsel for a manufacturer of laboratory equipment in internal investigation of elaborate fraud and embezzlement by a senior officer and subsequent referral of matter to federal prosecutors. Our work resulted in officer making restitution payment to our client of all misappropriated funds and all legal fees incurred in the investigation.
      • Represented life sciences company and its founder/CEO in federal and state criminal and civil investigations into allegations of fraudulent lab testing results, and environmental and workplace safety issues.
      • Represented world-class athlete and coach in criminal investigations into alleged steroid distribution by the BALCO nutritional laboratory.
    • Financial Institutions and Investment Funds
      • Conducted internal investigation into the valuation/risk ratings of a regional bank’s loan and real estate owned portfolios, and alleged misstatements by officers. Handled subsequent investigations by U.S. Attorney’s Office and state and federal regulators.
      • Represent numerous clients in government investigations and prosecutions of hedge funds and expert networks, including investigation of pre-IPO share trading.
      • Represented a leading financial institution and certain of its employees in an SEC investigation into the bank’s mortgage portfolio and allowance for loan losses.
      • Conducted an internal investigation into a public pension fund’s real estate investments.
      • Advised a leading financial institution on complying with a district attorney’s search warrant.
      • Represented employee of investment bank in insider trading prosecution.
    • Construction
      • Led internal investigation of leading construction company into kickback allegations. Represented client in related civil litigation.
      • Conducted internal investigation of major construction company into whistleblower allegations of fraud concerning percentage of completion accounting.
    • Technology and Telecommunications
      • Represented the former president of a major internet software and services industry corporation charged with revenue recognition fraud in connection with the company’s restatement of earnings.
      • Lead counsel for a computer networking company in internal investigation of theft of trade secrets and subsequent referral of matter to federal prosecutors.
      • Conducted internal investigation of elaborate fraud by senior officer of software company who misappropriated personnel, trade secrets and other assets. Secured civil injunction against officer.
      • Represented IT director of computer networking company in prosecution for theft of trade secrets.
      • Represent telecommunications company in responding to various grand jury subpoenas.
    • Public Corruption and Political Affairs
      • Lead counsel for a former public official prosecuted for bribery and honest services fraud.
      • Represented a former high-ranking South Korean government official facing extradition to face bribery and campaign finance violations after the client’s political party lost the presidential election in Korea.
      • Represented the alleged leader of a separatist political party in India in contesting an international extradition request.
      • Represented the government of Sweden in connection with habeas corpus proceedings initiated by a Swedish national imprisoned in California.
  • Civil and Commercial Matters
    • Defended a real estate investment fund in three-judge arbitration arising from the client’s foreclosure on a substantial mezzanine loan. Defeated all claims and recovered attorneys’ fees and costs.
    • Represented real estate investment fund in litigation against developer surrounding financing and sale of commercial project. Defeated preliminary injunction motion and settled case on very favorable terms for client.
    • Lead counsel for leading general contractor in litigation surrounding alleged kickbacks on large public construction project.
    • Lead counsel for leading data security company in class action data breach litigation around the country.
    • Represented a global telecommunications company in class actions alleging that the company cooperated in the NSA’s Terrorist Surveillance Program.
    • Represented independent expenditure committees in enjoining a local ordinance that prevented them from speaking out in favor of or against candidates for elective office.
    • Lead counsel for a world-renowned scientist in securities litigation concerning public statements about a major arthritis drug.
    • Represented plaintiffs asserting civil rights claims for excessive force and illegal searches and seizures committed by a constellation of government officials. Defeated summary judgment and defended ruling on appeal. Case settled on very favorable terms.

    • Represented a computer printer manufacturer in unfair competition litigation challenging disclosures of inkjet printer speeds.
    • Represented a school district in federal class action litigation over its special education programs.
    • Represented a leading computer hardware manufacturer in defending against trademark infringement allegations in a case that raised novel questions of intellectual property law.

Professional Highlights

Recognized by The Legal 500 U.S. for White-Collar Criminal Defense (20142016) and by Super Lawyers (20132018).


Served as a law clerk to the (late) Hon. Peter K. Leisure, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and the Hon. Marsha S. Berzon, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


Appointed to the Criminal Justice Act trial panel by the judges of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to represent indigent defendants in federal criminal cases.

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  • Co-Author, “The Long Arm of the Law: Responding to the Expanding Extraterritorial Reach of the Department of Justice,” a chapter in the Thomson Reuters 2016 book, International White Collar Enforcement.
  • Served as hiring chair for Pillsbury’s Northern California offices.
  • Member, executive committee of the Federal Bar Association for the Northern District of California.
  • Served on steering committee, San Francisco Young Lawyers Division of the ABA White Collar Crime committee.
  • Past Chair, Criminal and Constitutional Law Section, San Francisco Barristers Club.
  • Served on board of directors, OneJustice (formerly Public Interest Clearinghouse).

Education

  • J.D., Columbia University School of Law, 1998
    Articles Editor, Columbia Law Review; Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar

    A.B., Cornell University, 1993
    cum laude

Admissions

  • California

    New York

Courts

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

    U.S. District Court for the Northern, Eastern, Central and Southern Districts of California

    U.S. District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York

    U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

Clerkships

  • Honorable Marsha S. Berzon, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

    Honorable Peter K. Leisure, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York