Frances E. Bivens
  1. Partner

Ms. Bivens is a partner in Davis Polk’s Litigation Department and regularly acts as lead counsel in a broad range of high stakes commercial litigation matters in federal and state courts around the country and arbitrations around the globe. Ms. Bivens has an electrical engineering degree and is particularly experienced in litigation involving technical issues. She also regularly handles complex financial matters. Her practice is international and has included cross-border disputes arising out of India, China, Korea, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and the United Kingdom.

Work Highlights

International Arbitration
  • A Brazilian state-owned oil company in an M&A arbitration pending in the ICC arising out of the sale of certain South American assets

  • A pharmaceutical company in an emergency arbitration arising out of a joint venture agreement

  • A state-owned Brazilian bank in ICC arbitration against a French consulting firm relating to a JV formed to provide IT services to financial institutions
  • Albemarle Corporation in arbitration arising out of a billion-dollar sale of a chemical business to Huntsman Corporation
  • Sete Brasil in an ICC arbitration arising out of the Petrobras bribery scandal, brought by Singaporean shipbuilder Semcorp Marine relating to the construction of deep water drilling rigs being constructed to produce oil for Petrobras
  • Corsair Capital, a private equity firm, in international arbitration against a former business partner arising out of a complex Indian banking transaction; after a hearing, the arbitration panel found in favor of Corsair and rejected all of the claimant’s allegations
  • First Wind in contentious civil litigation and arbitration proceedings related to a commercial dispute with Clipper Windpower 
Commercial Litigation
  • The special litigation committee of the independent directors of SCANA in connection with an investigation into matters relating to the construction of a nuclear facility
  • Corelle Brands in purported class action litigation alleging a product defect in Pyrex bakeware
  • Con Edison in a variety of major litigations, including mass-action civil litigation and government investigations arising out of the July 2018 steam rupture at 5th Avenue and 21st Street, Superstorm Sandy, the East Harlem and East Village gas explosions, a steam rupture in midtown Manhattan in the summer of 2007, and power outages in Long Island City and Washington Heights
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury in litigation brought by Starr International challenging the government rescue of AIG; Ms. Bivens was also lead counsel for Treasury in the derivative demand process before the AIG board of directors, in which the board declined to bring claims against Treasury
  • Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Inc. (the manufacturer of the Deepwater Horizon) in MDL class action litigation related to the Gulf Oil Spill in the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • A Swiss bank in the successful dismissal of a civil RICO and securities matter arising out of the attempted privatization of Azerbaijan’s oil industry
  • Deloitte & Touche LLP in SEC investigations and securities class-action litigation in a variety of matters including Bruno’s, Parmalat, Delphi, Dollar General and the Singer Company
  • Ernst & Young in a trial in Boston federal court arising out of the failure of the Bank of New England
  • Successfully represented 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 anti-corruption program and its cooperation in the investigation


Ms. Bivens is consistently recognized for her work in the legal industry:
  • Chambers USA – General Commercial Litigation 
    • “Excellent litigator and strategist”
    • “She's really excellent at representing our interests, and considering things from a litigation perspective and also from our standpoint.” 
  • Legal 500 U.S. – General Commercial Disputes
  • Benchmark Litigation – “Star”: National and New York; “Top 250 Women in Litigation”
  • Lawdragon Global Litigation 500 – International Disputes & Arbitration, 2021
  • Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America – Litigation, 2021
  • Crain’s New York Business – "Notable Women in Law," 2019
  • The American Lawyer – “45 Under 45” List of Top Women Lawyers, 2011
  • Best Lawyers in America – Product Liability Litigation

Of Note

  • Law360 Editorial Advisory Board: International Arbitration, 2021
  • Chair, International Commercial Disputes Committee, New York City Bar Association
  • New York International Arbitration Center, Executive Committee 
  • International Advisory Committee of the ICDR
  • The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Board of Directors
  • Brown University, Advisory Council on Diversity
Past Memberships
  • Columbia Law School, Board of Visitors
  • Columbia Law School Alumni Association, President

Professional History

  • Partner, 2001-present
  • Associate, Davis Polk, 1995-2001
  • Associate, Morrison & Foerster, 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

Bar Admissions

  • State of New York
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, N.D. Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, E.D. New York
  • 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