John D. Vaughn has a diverse national trial and arbitration practice. Clients regularly seek Mr. Vaughn’s counsel and expertise in complex commercial litigation matters, securities fraud claims, employment disputes, FINRA arbitrations, broker disciplinary actions, injunction cases, non-competition and trade secret cases, and general business litigation matters.
A significant portion of Mr. Vaughn’s practice includes representation of clients within the financial industry. He has successfully handled dozens of cases on behalf of both individuals and institutions before FINRA (NASD, NYSE), the SEC, AAA, JAMS, state and federal courts. This practice includes counseling financial institutions and financial advisors during employment transitions; prosecuting and defending suitability claims, as well as claims for breach of contract, unfair business practices, and misappropriation of trade secrets (both in federal court and before FINRA arbitration panels); prosecuting and defending raiding claims; and representing clients subject to FINRA/SEC reviews, investigations and examinations, working directly with FINRA/the SEC on behalf of such clients.
In the area of employment disputes, Mr. Vaughn represents individuals and major corporations in matters involving restrictive covenants, protection of trade secrets and confidential information, fiduciary duty and the duty of loyalty, professional employment agreements and other matters relating to employee resignations and terminations, and the movement of employees, partners or shareholders between firms.
He also has significant experience as lead counsel litigating general commercial and business disputes. Mr. Vaughn has successfully tried numerous cases to completion, in both state and federal court, involving claims of securities and common-law fraud, unfair business practices, fiduciary duty disputes, officer/director disputes, trade secret, trademark, trade dress disputes and other business-related torts. He has successfully briefed and argued cases before the California Court of Appeal and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and is a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Vaughn’s clients include multi-national Fortune 100 corporations, large national corporations, closely held businesses, brokers (registered representatives) and individual entrepreneurs, spanning a number of industries including financial services, technology, biotechnology, energy and utilities, real estate and entertainment.
In addressing both brokers’ and investors’ rights issues, Mr. Vaughn has been quoted by the press in publications that include the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters and the Dow Jones Business News, and has spoken at the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association annual meetings. Mr. Vaughn has authored and co-authored numerous articles for multiple publications including, most recently, a chapter on the duties of financial advisors for the CEB Practice Guide “Understanding Fiduciary Duties in Business Entities” published by the University of California Press in 2016-2021.
Prior to establishing PVF, Mr. Vaughn was a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP from 2011 to 2015 where he founded and chaired the firm’s FINRA Dispute Resolution Practice Group. Prior to McKenna, Mr. Vaughn was a partner at Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps, LLP from 2001 to 2011 where he chaired the firm-wide Complex Business Litigation Department.
- Law Clerk to the Honorable William Ingram, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, 1991-1992.
- AV Preeminent 5.0 out of 5.0 Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell®.
- “Southern California Super Lawyer,” Securities Litigation, Super Lawyers, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024
- “San Diego Super Lawyer,” Business Litigation and Securities Litigation, Super Lawyers, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024
- Ranked and recommended by The Legal 500 in the area of Trade Secret Litigation.
- “Top Lawyer of Southern California,” Los Angeles Magazine, 2024 (most recent listing).
- “Top Lawyer,” Business Litigation, Martindale-Hubbell®, San Diego Magazine, 2024 (most recent listing).
- “Top Rated Lawyer,” Intellectual Property, Martindale-Hubbell®, The American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel Magazine, 2024 (most recent listing).
- “San Francisco Top-Rated Lawyer,” San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal, 2024 (most recent listing).
- In arbitrations nationwide, Mr. Vaughn represents a major Fortune 100 securities firm, or brokers employed by it and sued by their former employers, in claims alleging raiding, improper solicitation of clients, breach of contract, misuse of alleged confidential and trade-secret information, unfair business practices, tortious interference, and seeking immediate and permanent injunctive relief and damages.
- Mr. Vaughn represents companies and officers in FINRA reviews and investigations, often times in which no enforcement or disciplinary action is taken.
- In state and federal courts, Mr. Vaughn represents departing brokers, partners, shareholders and employees in claims involving allegations of improper solicitation of clients, breach of contract, misappropriation of alleged confidential and trade secret information, breach of fiduciary duty, unfair business practices and tortious interference.
