William N. Shepherd
William Shepherd is a trial lawyer in Holland & Knight's West Palm Beach and Washington, D.C., offices. Mr. Shepherd, who also serves as executive partner of the firm's West Palm Beach office, represents clients involved in civil and criminal government investigations. He also assists the general counsel of public and private companies in conducting sensitive internal investigations and compliance matters. In addition to his enforcement practice, Mr. Shepherd handles complex civil litigation in related subject matters. This balance of civil and criminal matters helps him keep a keen eye on risk and a broader perspective on developing solutions to clients' problems. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Shepherd served, at the appointment of the attorney general, as the statewide prosecutor of Florida and earlier in his career, as a prosecutor in Miami, Florida.
Mr. Shepherd's extensive experience includes working to protect children and victims of human trafficking. In his role as statewide prosecutor, Mr. Shepherd supervised hundreds of investigations of child predators and worked with child witnesses. His work on anti-human trafficking covers policy, compliance training and litigation matters.
Chambers USA – America's Leading Business Lawyers guide has recognized Mr. Shepherd since 2013 for Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations.
- In his initial listing in the guide, Mr. Shepherd was described as "first and foremost he has great judgment and a far greater sense of the bigger picture. He is not drawn in to unnecessary conflicts or fights if they do not serve the client."
- More recent editions cited, "One hugely impressed client attests: 'Bill is among the very best lawyers with whom I have ever worked and I would strongly recommend him for any matter, even the most complex and challenging from legal, practical and public perspectives.' "
His high rankings have continued as his client work is widely recognized.
Mr. Shepherd was elected to serve as chair of the 20,000-member Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association (ABA), and served as a member of its Global Anti-Corruption Task Force as well as division director of its White Collar Crime Division. He served on the ABA Board of Governors and was a member of its House of Delegates for two terms. He remains active as the co-chair of the ABA International White Collar Crime Institute, which brings together U.S. and global regulators in London every fall for nearly the last decade.
A frequent author and speaker, Mr. Shepherd is often asked to serve on conference panels and webinar presentations on various topics for clients as well as legal and other industry meetings.
White Collar Defense and Investigations
Mr. Shepherd has represented individuals and companies targeted for investigation and prosecution at the local, state and federal level. He has been engaged to represent individuals in complex Florida matters involving various state and local agencies as well as international matters prosecuted by multiple U.S. Attorney's Offices. In addition, Mr. Shepherd has assisted on other matters prosecuted by the Fraud Section, Antitrust Division and Tax Division at the U.S. Department of Justice as well as matters investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Some relevant examples include:
- successfully represented a South Florida company targeted as part of a multimillion-dollar hospital corruption investigation resulting in no charges against the company or any executives
- successfully represented a South Florida construction company and its executives investigated for government contracting fraud resulting in no charges against the company or any executives
- successfully represented a New York hedge fund operator in a multiyear investigation into insider trading resulting in no charges against the fund or its executives
- successfully represented a Latin America-based banker charged with money laundering for an alleged international organized crime gambling operation that resulted in a sentence involving no jail time
- successfully represented an Italian oil and gas executive on criminal antitrust charges related to global price fixing in the marine fuel industry
- successfully represented the general counsel of a nationally recognized statewide public entity on a series of state investigative efforts, ultimately resulting in no charges against the general counsel
Attorney General Practice
As a seven-year veteran of the Florida Attorney General's Office and a former Division Director of the Year, Mr. Shepherd brings a great depth of knowledge and appreciation for the pitfalls, both civil and criminal, facing clients under investigation by state attorneys general.
In private practice, Mr. Shepherd has assisted Fortune 50 companies and family-owned businesses alike to resolve matters with the Florida Attorney General as well as a number of national, multistate Attorney General matters, including
- qui tam litigation
- consumer fraud and trade practices
- environmental compliance and violations
- healthcare/Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU)
Given Mr. Shepherd's broad experience as a prosecutor directly handling and supervising hundreds of proactive investigations, he is regularly called upon by general counsel to handle and manage complex internal investigations. In the last several years, Mr. Shepherd has been retained by companies, their boards or special investigative boards, in both public and private settings, to handle investigations in the following areas:
- Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)
- cybercrime and data breaches
- human trafficking and supply chain issues
- theft and embezzlement
- bank fraud and board self-dealing
- university procurement and contracting
- sports industry investigations
Child Safety Investigations
In his role as statewide prosecutor, Mr. Shepherd supervised hundreds of investigations of child predators who were moving to the internet to stalk their victims. He has worked with victims in various settings, and has a depth of experience in working with child witnesses and conducting investigations into crimes against children. This experience has helped him work with clients as they investigate and confront allegations of current or past abuse. Mr. Shepherd has helped global religious institutions, nonprofit organizations, and private day and boarding schools.
