William Shepherd is an experienced trial lawyer in Holland & Knight's West Palm Beach and Washington, D.C., offices. Mr. Shepherd has tried more than 40 jury trials to verdict. He has testified before Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Florida Legislature on a variety of criminal law policy issues. He also serves, at the Florida Governor's appointment, as a commissioner on the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission. He is the founder and co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) International White Collar Crime Institute in London, and has been chair of the 20,000-member ABA Criminal Justice Section. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Shepherd served, at the appointment of the attorney general, as the statewide prosecutor of Florida.
In Mr. Shepherd's practice, he represents companies and individuals who are the targets of government inquiries or parties to complex civil litigation. He also assists the founders or general counsel of public and private companies in conducting sensitive internal investigations and compliance matters. He is called upon when clients are facing critical matters. Whether it is at the cutting edge of new enforcement matters, legal developments in the area of supply chain and human rights, police electronic surveillance, class actions in developing areas of law, reputation-threatening defamation or complex problems faced by Family Offices, Mr. Shepherd works to assess the situation and aggressively pursue the client's interest.
His balance of civil and criminal matters helps him keep a keen eye on risk and a broader perspective on developing solutions to clients' problems.
Chambers USA – America's Leading Business Lawyers guide has recognized Mr. Shepherd since 2013 for Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations.
For nearly a decade his work has been praised by the publication.
"[F]irst and foremost he has great judgment and a far greater sense of the bigger picture. He is not drawn into unnecessary conflicts or fights if they do not serve the client." - 2013
As his practice has developed, clients continued to praise his work to Chambers.
"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.'" - 2018
And more recently, one client put it succinctly.
"He's an all-focused player" - 2022
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:
- won dismissal of all felony charges lodged against the CEO of a multimillion-dollar home services business; client who had faced life in prison was free of all criminal charges after successful and lengthy litigation
- successfully represented at the trial level and appellate court the owner of a medical facility in a first of its kind challenge to electronic video surveillance, making new law in Florida protecting the rights of individuals from unfettered video surveillance
- 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
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:
- successfully represented a state Political Action Committee (PAC) in multiple proactive and reactive emergency injunction matters leading to a deadline for ballot placement for a casino gaming constitutional amendment to Florida's constitution
- 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 U.K. 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 related work, Mr. Shepherd has assisted global religious institutions, as well as prestigious day and boarding schools, as they confront allegations of historical abuse. He has conducted child safety investigations, state and federal litigation, and board training on issues on boundaries and child safety.
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 in media around the world and Mr. Shepherd published an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal the day of the oral argument.
In addition to his involvement in national criminal and social 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
- Law360, Florida Editorial Advisory Board, 2022
- American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, Past Chair, 2011-2013; Member, 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
- Leadership Florida, Cornerstone Class XXXVI
- Economic Forum of Palm Beach County, Board of Directors, 2012-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
- Business Development Board, Palm Beach County, Financial Services Task Force, 2018-Present
- 1909 Foundation, Founding Board Member
- 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, 2022
- The Best Lawyers in America guide, Commercial Litigation, 2022; Litigation – Banking and Finance, 2022
- Chambers USA – America's Leading Business Lawyers guide, Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations, 2013-2022
- Distinguished Leader, Daily Business Review's Florida Legal Awards, 2022
- Florida Super Lawyers magazine, 2012-2022
- Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated, 2010-Present