JOHN P. (“SEAN”) COFFEY is a retired naval officer and former federal prosecutor recognized as one of the most successful trial attorneys in the United States. Born in 1956 to Irish immigrant parents, Sean is the oldest of seven children raised in the Bronx, Buffalo and Nassau County. He graduated from Long Island’s Chaminade High School and won an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. Graduating from Annapolis with merit in 1978, Sean selected flight training and was Honor Graduate of his Naval Flight Officer class. On active duty during the Cold War, Sean flew as a P-3 Orion mission commander tracking Soviet nuclear submarines.
Sean was then selected for shore assignments in Washington, D.C. as Junior Officer Intern to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the personal military assistant to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. While stationed in Washington, Sean attended Georgetown University Law Center at night, winning several academic awards, serving as the sole evening-division editor of the Georgetown Law Journal and graduating magna cum laude. In 1987, after resigning from active Navy service, he returned to New York as an associate with Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison.
Sean was appointed an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York in 1991. He worked with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies prosecuting a wide variety of cases involving firearms, narcotics, business crime, bank fraud, and other major crimes. Sean tried many cases to verdict.
In 1995, Sean joined the law firm of Latham & Watkins where, as counsel and later partner, he defended Fortune 500 companies in many complex civil, regulatory, and criminal matters. After several years as a corporate defense attorney, Sean decided to return to pursuing corporate misconduct and joined the litigation firm of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, which represents many of the world’s largest institutional investors, including New York State’s Common Retirement Fund and Teachers’ Retirement System and many Taft-Hartley union funds.
In his eleven years at Bernstein Litowitz, Sean led teams that recovered billions of dollars for victims of corporate fraud and won praise for achieving significant corporate governance improvements. Among Sean’s notable successes was his role in the WorldCom securities litigation, a case he took to trial in 2005 as lead attorney for thousands of investors, including the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Sean and his team recovered over $6 billion and -- in a historic first -- required all outside directors and key wrongdoers to contribute from their personal funds. Sean was selected as one of the National Law Journal’s “Winning Attorneys” of 2005, and profiled by Bloomberg Markets magazine (“Wall Street’s New Nemesis”), the American Lawyer (“Taking Citi to School” and “Breaking the Banks”), and The Wall Street Journal (“It’s Coffey Time”). Sean recently retired from Bernstein Litowitz to seek the Democratic nomination to become New York’s next Attorney General.
While pursuing his legal career, Sean continued to serve in the Navy as a reservist for more than eighteen years. Sean’s annual duty assignments included armed flights in support of the embargo of the former Yugoslavia and counter-narcotic patrols over Latin America and the Gulf of Mexico. He was selected to command one of the Navy’s elite reserve squadrons and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his service as skipper. Sean was promoted to Captain and selected to command the reserve component of the Enterprise carrier battle group staff. He then worked for the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon, concentrating on issues relating to the stresses imposed on our reservists by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sean retired from the Navy in 2004 after thirty years of service as a midshipman, active duty officer and Navy reservist. Sean’s other military decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Navy Pistol Expert Medal.
Sean is a member of the Board of Visitors of the Georgetown University Law Center and Vice President of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1978. He served for several years as a director and campaign co-chair of The Community Fund of Bronxville, Eastchester, Tuckahoe, Inc., and was previously an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham University. Sean is a devoted fan of the Yankees and Navy football and a proud season ticket holder for both teams.
Sean is married to Anne Churchill, the daughter of a retired Navy captain and former actress whose credits include “This is Spinal Tap”. The Coffeys and their three children live in Westchester County.