Lee, Tara

Tara Lee



Tara Lee, Co-Chair of the firm's National Trial Practice, was named the 2017 U.S. Trial Lawyer of the Year by Benchmark Litigation. Her practice focuses on civil litigation, white collar and corporate crime and investigations. She has received numerous awards for her skills as a trial advocate and has been consistently ranked as one of America’s leading lawyers by Chambers USA. In 2018, she was also highlighted in Global Investigation Review's Top 100 Women in Investigations. She has also been named as one of the top female Powerbrokers in Law by Law360, as a Pioneer and Trailblazer in Litigation by The National Law Journal and as one of the Ten Most Innovative Lawyers in the U.S. by The Financial Times. While serving in the Jag Corps, she was named the ATLA Outstanding Trial Lawyer.

Her litigation and investigations practice includes complex cases, multi-jurisdictional cases, class actions, and some of the highest profile civil litigation cases and white collar/ qui tam prosecutions in the U.S. She has particular subject-matter expertise managing investigations, litigation, and risk for clients expanding into the global marketplace and operating in emerging markets and unstable environments, and in running high visibility University sexual assault investigations and litigation.  She has testified as an expert witness on extraterritorial jurisdiction before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and has twice been invited to the United Nations to address UN Working Groups on matters concerning extraterritorial liability and contractors overseas.  Previously, Tara served as Co-Chair of DLA Piper’s Global Investigations practice as well as the Global Chair of the firm’s Cross Border Litigation practices. Prior to law school, she served as an officer in the United States Navy, serving in a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron and in staff positions at Wing and AirPac level commands.



