David Axelrod is a first-chair trial lawyer who specializes in defending corporations and individuals in government-facing litigation involving the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, and in defending parties sued for defamation. David has tried more than 20 federal court cases to judgment and has secured favorable jury and bench verdicts in high-profile trials under intense media and public scrutiny, and has extensive experience arguing cases on appeal. David has successfully designed and executed courtroom strategy in a wide range of cases, both civil and criminal.
In cases involving criminal or regulatory enforcement, David has broad experience in cases alleging securities fraud, stock and market manipulation, insider trading, accounting fraud, bank fraud, tax evasion, and public corruption. In private civil litigation, David has secured significant victories in a broad range of cases from securities fraud to contracts to defamation.
David is a former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Supervisory Trial Counsel in Philadelphia and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. At the SEC, he served as lead trial counsel and directed all aspects of litigation and complex, multi-agency investigations into alleged securities law violations, including cases involving insider trading, market manipulation, accounting fraud, and violations of the FCPA. As a federal prosecutor, David investigated and prosecuted a range of economic fraud and public corruption cases.
Representative Matters in Private Practice
- Represented The Late show with Stephen Colbert employees filming at the Capitol complex; convinced U.S. Attorney’s Office to decline prosecution.
- John C. Depp, II v. Amber Laura Heard: represent Amber Heard in appeal of defamation verdict returned against her.
- Palin v. The New York Times Company: Lead trial lawyer in successfully defending The Times against a libel suit brought by former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, in which the judge granted the defense motion to dismiss following trial testimony but let the jury deliberate, resulting in a verdict that The Times was not liable. (No. 17-civ-04853, S.D.N.Y., Feb. 15, 2022)
Representative Matters at Securities and Exchange Commission
David has directed strategy in cases involving investment fraud, accounting fraud, FCPA violations, and market manipulation, and has tried to verdict cases involving insider trading. The following examples are representative of his experience at the SEC:
- SEC v. Daryl M. Payton (S.D.N.Y.): lead trial counsel in jury trial in which two brokers were found liable for insider trading in advance of IBM’s acquisition of a data analytics company. It was the first insider trading case tried after the Second Circuit's Newman decision heightening the "personal benefit" requirement.
- SEC v. Bonan Huang, et al. (E.D. Pa.): lead trial counsel in case where the SEC charged two Capital One employees with stealing credit card data for hundreds of publicly traded companies, which they used to make profitable trades. Successfully tried to a jury in a week-long trial in January 2016, resulting in a more than $12 million judgment.
- SEC v. Dubovoy, et al. (D.N.J.): supervised a team of trial lawyers where the SEC charged more than 30 defendants in the United States and Europe with using stolen press releases to make more than $100 million trading U.S. securities.
Representative Matters at U.S. Attorney's Office
Prior to joining the SEC, David was an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where he focused on investigating and prosecuting economic crimes, including securities fraud, public corruption, and tax evasion. He tried more than a dozen cases to verdict and argued multiple times before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The following examples are representative of his experience as a federal prosecutor:
- In United States v. Robert Stinson, investigated and prosecuted a $17 million Ponzi scheme.
- In United States v. Steven Pitchersky, investigated and prosecuted a California mortgage lender who stole millions of dollars from a national warehouse lender.
- In United States v, Kelly Defeo, investigated and convicted at trial a real estate developer that created fake tax returns and defrauded his lenders and investors.
Recognition & Accomplishments
Benchmark Litigation, "Litigation Star," White Collar Crime, Securities, Banking and Financial Services, 2023, 2024
The Best Lawyers in America, criminal defense - white collar, 2024
The Legal Intelligencer, Finalist, Attorney of the Year Award, 2023
Law360, 'MVP of the Year,' 2022
Chambers USA, Litigation: Securities (Pennsylvania), 2021-2023; Litigation: White Collar Crime and Government Investigations (Pennsylvania), 2022, 2023
The Legal 500, Securities Litigation: Defense, 2014, 2020-2023
Panelist, Insider Trading, The Edward Bennett Williams American Inn of Court, Washington D.C., February 15, 2018
Speaker, "AML Obligations of Broker-Dealers and Current Issues in the SPAC Market," New York State Bar Association Securities Regulation Committee Meeting, New York City, December 13, 2017
Speaker, "Insider Trading: A Simple Concept in Theory," Ballard Spahr CLE, Philadelphia, June 7, 2017
Co-author, "Stimulus Fraud Part 4: CARES Act Oversight Provisions and Agency Collaboration," The Legal Intelligencer, July 8, 2020
Co-author, "First Step Act of 2018 Aims to Reform Sentencing Laws," The Legal Intelligencer, February 4, 2019
Co-author, "Recent Supreme Court Decision Narrows Definition of Whistleblower," The Legal Intelligencer, March 8, 2018
Co-author, "What's Next after the SEC 'Insider Trading' Breach?" Dark Reading, October 19, 2017
Co-author, "The SEC's New Enforcement Tool?" Law360, July 12, 2017
Harvard Law School (J.D. 2003)
Haverford College (B.A. 1999, high honors in Economics, Political Science)Phi Beta Kappa
District of Columbia