Mr. Shepherd has been called on by boards of trustees to serve as an internal investigator for current and historic cases involving sexual misconduct and boundary violations. He has conducted these investigations at some of our nation's most prestigious day and boarding schools and universities around the country.
Mr. Shepherd's broad trial experience makes him well suited to assist clients in large-scale civil litigation. Having tried more than 40 jury trials to verdict, Mr. Shepherd is highly knowledgeable in the dynamics of trial work and based on his deep experience in this area, he was asked to write the introduction to Trying Cases to Win, a seminal work in the field that was updated in October 2013; it is used by lawyers and law professors around the country. As a former member of The Florida Bar Rules Committee, he also has a deep understanding of the academic aspect of the practice and how to maximize ways to be most effective. Mr. Shepherd's civil trial work has centered around very high-profile matters in pre-suit and active suit to help clients attack claims against them to receive a favorable result, including:
- represented the CEO of a top Florida communications firm, and his firm, when they were sued for defamation; brought forth a winning, novel Anti-SLAPP theory applied to political communications that resulted in the dismissal of all claims after litigation in the trial and appellate courts
- represented a global employer at the trial and appellate level in more than 90 claims brought after the tragic events of the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting securing a dismissal of all claims
- successfully represented a global financial institution in wrongful death claims asserted after an employee committed murder to cover an embezzlement from the victims' family
- successfully represented a global financial institution in claims brought after the second-largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history
Anti-Human Trafficking: Policy, Compliance Training and Litigation
As one of the country's few lawyers engaged in the topic for more than a decade, Mr. Shepherd has been focused on human trafficking in policy, compliance, and now in litigation. The issues around this topic have moved to the forefront of discussion on good social governance and have also recently become a focal point for civil litigation. In Mr. Shepherd's government service he investigated and prosecuted cases against traffickers. In his policy work, he has developed legislation and NGO reference tools to assist policy makers. In compliance training, he has developed corporate policies and worked with global training partners to develop educational tools translated into multiple languages on anti-human trafficking protocols. He has co-authored the PLI Corporate Compliance chapter on Anti-Human Trafficking for the last eight years and he regularly works with U.S. and UK companies seeking to align their corporate actions with their ESG philosophies. As civil litigation develops in the area, and some would attempt to find innovate ways to generate corporate liability beyond existing regulations and statutes, Mr. Shepherd works with clients to investigate allegations and respond appropriately.
In the last several years, Mr. Shepherd has testified before Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Florida Legislature on a number of issues of importance in the law. He has testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on the growing significance of overcriminalization. In furtherance of this public advocacy, Mr. Shepherd was called upon, pro bono, to write the amicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case overturning US v. Yates and the conviction of commercial fisherman John Yates under Sarbanes-Oxley for the "destruction" of three red grouper. The case was highlighted and published in a Wall Street Journal Op Ed written by Mr. Shepherd the day of the oral argument.
In addition to his involvement in national justice reform issues, Mr. Shepherd has also been actively engaged in updating Florida's evidence code to meet the national Daubert standard. As Florida's statewide prosecutor, he advocated for its adoption in the legislature. After successful passage, Mr. Shepherd advocated before The Florida Bar on the issue and ultimately in the Florida Supreme Court as the author of amicus briefs in various cases on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and in a separate matter on behalf of the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida. Daubert is now the law in Florida.
- Georgetown University Law Center, J.D.
- Georgetown University, A.B., English, History
- District of Columbia
- American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, Past Chair, 2011-2013; Member, 1994-Present
- American Bar Association, Board of Governors, 2017-2018
- American Bar Association, House of Delegates, 2009-2012; 2017-2019
- American Bar Association, Global Anti-Corruption Initiatives Task Force, 2010-Present
- American Bar Association, Litigation Section, 1994-Present
- Federalist Society, Founding Board Member, Miami Lawyers Chapter, 1997-Present
- U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society, Past Florida State Chair
- Judicial Nominating Commission for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, 2016-2022
- U.S. Military Academies Nomination Board for former Rep. Tom Rooney
- Leadership Florida, Cornerstone Class XXXVI
- Economic Forum of Palm Beach County, Board of Directors, 2012-Present
- Business Development Board, Palm Beach County, Financial Services Task Force, 2018-Present
- Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, 2009-Present
- Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, Founding Member of the Trustees Program, 2018-Present; Trustees Committee, Chair, 2020-Present
- 1909, Board Member, 2019-Present
- Take Stock in Children, Palm Beach Board Member, 2012-Present
- Palm Beach Dramaworks, Honorary Director, 2018-Present
- The Best Lawyers in America guide, West Palm Beach Criminal Defense: White-Collar Lawyer of the Year, 2021
- Who's Who Legal: Florida, Investigations, 2020
- Chambers USA - America's Leading Business Lawyers guide, Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations, 2013-2020
- Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated, 2010-Present