  • Thompson, et al. v. Mission Essential Personnel (E.D. Va.) Lead trial counsel in wrongful death action against government contractor whose Afghan national employee shot and killed several U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The multi year contentious litigation focused on derivative sovereign immunity and combatant activities exception issues. Obtained dismissed with prejudice all claims after three day mediation with dispositive motions pending. (2009 2015)
  • AFDB /Democratic Republic of Congo vulture fund cases (worldwide simultaneous trial matters in New York, Washington DC, Hong Kong, Jersey, and Paris) Lead trial counsel on behalf of the Democratic Republic of Congo in several high profile defenses funded by the African Development Bank. Includes 9th Circuit win in FGH v. DRC obtained total reversal and dismissal of an $80 million dollar judgment, and 2014 bench trial in Themis v. DRC in the Southern District of New York - obtained dismissal of $18 million in compound interest claims for the DRC on the 1980 Credit Agreement/subsequent debt acknowledgments (successfully forestalling future claims against DRC). Multiple simultaneous companion cases defending attachments in Hong Kong, Jersey (UK), Sydney and Paris. (2009 2014)
  • Flavia Wagner v. Samaritan’s Purse and Clayton Consultants (S.D. N.Y.) Lead trial counsel defending a kidnap and ransom negotiation company on claims based on plaintiff’s kidnapping in Sudan. Complaint attempted to establish a negligence claim for failure to obtain victim’s expeditious release. Obtained favorable resolution after raising dispositive act of state doctrine, political question, and 12(b) defenses. (2011)
  • United States ex rel. Badr v. Triple Canopy (E.D. Va.) Lead trial counsel defending defense contractor in an action alleging violations of the False Claims Act, breach of contract and fraud based on conduct in Iraq. Successfully obtained dismissal of all claims at district court, including government intervened FCA allegations, where government regularly wins 97+% of intervened cases. Cert. petition now pending, Solicitor General opposing. (2010 2015)
  • Brink, et al. v. Continental, Northrop et al. (D.D.C.) Lead trial counsel defending Northrop Grumman (Vinnel Arabia), Vectrus (formerly Exelis, formerly ITT) and Erinys International at trial court phase of putative class action against 20+ defendant contractors and insurance companies. Plaintiffs brought $2 billion claim based on injuries suffered while serving overseas (in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait) in support of US operations. Obtained complete dismissal at MTD stage on Defense Base act preclusion grounds and similarly prevailed at DC Circuit. (2013 2015)
  • Dolarian Capital, Inc. v. SOC, LLC (E.D. Cal.) Lead trial counsel in defense of government contractor defendant and counter plaintiff in lawsuit filed by military products broker regarding the sale and export of firearms and ammunition from Bulgaria to Iraq and Afghanistan. Settled on eve of jury selection with full dismissal of all claims against client and in favor of client’s monetary counter claims. (2011 2014)
  • MIS Spencon Ltd. V. Republic of Kenya (S.D. N.Y.) Lead trial counsel on behalf of Republic of Kenya. Successfully obtained total dismissal of claims based on contracts in Kenya. (2014)
  • Vance v. CHF International (D. Md.) Lead trial counsel in defense of global logistics contractor sued for wrongful death after an employee’s death in Pakistan. Successfully obtained dismissal of all claims at motion to dismiss. (2011 2012)
  • IMMDF v. Mohammed Al Harmoosh (D. Md.) Lead trial counsel for plaintiff Iraqi Middle Market Defense Fund seeking enforcement of the Uniform Foreign Monetary Judgments Act on frauds committed in Middle East. Case resolved favorably for client. (2011)
  • Alsaydi v. Four Horsemen International, et al. (S.D.N.Y.) Lead trial counsel in defense of government contractor in wrongful death claims arising from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Successfully obtained dismissal on Defense Base Act as a complete bar to plaintiffs’ claims. (2009)
  • United States v. Goncalves et. al. (the “Shot Show” FCPA case) (D.D.C.) Lead trial counsel defending a UK citizen, one of 22 defendants charged in a widely reported FCPA sting involving FBI agents posed as government officials from Gabon. Obtained total acquittal on behalf of client. (2009 2011)
  • Mohammed v. Erinys International, Ltd., et al. (S.D. Texas) Lead trial counsel in defense of UK defense contractor sued regarding an incident involving injury to civilians in Kirkuk, Iraq. Successfully obtained dismissal of all claims at motion to dismiss. (2009 2010)
  • Al Halabi et al. v. Hart Security, Ltd., Hart Security, Inc, Eastern Solutions MLL, Halliburton Corporation, Kellogg Brown Root Corporation, et al. (S.D. Texas) Lead trial counsel in defense of UAE based government contractor. Obtained successful dismissal in wrongful death litigation based on death in Iraq. (2009)
  • Phillip Holzmann AG IL, et al. v. MBI International, Inc. et al. (New York state court) Lead trial counsel defending Saudi based global hospitality conglomerate on contract and fraud claims based on negotiations in various Middle East locations. Successfully obtained full dismissal, evaded corporate veil issue and protected high net worth individual. (2009)
  • United States ex rel. Dekort v. Integrated Coast Guard Systems (Joint Venture), Lockheed Martin Corporation, (JV Partner), and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Inc., (JV Partner) (the Deepwater FCA litigation) (N.D. Texas) Lead litigation counsel (Cooley Godward) representing ICGS, the joint Northrop Grumman Lockheed Martin entity formed to rebuild the U.S. Coast Guard through the Deepwater program, a $25 billion series of contracts. Various government investigations, fraud and False Claims Act subpoenas, and qui tam investigations successfully defended after foreign whistleblower initiated action. (2006 2008)
  • Farhaan Warfaa v. Yusuf Abdi Ali, a.k.a. Tokeh (E.D. Va) Lead trial counsel in pro bono ATCA/TVPA case based on wrongful death and torture in Somalia. Involved extensive discovery process and evidence collection in Somalia, Ethiopia, UK, Canada, and U.S. ATCA jurisdiction and common law immunities issues currently on appeal to Fourth Circuit (argument on Sep. 16, 2015). (2006 2015)
  • Bashe Yousuf, et al. v. Mohamed All Samantar (E.D. Va.) Lead trial counsel in pro bono ATCA/TVPA wrongful death cases based on war crimes, wrongful death, and torture during Somalia conflict. (2006 2008)