- In lawsuits and arbitrations nationwide, Mr. Vaughn has, over the last twenty years, successfully defended securities firms, teams of financial advisors and individual financial advisors in disputes involving alleged breaches of the Protocol for Broker Recruiting.
- Obtained favorable settlement on behalf of a major Fortune 100 securities firm in an action involving claims of trade secret, misappropriate, unfair business practices and related business torts resulting from the transition of a high-profile team of financial advisors (nearly $2 billion in assets under management).
- Successfully defended a financial advisor transitioning from one major securities firm to another. Mr. Vaughn’s client had an extraordinarily broad injunction issued against him pursuant to application made by his former employer. However, following an expedited three-day hearing before FINRA, he obtained an award:
- Denying the former employer’s request for injunctive relief in its entirety;
- Directing the former employer to take all necessary action to immediately dissolve the court’s injunction; and
- Denying the former employer’s request for attorney’s fees. Moreover and highly unusual, the FINRA Panel went further and dismissed the former employer’s claims outright and in their entirety, allowing Mr. Vaughn’s client to successfully transfer $800 million in assets to his new employer.
- Representing a group of investors who had invested in a certain bank’s certificates of deposit, Mr. Vaughn successfully defended the group against claw-back claims brought by the Receiver.
- Successfully defended, through arbitration and trial, a Fortune 100 securities firm in claims brought against it by a group of its former brokers for breach of employment agreements.
- Confidential settlement of multiple FINRA arbitrations on behalf of numerous clients with losses of over $30 million arising out of investments in real estate limited partnerships.
- Successfully defended Coral Energy Resources, LP, then a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, in California’s Natural Gas Class Action Litigation.
- Following jury trial, obtained complete defense verdict on behalf of prestigious San Diego residential homebuilder in a class-action consumer fraud case.
- As lead counsel, successfully defended a large privately owned retirement community company based out of Vancouver, Washington in a wrongful termination lawsuit. Following two weeks of arbitration, Mr. Vaughn obtained a complete defense award on behalf of his client, including an award of his attorney’s fees. Mr. Vaughn then successfully represented the client before the California Court of Appeal for the Third District where the arbitration award, following briefing and oral argument, was affirmed.
- Successfully represented prominent Silicon Valley tech company in mediations and arbitrations nationwide after funding was cut by its parent entity (a multi-national Fortune 50 company), leading Mr. Vaughn’s client to breach numerous significant service contracts throughout the country. He successfully mediated and arbitrated the resulting disputes nationwide.
- Represents multinational Silicon Valley tech firm in ongoing intellectual property insurance coverage and other contract disputes.
Civic and Professional Activities
- Director, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
- San Diego Chamber of Commerce
- American Bar Association
- American Inns of Court, Louis M. Welsh Chapter, Barrister
- Association of Business Trial Lawyers of America
- National Institute for Trial Advocacy Advocates Association
- Federal Bar Association
- U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) Bar Association
- California Bar Association
- Tennessee Bar Association
- San Diego Intellectual Property Law Association
- Defense Research Institute
- Chapter 7 titled “Fiduciary Duties of Investment Advisors and Stockbrokers” for CEB’s Practice Guide “Understanding Fiduciary Duties in Business Entities,” 2016-2024.
- “Shifting Standards: The Changing Fiduciary Landscape for Broker-Dealers and Investment Advisers,” CEB California Business Law Practitioner, November 2015.
- “Senators Push Again for Private Trade Secrets Law,” MLA Advisory, May 5, 2014.
- “SEC Provides Guidance on CyberSecurity Reviews,” MLA Advisory, April 22, 2014.
- “FINRA to Conduct Cybersecurity Sweeps,” MLA Advisory, March 17, 2014.
- “Congress Mulls Bill to Increase Financial Adviser Oversight,” The Daily Journal, January 2, 2013.
- Financial Advisors Potentially Subject to Greater Oversight,” BenefitsPro, August 15, 2012.
- J.D., Santa Clara University, 1992 (With Honors)
- B.A., California State University at Fullerton, 1988 (summa cum laude); University of Tennessee, 1985-1988