Michael Hausfeld has always approached the law as a tool to improve the world. From working with Native Alaskans facing environmental threats after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, to recovering assets for Holocaust victims, to laying groundwork that will affect trillions of trade dollars in the international currency market, Hausfeld is driven by a passion for making the law help communities harmed by powerful government or corporate interests. The firm that bears his name is infused with his approach to seeking social and economic justice in the most prescient matters of today, including cases on climate change, religious freedoms, and international trade laws. A father of three and grandfather of five, Hausfeld graduated from National Law Center George Washington University.
- Can you describe for our readers the mix of work you do within your practice?
Michael Hausfeld: My practice involves a combination of antitrust, environmental, international human rights, and constitutional law. The diversity has been a function of matters that have been brought to my attention over the course of my career and about which I have a deep passion and commitment. There are, for example, synergies in international human rights and constitutional law. They both involve broad principles of general responsibility and conduct which by necessity leave great room for interpretation and application. These matters are both professionally and personally satisfying because they allow for the exercise of imagination and creativity in finding solutions to complex contemporary behavior. For example, negotiations in the German forced labor litigation encompassed some of the broadest parameters of fundamental human dignity in a highly charged political context with negotiations involving several major states and at times hundreds of participants representing the varied interests of victims across the European continent. The result was not just a settlement agreement between parties, but a treaty involving the signatures of multiple states and private parties signed in a formal ceremony in the Bundestag.
- What trends are you seeing in your practice in terms of the types of matters keeping you busy these days?
MH: There are tectonic trends in a number of areas of the law that are posing new challenges for the practice of certain disciplines. For example, there are major differences between unlawful monopolization under U.S. law and the abuse of dominance under European law. In the U.S., courts are applying a “rigorous analysis” to requests for class certification, whereas the recent opinion of the court of appeals in the UK in the Mastercard case adopts a far lower certification threshold.
Antitrust law, known outside of the U.S. as competition law, is clearly moving in different directions inside and outside of the U.S. on multiple fronts. At one time, U.S. antitrust law dominated the world stage. It is now assuming a lesser role in international thought and practice. There’s a divergence in policy positions between the U.S., for example, and the European Commission as to what types of activities constitute anticompetitive behavior. There is also an apparent divergence of receptivity on the concepts of access to justice regarding European procedural reforms dealing with collective actions as opposed to the present U.S. trend with respect to class actions. Likewise, in international human rights, courts outside the U.S. are seemingly more open to addressing such issues in favor of upholding human rights principles as opposed to U.S. courts. The most recent example is a decision by a Dutch court in a matter involving the right to life endangered by the consequences of climate change, holding that governments have a duty to act to preserve an individual’s right to life threatened by such consequences.
- Can you describe a recent matter that you’ve handled?
MH: One of our more interesting recent cases has been the manipulation of the foreign exchange currency market. This involved a mixture of highly complex legal, factual, and economic issues in a market that trades trillions of dollars daily. It required a key understanding of the economics of information asymmetry, the tainting of market prices generally, and the impact of tens of thousands of transacting parties.
- To what extent did your experiences in law school affect your career path?
MH: I have always had a deep, abiding sense of justice and an antipathy toward abuse of power and authority. I felt most comfortable as I pursued the doctrines that I believed would give me the opportunity to pursue those abuses. While in law school, that sense became more intense and I was drawn towards complex social issues and the balancing of the rights of those who did not have much against those who did. My most memorable professors and courses were in the areas of constitutional law, antitrust, and corporate law. I had the honor of studying under professor Jerome Barron for constitutional law, Monroe Freedman for professional ethics and social justice, and Professor Henry Manne, who became the founder of what is now known as Antonin Scalia Law School, for corporate law.
- Were there any mentors after law school who really helped shape the course of your professional life?
MH: I am deeply indebted to my mentor, Jerry Cohen, for shaping my professional character and integrity. He was a person and a lawyer of great distinction with a mastery of common sense, ease of disposition, and an enormously keen intellect.
- You founded Hausfeld LLP in 2008. How has your practice affected the culture of the firm?
MH: I have been fortunate to work on a variety of matters involving significant issues with corresponding results. Over the course of my career, I worked on matters encompassing the First Amendment, the religious rights of high school students, the rights of indigenous peoples to be free from environmental contamination, the rights of citizens not to become slave laborers for either corporations or states, and the rights of victims of global cartels to be made whole and be free of such conduct both locally and globally. I am currently practicing in a firm that bears my name, shares my culture of social and economic justice, and prizes the highest level of integrity in the practice of law.
- What keeps you busy besides the law?
MH: Outside of the office, my principal focus is my family and a proper work-life balance. My best partner is, and has always been, my wife Marilyn. I have three terrific children and five magnificent grandchildren. When we get together with my brother, sister, their children and grandchildren, we total 45, a testament to the life begun by my mother and immigrant father.
- If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?
MH: If I weren’t a lawyer, I have no idea what I’d be doing now!