  • Triple Canopy v. United States ex rel. Badr, Case No. 14 1440 (U.S. Supreme Court) Lead appellate counsel in False Claims Act implied certification case concerning alleged fraud committed in Iraq, petition for a writ of certiorari pending; and United States ex ref Badr v. Triple Canopy, Case No. 13 2190 (4th Circuit) (2015)
  • United States Smoke & Fire Curtain, LLC v. Bradley Lomas Electrolok, Ltd., Case No. 14 1558 (4th Circuit) Lead appellate counsel for UK based safety device company . Obtained total victory for client, affirming district court’s dismissal of complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. (2015)
  • Brink, et al. v. Continental Ins. Co., et al., Case No. 13 7165 (DC Circuit) Obtained total victory on DBA exclusion grounds on $2 billion putative class action based on injuries in Middle East and Afghanistan, brought against 24 defense contractors and their insurers. (2015)
  • Warfaa v. Ali, Case No. 14 1810 (4th Circuit) Lead appellate counsel on behalf of plaintiff (with pro bono co counsel Center for Justice and Accountability) on cross appeals currently pending before Fourth Circuit. Argument set for September 16th, 2015 concerning post Kiobel scope of jurisdiction under Alien Tort Statute. (2015)
  • United States ex rel. Beauchamp v. ACADEMI, LLC, Case No. 15 1148 (4th Circuit) Lead appellate counsel for defense contractor ACADEMI (formerly Blackwater) on False Claims Act case based on alleged frauds in Iraq and Afghanistan, public disclosure bar and original source doctrine. (2015)
  • FG Hemisphere v. Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Case Nos. 12 56031 and 12 56110 (9th Circuit) Lead appellate counsel for DRC. Obtained total victory for client, reversal of trial court’s finding of subject matter jurisdiction under Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and $90 million dollar award, and successfully defeated petition for rehearing en banc. (2014)
  • Bashe Yousuf, et al v. Mohamed All Samantar, 552 F.3d 371 (4th Circuit) Lead appellate counsel for pro bono client victims of torture and extra judicial killing in Somalia in 1980’s. Argued and won 4th Circuit appeal of district court’s dismissal of ATCA claims on FSIA sovereign immunity grounds, opinion upheld at Supreme Court in 9 0 opinion. (2009)
  • Saleh v. Titan Corporation, Case No. 08 7008 (D.C. Circuit) Lead appellate counsel for amici Professional Services Counsel, trade organization for government services contractors in ATCA and wrongful death cases brought against CACI and L 3/Titan based on allegations of torture and violations of international law at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. (2008 9)
  • McMahon v. Presidential Airways, Inc., Case No. 06 15303 (11th Circuit) Lead appellate counsel for amici Professional Services Counsel, trade organization for government services contractors in appeal concerning combatant activities exception, political question doctrine and Feres doctrine in case based on deaths in Afghanistan. (2007)
  • Bashe Abdi Yousuf v. Mohamed Ali Samantar and United States Department of State, (D.C. Circuit) Lead appellate counsel in successful appeal challenging United States government refusal to comply with Rule 45 subpoena. Court definitively held, as a matter of first impression, that an agency of the U.S. government is a “person” and therefore subject to a subpoena issued under Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. US DOJ subsequently issued nationwide policy change concerning production of documents by US government agencies pursuant to Rule 45 subpoenas. Case based on war crimes in Somalia. (2006)


