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Frances E. Bivens

Ms. Bivens is a member of Davis Polk’s Litigation Department and has experience in a broad range of commercial litigation matters in federal and state courts and arbitrations around the country. Ms. Bivens has an electrical engineering degree and is often called on for cases and investigations involving technical issues, including mass disaster tort cases like the Gulf Oil Spill and a mass action for Con Edison arising out of a steam rupture in mid-town Manhattan and the Moreland Commission investigation of utilities after Superstorm Sandy. She also regularly handles major financial cases and is presently lead counsel for the Department of the Treasury in litigation arising out of the rescue of AIG. Other recent commercial disputes include a high-stakes matter for alternative energy company First Wind and an India-based international arbitration for a private equity firm.

Work Highlights

Commercial Litigation
Ms. Bivens regularly acts as lead counsel in contentious commercial litigation matters. Some recent representations include:
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury in litigation brought by Starr International challenging the government rescue of AIG. Ms. Bivens was lead counsel for Treasury in the derivative demand process before the AIG board of directors.
  • Con Edison in government investigations and civil litigation arising out of Hurricane Sandy
  • First Wind in civil litigation and arbitration proceedings related to a dispute with Clipper Wind Power
  • Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Inc. (the manufacturer of the Deepwater Horizon) in MDL class action litigation related to the oil spill in the Gulf in the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • A private equity firm in an AAA arbitration against a former business partner arising out of a complex banking transaction
  • Deloitte & Touche in a successful appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court dismissing more than a decade of litigation relating to Bruno’s
  • Con Edison in a mass action pending in New York Supreme Court related to a steam rupture in midtown Manhattan in the summer of 2007
  • Baidu, Inc. in a copyright infringement action related to MP3 downloading
Ms. Bivens also handles internal investigations as well as SEC and FINRA investigations for a number of major clients. Some recent examples include:
  • Successfully representing Morgan Stanley in connection with investigations by the DOJ and SEC into FCPA violations relating to Morgan Stanley's real estate investing operations in mainland China, resulting in FCPA charges against a former Morgan Stanley employee for intentionally circumventing Morgan Stanley's anti-corruption controls; the decision not to charge Morgan Stanley was the first-ever publicly announced decision not to prosecute a company in an FCPA case based on the quality of its anticorruption program and its cooperation in the investigation
  • The audit committee of a large company in a SOX whistleblower investigation
  • A major financial institution in a FINRA investigation related to an institutional stock buy-back program, which resulted in no charges against the company


  • Recognized as one of the “Top 250 Women in Litigation” by Benchmark Litigation
  • Named in 2011 to American Lawyer’s “45 Under 45” List of Top Women Lawyers
  • Identified as both a National and New York “Star” in Legal Media Group’s Benchmark Litigation
  • Recognized in Practical Law Company’s Which lawyer? for Dispute Resolution

Of Note

  • Trustee, Federal Bar Council
  • Board of Directors, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
Past Memberships
  • Sub-committee Chair, Professional Liability Committee of the ABA
  • Board of Visitors, Columbia Law School
  • President, Columbia Law School Alumni Association
  • Board of Directors and Fund Raising Chair, Advocates for Children

Professional History

  • Partner, 2001-present
  • Associate, Davis Polk, 1995-2001
  • Associate, Morrison & Foerster (New York), 1992-1993
  • Law Clerk, Hon. James L. Oakes, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 1994-1995
  • Law Clerk, Hon. Jack B. Weinstein, U.S. District Court, E.D. New York, 1993-1994


  • Product Liability and Associated Litigation
    A Corporate Journey to the West or How to Make a Successful Acquisition in the USA | Asian-Mena Counsel, 2013

Client Publications


  • 450 Lexington Avenue
    New York, NY 10017
    P: 212-450-4935
    F: 212-701-5935

Bar Admissions

  • State of New York
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, S.D. New York


  • Sc.B., Electrical Engineering, Brown University, 1988
  • J.D., Columbia Law School, 1992
    • Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar