Biography

Ken Kelly is a business trial lawyer. He draws on 50 years of experience representing multinational financial institutions, insurers, and companies in large-scale, complex cases across the country. Over the course of his dynamic career, he’s developed an impressive win record concerning a wide range of disputes with tens of millions of dollars at stake. He thrives in the courtroom while explaining highly complicated legal and business issues in terms juries can understand. Drawing on his deep understanding of the banking industry and New York employment law, Ken has dedicated much of the past 10 years to defending European financial institutions before FINRA and the American Arbitration Association in compensation-related disputes brought by executives and other employees, as well as representing a major disability and life insurer in ERISA claims litigation.

Ken honed his craft at a prestigious boutique Wall Street law firm and later while managing the litigation department of Chemical Bank. During that time, he tried dozens of cases that established favorable precedent for employers in New York. He secured decisions to preserve at-will employment in the state of New York, shield banks from liabilities due to check forgery, and clarify the scope of whistleblower statues in the health care industry. He later spent many years providing ERISA counsel to major health, disability, and life insurers, and handling medical insurance claims and contract disputes with insureds and medical providers. Ken also regularly defends a manufacturer of transportation products against asbestos claims. Clients credit his proven trial strategies with resolving their cases efficiently and cost-effectively while minimizing disruption to their business.

Experience

  • Defended an international bank before FINRA against claims of fraudulent inducement in hiring brought by three former financial advisors. Though the advisors sought $30 million in damages for allegedly ruined careers, Ken overcame a difficult factual situation by simplifying the case and precluding their expert from testifying. He secured a decision that dismissed the employees’ claims and awarded his client $3.4 million in damages.
  • Cleared Aetna Life Insurance Company of liability for an employee’s income tax payable on Social Security disability benefits deducted from disability insurance payments. Ken saved his client from potentially millions in claims by persuading the court to agree with Aetna’s interpretation of a disability provision found in thousands of its insurance policies.
  • Defended a multinational European bank in several FINRA arbitrations arising from the 2008 international financial crisis in which bankers sought tens of millions of dollars in damages for unpaid bonuses. Ken and his team successfully defended the bank’s decision to use its bonus pool to instead fulfill its fiduciary obligations. In a series of complex, contentious disputes, Ken offered the bank’s board members and its former general counsel as witnesses and secured outcomes that avoided unfavorable precedent and reputational damage to the bank.
  • Successfully represented Chemical Bank in a leading case before New York’s highest court confirming that a personnel manual is not a contract of employment. Ken’s victory overrode a growing trend of decisions in other states that expanded an employers’ liability for termination of its at-will employees. This precedent-setting case has been cited hundreds of times.
  • Defended Staten Island University Hospital to limit the scope of New York’s whistleblower statute in the health care industry. Ken persuaded the Court of Appeals to conclude that the whistleblower statute protects only professionals who personally treat patients.
  • Defended Chemical Bank against claims of negligence as a drawee bank in paying forged checks. Ken established the bank’s interpretation that the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.) Article 3 “fictitious payee” or “padded payroll” statute allows the bank to avoid liability for forged checks when the forgery is facilitated by its customer even if the bank itself is negligent. That decision has been cited throughout the United States in similar U.C.C. check collection and deposit litigation.
Education
  • Cornell University Law School (J.D., with distinction, 1971)
  • Fordham University (B.A., highest honors, 1968)
  • Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Paris, France (certificat, 1967)
Court Admissions
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • New Jersey State Courts
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of New York
Bar Admissions
  • New Jersey
  • New York
Memberships
  • American Bar Association, Litigation Section
  • American Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section
  • New York City Bar Association
  • New York State Bar Association
Recognition
  • New York Metro Super Lawyers®, Business Litigation (2013-2020)
  • Chambers USA: The World's Leading Lawyers for Business, Leader in Litigation (General Commercial) (2009 to 2011)