  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel on investigation conducted in Kampala, Baghdad, Dubai, and Abu Dhabii concerning allegations of fraud and False Claims Act violations. Led follow-up Uganda investigation conducted by lawyers from New York and Washington DC and by lawyers from Uganda, involving over 200 interviews of Ugandan citizens conducted in Kampala. (2010 2015
    (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel on investigation into bribery / FCPA violation allegations, involving 65 interviews conducted in multiple locations in Iraq and several million documents reviewed involving potential civil and criminal claims and presentation to US government. No action taken by U.S. government authorities after presentation to U.S. government. (2013 2014)
  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel for investigation into human trafficking allegations, involving 135 interviews conducted in Baghdad, Iraq and an additional 25 interviews in multiple locations in the US. Client fully absolved of any wrongdoing after presentation to U.S. government. (2014 2015 )
  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel into multiple shooting deaths, allegations of potential negligent supervision and negligent hiring, involving 40+ interviews conducted in multiple locations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. Investigation conducted immediately post shooting incident. (2012 2015)
  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel on pre litigation investigation into kidnapping in Sudan, allegations that the “K & R” company (kidnap and rescue negotiators) acted negligently, involved interviews conducted in multiple locations throughout Africa, including Sudan and South Africa, and additional interviews in London, North Carolina, and Washington DC. (2012 2014)
  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel representing foreign based food industry client in multiple jurisdiction FCPA /UKBA bribery investigation spanning Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, and Mozambique. (2012 2013)
  • (Confidential client ) Lead investigations counsel for international team representing client in pre litigation phase of claims raised by an injured employee based on injuries sustained in an IED attack in Iraq, over 50 interviews conducted in multiple locations in Iraq. (2008 2009)
  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel representing contractor in investigation of claims raised by family member of decedent killed in Afghanistan in targeted killing by insurgent forces), interviews conducted in multiple locations around Afghanistan. (2010)
  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel representing US based non profit operating in Iraq investigating potential claims based on multiple US, Australian, and South African citizens murdered on client’s compound in Iraq, post incident evidence collection and interviews conducted at scene of murders in Iraq. (2010)
  • (Confidential client) Lead investigations counsel representing contractor in investigation of claims raised by family member of decedent killed by shower electrocution in Iraq, over 50 post-incident interviews conducted in Baghdad. (2010)
  • (Confidential client ) Lead investigations counsel into allegations of human trafficking in Iraq, over 30 interviews conducted at U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq and at multiple locations outside Green Zone. (2010- 2012)
  • (Confidential client) Lead US member of the investigation team conducting based on injuries to civilians as a result of shots fired by UK contractor in Kirkuk, Iraq (2007)


  • University of San Diego School of Law
    (J.D., 1996)

  • United States Naval Academy
    (B.S., 1991)


The District of Columbia Bar; The State Bar of California; The State Bar of New York; The State Bar of Maryland; The State Bar of Virginia; The Supreme Court of the United States; United States Court of Appeals: Armed Forces, Federal Circuit, District of Columbia Circuit, Second Circuit, Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, Ninth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit; United States District Courts: Central District of California, Eastern District of California, Northern District of California, District of Columbia, District of Maryland, Eastern District of Virginia, Western District of Virginia


  • DLA Piper:
    • Partner, 2008-2016

  • Cooley Godward:
    • Associate, 2004-2008

  • United States Naval Academy, Center for the Study of Professional Ethics (Stockdale Center):
    • Resident Fellow in Law, Leadership and Law Dept Capstone Course Professor, 2003-2004

  • Jackson Lewis:
    • Associate, 2001-2003

  • Law Clerk to the Honorable William B. Shubb:
    • S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, 2000-2001

  • United States Navy Jag Corps:
    • Attorney, 1996-2000

  • University of California, Davis School of Law:
    • Adjunct Professor, Trial Practice and Evidence Advocacy, 2001-2003

  • University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law:
    • Adjunct Professor, Trial Practice, 2000-2003


  • Board of Trustees, US Naval Academy 
  • Board of Directors, International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR)
  • Board of Directors, Year Up, National Capital Region
  • Co-Chair, American Bar Association – Battle Space and Contingency Procurements Subcommittee
  • Standing Committee on Law and National Security
  • Chair, International Stability Operations Association – Government and Legal Affairs Committee