Valarie Hays leads the Chicago office’s White Collar Defense & Investigations practice. Ms. Hays is a trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor who represents companies and individuals in government inquiries and complex commercial litigation. She also conducts corporate internal investigations and advises clients on the execution of their compliance programs across a broad range of industry sectors, including healthcare, financial services, retail, and oil and gas. A first chair trial lawyer, Ms. Hays has tried 17 jury trials over the course of her career and has obtained numerous multimillion dollar settlements for her corporate clients, typically after prevailing on summary judgment rulings.

Ms. Hays is known for her strong courtroom presence, her strategic ability to find and leverage the weaknesses in her opponents’ cases, and her success in winning challenging cases. Following a three-week trial, she won an acquittal on all counts for her client, an attorney who was charged in a federal indictment with novel bankruptcy fraud theories. Ms. Hays also represented a former Michigan State University professor who was charged with fraud in a three-week jury trial that resulted in a hung jury (with nine jurors siding with the defense). The government dismissed the indictment with prejudice shortly after the trial ended. Additionally, Ms. Hays led a litigation team in the discovery and trial preparation stages of a wrongful conviction matter over a five-year period, which resulted in a $25.2 million dollar jury verdict against the City of Chicago. In addition to these victories, Ms. Hays has obtained numerous prosecution declinations on behalf of her corporate and individual clients.

Ms. Hays’ clients also hire her to conduct sensitive investigations. Ms. Hays was retained by the Board of Commissioners for the Chicago Park District to lead an independent investigation into the Chicago Park District’s response to allegations of sexual assault and a widespread culture of sexual harassment, bullying and hazing within the lifeguard community. Ms. Hays also has been retained to conduct sensitive investigations related to the sexual assault of a hospital employee, the death of a student athlete, gender and racial discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and police department practices.

Experience

  • Financial institution in DOJ and OCC investigation of lending practices and BSA/AML program.
  • Financial institution in investigation related to a bank executive’s alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar Ponzi and bank fraud scheme.
  • Global device manufacturer in an investigation related to allegations of false statements to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agents.
  • Global device manufacturer in multiple investigations related to allegations of employee misconduct, including violations of the company’s conflict of interest policies, falsification of work orders, whistleblower retaliation, workplace safety, and theft of proprietary information.
  • Police department in investigating internal complaints of harassment and discrimination and evaluating the department’s policies and procedures.
  • Hospital in investigating and responding to a hostage situation.
  • Automotive component manufacturer and its CEO in DOJ Antitrust investigation related to allegations of bid rigging. Obtained prosecution declination for the company and CEO.
  • Flooring company in DOJ Antitrust investigation related to allegations of bid rotation.
  • Chemical company in a structuring investigation.
  • General contractor and its president in DOJ investigation related to alleged Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) fraud.
  • Heating and cooling company and its owners in City of Chicago investigation related to alleged Minority Business Enterprise (“MBE”) and Women Business Enterprise (“WBE”) fraud.
  • Wire manufacturer in an investigation related to allegations that the client’s joint venture partner provided bribes to foreign government officials.
  • Local government agency in investigation related to allegations that the former General Counsel was receiving improper benefits.
  • Organization governing intercollegiate activities in investigation related to whistleblower allegations of improper benefits to a group of college students.
  • Electronics company in investigation related to employee accounting improprieties to cover up theft of electronic goods.
  • Accountants in a federal investigation and trial related to allegations that one of their clients, an aircraft leasing company, engaged in investor fraud and obstructed a SEC investigation.
  • Owner of auction house charged with auction fraud.

Perspectives

SEC Focus on ESG Has Expanded to Workplace Culture and Sexual Harassment Investigations
Advisory
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Uncertain Future for China Initiative After It Closes Two Cases
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Arnold & Porter Webinar
View from the Courtroom: The Lieber Conviction and What It Means for DOJ’s China Initiative
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Recognition

Illinois Super Lawyers
Criminal Defense: White Collar, Civil Litigation, and General Litigation (2017–2022)
“Rising Stars” (2013–2015)
Chambers USA
Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Illinois) (2021)
Crain’s Chicago Business
Chicago’s Notable Women in Law (2020)
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Credentials

Education
  • JD, Harvard Law School
  • BA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, summa cum laude
Admissions
  • Illinois
  • Northern District of Illinois Trial Bar
  • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • US District Court, Northern District of Florida
  • US District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • US District Court, Southern District of Indiana
  • US District Court, Southern District of Iowa
  • US District Court, Western District of Michigan
Government & Military Service
  • Assistant US Attorney, Chicago
Clerkships
  • US District Court, Northern District of Illinois, The Honorable Suzanne Conlon
Activities
  • American Bar Association, Section of Litigation
  • Former Board of Directors, Finance and Governance Committee, Federal Bar Association
  • Board of Directors, Vice President, Harvard Law Society of Illinois
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Women’s White Collar Defense Association (WWCDA)
Overview

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