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Frances E. Bivens

Ms. Bivens is a partner in Davis Polk’s Litigation Department and has experience in a broad range of high profile commercial litigation matters in federal and state courts around the country and arbitrations around the globe. She also regularly handles regulatory matters for clients in a variety of industries and performs internal investigations for companies and boards.

Work Highlights

Ms. Bivens regularly acts as lead counsel in commercial litigation matters. Some of her representations include:

Commercial Litigation
  • Con Edison in a variety of major litigations, including mass-action civil litigation and government investigations arising out of Superstorm Sandy, the East Harlem, East Village and Bronx 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 in the Court of Federal Claims 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
  • Hyposwiss Privatbank AG in the successful dismissal of a civil RICO and securities matter brought in the Southern District of New York arising out of the attempted privatization of Azerbaijan’s oil industry
  • Baidu (the Chinese search engine) in the successful dismissal of a copyright infringement matter related to MP3 downloading brought in the Southern District of New York
  • Morgan Stanley in civil litigation in Delaware Chancery court related to its investment in the Philadelphia Stock Exchange
International Arbitration
  • Corsair Capital, a private equity firm, in an international arbitration in the ICDR with over $350 million at stake against a former business partner arising out of a complex Indian banking transaction; the arbitration panel found in favor of Davis Polk’s client and rejected all of the claimant’s allegations
  • Four affiliates of Sete Brasil in an ICC arbitration arising out of the Petrobras bribery scandal, brought by affiliates of Singaporean shipbuilder Sembcorp Marine relating to an $800 million dispute arising out of the construction of four deep water drilling rigs
  • First Wind in contentious civil litigation and arbitration proceedings related to a commercial dispute with Clipper Windpower
Professional Liability Litigation
  • Ernst & Young in a trial in Boston federal court arising out of the failure of the Bank of New England
  • 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

Ms. Bivens also handles internal investigations and regulatory investigations for a number of major clients. Some examples include:

  • Successfully representing Morgan Stanley in connection with investigations by 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
  • Representing the audit committee of a large company in a SOX whistleblower investigation
  • Representing a major financial institution in a FINRA investigation related to an institutional stock buy-back program, which resulted in no charges against the company


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.” 
  • Benchmark Litigation – “Star”: National and New York; “Top 250 Women in Litigation”
  • The American Lawyer – “45 Under 45” List of Top Women Lawyers, 2011
  • Best Lawyers in America – Product Liability Litigation

Of Note

  • Board Member, New York International Arbitration Center
  • Member, International Advisory Committee of the ICDR
  • 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


  • 450 Lexington Avenue
    New York, NY
    P: +1 212 450 4935
    F: +1 212 701 5935

Bar Admissions

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