Christopher Leach is a partner in Mayer Brown's Washington DC office and a member of the Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice. As a former attorney with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), his practice focuses on consumer-facing issues, including data privacy, false advertising, marketing practices, and other aspects of customer acquisition. He represents and advises clients in a broad range of industries, including the fintech, financial services, food and beverage, automotive, and telecommunications industries, defending those companies in litigation, before government agencies, and in self-regulatory proceedings such as the National Advertising Division (NAD).
As a lawyer in the FTC’s Division of Financial Practices, Christopher investigated and litigated consumer protection enforcement actions, and developed enforcement policy. His relevant areas of experience include fintech, cryptocurrency, consumer financial data privacy, gig economy, fair lending and consumer telecommunications. He worked on some of the agency’s most visible fintech actions, including active litigation against FleetCor Technologies, Inc. and its CEO for deceptive advertising and charging customers hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized fees through its B2B payment system; a $10 million settlement with Yellowstone Capital in connection with the company’s merchant-cash-advance practices; and served as the agency expert on cryptocurrency issues.
Christopher previously practiced in the Washington DC office of another global law firm, where he focused on consumer, data privacy and transnational litigation. Earlier in his career, he clerked for the Honorable Gerald B. Tjoflat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
- Represented the FTC in enforcement action against B2B payments company FleetCor Technologies, Inc. and its CEO, alleging that the defendants misled consumers and charged hundreds of millions in unauthorized fees. Led summary judgment briefing and the the agency’s decision to move the litigation from federal court to administrative court after the Supreme Court ruled that the FTC could not obtain monetary relief for claims under Section 5 of the FTC Act.
- Represented the FTC in enforcement action against B2B financing company Yellowstone Capital (now Fundry) and its two principals, alleging unfair and deceptive acts and practices with respect to the defendants’ merchant cash advance products. The matter settled for $10 million.
- Represented the FTC against debt collection firm, Midwest Recovery, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, among others. The settled complaint also included the first-ever federal charge of “Debt Parking” or “Passive debt collection” in which the collector reports a debt to the consumer reporting agencies before first communicating with the consumer, a practice that the CFPB subsequently outlawed via regulation.
- Represented the FTC against a car dealership network, alleging discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and UDAP violations in connection with mark-ups on vehicle purchases. The case settled for $10 million.
- Defended social media company in litigation brought by class action plaintiffs and government entities relating to alleged data misuse by a third party. Claims included the Stored Communications Act, the Wiretap Act, the Video Privacy Protection Act, various state consumer protection statutes and common-law privacy torts.
- Defended social media company in suit brought by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner to prohibit data transfers from the EU to the United States under the EU’s GDPR (and predecessor statute). The matter involved a seven-week trial in the Irish High Court and an appeal to the Court of Justice for the European Union.
- Defended food and beverage company in the Ninth Circuit appeal against alleged violations of the Alien Tort Statute, arguing a position that ultimately succeeded before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Defended food and beverage company in multi-district litigation against class-action claims that the company deceptively marketed food products made with genetically-modified corn as “all natural.”
- Defended food and beverage company in class-action suit alleging that “sustainable” representation was misleading in light of labor practices in supply chain.
- Represented telecommunications company before National Advertising Division in connection with alleged deceptive advertising.
- Represented automotive company before the FTC in connection with data privacy and right-to-repair issues.
- Defended prison contractor against suit brought by the Mississippi Attorney General in connection with an alleged billion-dollar bribery scheme in connection with prison contracts.
- Represented hedge fund manager before the Securities & Exchange Commission in connection with alleged market manipulation.
- Represented social media company in suit by privacy group under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain confidential documents produced to the FTC.
Other Complex Litigation:
- Defended pharmaceutical company in multi-district litigation, involving private plaintiffs and state attorneys general, alleging that it was the ringleader of a generic-drugs price-fixing conspiracy.
- Served as briefing counsel in two-month criminal trial of former tech CEO accused of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy.
- Represented hedge fund in successful decade-long litigation against the Republic of Argentina in connection with Argentina’s 2001 default on its sovereign bonds. Argentina’s multi-billion-dollar settlement capped what the Financial Times called the “sovereign-debt trial of the century.”
- Represented investors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in suit against the government alleging that the Treasury Department and the FHFA violated the Administrative Procedure Act when they decided to remit both companies’ entire net worth to the government.
- Represented hedge fund in litigation against the Republic of Venezuela in connection with Venezuela’s default on its sovereign bonds.
Chris also maintains an active pro-bono practice, focusing on criminal defense and habeas corpus matters. For example, he represented an incarcerated individual before the Fourth Circuit and successfully obtained reversal of a decision dismissing his habeas petition. He also represented a human trafficking victim before the Fourth Circuit, successfully reversing dismissal of her suit against her former employer.
Dartmouth College, BA, summa cum laude, Government, with Honors
Duke University School of Law, JD, magna cum laude
Order of the Coif; Mordecai Scholarship; Editorial Board, Duke Law Journal; Moot Court Board; President, American Constitution Society
- US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit