Rakesh Kilaru

As a partner in the Washington D.C. office of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, Rakesh has broad experience leading all aspects of litigation and crisis management. Since joining WW+E, he has delivered favorable results for clients both before and at trial. Most recently, he served as trial counsel for the NCAA and helped obtain a complete defense verdict in a highly-publicized defamation case arising from the Reggie Bush scandal. Prior to that engagement, Rakesh led the successful defense of the economic development arms of a sovereign Indian nation against an enforcement action by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, obtaining a full dismissal of all claims before any discovery was taken.

Before joining WW+E, Rakesh served as a Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel in the Office of White House Counsel, where he provided legal advice and strategic counseling to the Obama Administration on its domestic policy agenda, focusing on healthcare, education, labor and employment, housing, and the Supreme Court. He also helped to develop and implement the government’s litigation strategy in cases arising under the Affordable Care Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Before entering the government, Rakesh was an associate in the appellate and white-collar practice groups at O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, where he also maintained an active pro bono practice in federal circuit courts and immigration courts.

Rakesh is also an active member of the D.C. legal community. He is a member of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of DC’s (APABA-DC) Board of Directors, an editor of The Green Bag, and a member of the Edward Bennett Williams Inn of Court. In addition, Rakesh previously served as a director of the ABABA-DC Education Fund, a not-for-profit arm of APABA-DC that provides fellowships and other educational opportunities to law students in the D.C. area.

Notable Matters

  • Lead counsel for the economic development arms of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Golden Valley Lending, et al. The Tribe retained WW+E shortly before a complaint was filed, and Rakesh developed a comprehensive legal strategy involving the filing of a successful motion to transfer the case out of the Bureau’s chosen forum, a successful motion to stay discovery, and then a motion to dismiss the lawsuit supported by five amicus briefs. Rather than respond to the motion to dismiss, the CFPB voluntarily dismissed the action—the only time it has taken that step in a case brought against a sovereign Indian Nation.
  • Trial counsel in Todd McNair v. NCAA. Obtained a complete defense verdict in a month-long trial in state court in Los Angeles. McNair, a former USC assistant football coach, was implicated by the NCAA in the Reggie Bush benefits scandal. He sued the NCAA for defamation, seeking over $27 million in damages, based on his claim that the organization had ended his coaching career. WW+E took over the representation after the NCAA had lost three pre-trial appeals, including on the issue of McNair’s ability to show falsity and malice. At trial, Rakesh examined a key defense witness and cross-examined the Plaintiff’s sole damages expert. The jury ultimately rejected McNair’s claims. The trial was covered extensively in the media, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the LA Times. After the jury verdict, trial judge Frederick Shaller called the advocacy in the case “the best I’ve seen since I’ve been a judge.”
  • Successfully counseled a high-profile public figure in response to allegations of misconduct. To date, the matter has remained confidential.
  • Represented Ford Motor Company from trial through appeal in Westgate Ford Truck Sales v. Ford Motor Company, helping obtain and then defend a complete defense verdict in a class action lawsuit seeking the largest damages award in Ohio history.
  • Represented Johnson and Johnson in Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Arkansas, helping obtain reversal, in the Arkansas Supreme Court, of a $1.2 billion jury verdict involving Risperdal.
  • Co-authored Supreme Court merits brief in constitutional challenge to the authority of bankruptcy judges to adjudicate common-law claims.
  • Counseled the CEO of one of the largest private companies in the United States in a high-profile fraud investigation.

Education

  • Undergraduate: Columbia University, Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude
  • Law: Stanford Law School; Member, Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic; Notes Editor, Stanford Law Review; Best Brief and Best Overall Team, 2010 Kirkwood Moot Court Competition; Best Oral Advocate, 2010 National Trial Competition (awarded by the American College of Trial Lawyers)

Clerkships

  • The Honorable Elena Kagan, Supreme Court of the United States (October Term 2011)
  • The Honorable J. Harvie Wilkinson III, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (2010 – 2011)

Publications

  • Comment, The New Rule 12(b)(6): Twombly, Iqbal, and the Paradox of Pleading, 62 Stanford Law Review 905 (2010)