FacultyFaculty/Author Profile
Helen V. Cantwell

Helen V. Cantwell

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

New York City, NY, USA


Helen V. Cantwell is a litigation partner with extensive trial experience. Her practice focuses on white collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement actions and internal investigations for a wide variety of corporations and financial institutions. In addition to advising clients on their responses to state and federal investigations, she also advises these clients on their compliance obligations.

Ms. Cantwell also has deep experience in conducting sensitive investigations involving allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, dating back to her service as a prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s Sex Crimes Unit.

Chambers USA (2018) recognizes Ms. Cantwell as a leading practitioner in white collar criminal defense and investigations matters. She is described as “incredibly bright and sharp” by fellow practitioners, who praise her ability to “get up to speed lightning fast.” Clients note that Ms. Cantwell is a “very confident advocate” and commend her “standout judgment and attention to detail.”

While much of Ms. Cantwell’s work is not public, some of her representative white collar and regulatory matters include:

  • Toyota Motor Corporation in connection with various state and federal investigations;
  • A leading fintech company in multiple matters, including the successful resolution of an anti-money laundering investigation by the DOJ;
  • A top national bank in an investigation by the DOJ, the District Attorney for New York County, and various banking regulators into allegations of money laundering;
  • A top national bank in an investigation by the DOJ into mortgage-related matters;
  • An individual in connection with an insider trading investigation;
  • A global insurer in inquiries conducted by the NY Department of Financial Services and NY Attorney General relating to alleged unlicensed sales of life insurance in New York;
  • A leading consulting firm in allegations investigated by the DOJ, which resulted in the exoneration of the firm;
  • Various bank executives in investigations related to LIBOR and other potential securities fraud by the SEC, CFTC and DOJ;
  • The Chief Risk Officer of a hedge fund in civil litigation and investigations relating to the Bernard L. Madoff matter;
  • Private equity clients in governmental investigations and litigations relating to fallout from the financial crisis and the collapse of MF Global;
  • Ongoing compliance advice to clients regarding the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, various banking regulators, and anti-money laundering;
  • Current and former corporate executives in DOJ, SEC and CFTC investigations involving allegations of securities fraud, theft of trade secrets and other matters;

    Her sensitive investigations experience includes:

  • The Board of Directors of CBS Corporation in an investigation of sexual harassment allegations against the CEO, senior CBS News personnel, as well as allegations about the corporate culture;
  • The Board of the Cleveland Orchestra in an independent investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct by two musicians;
  • Syracuse University in investigations by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Special Committee of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees, which arose as a result of allegations of sexual abuse made against Bernie Fine, former Associate Head Coach of the University’s men’s basketball team.  These investigations ended without any charges being brought;
  • The National Football League in an investigation into allegation of workplace misconduct involving a team owner;
  • Save the Children, an international NGO, in an investigation of alleged improper conduct by a past employee; and
  • Multiple secondary schools in such investigations, including The Ramaz School, The Potomac School, and The Laurel School, among others.

    Her civil and trial experience includes:

  • Aleading insurance company in the successful settlement after jury selection of a securities litigation arising from its demutualization;
  • Metromedia International Group in a trial in Delaware Chancery Court (In re Appraisal of Metromedia); and
  • Syracuse University in a defamation suit arising out of comments made by the basketball coach during an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse.

Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Cantwell served for eight years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. During her tenure in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she was a member of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force and worked closely with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and other law enforcement and regulatory agencies. Ms. Cantwell joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2000, after four years as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. She is a recipient of the Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance as a Federal Prosecutor.

Before the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Cantwell spent a year working in Malaysia with the International Women’s Rights Action Watch, under a fellowship grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Ms. Cantwell joined Debevoise in 2008. She earned her J.D. cum laude in 1995 from Harvard Law School, where she was President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and her B.A. magna cum laude from Wellesley College in 1992.

Helen V. Cantwell is associated with the following items:
Course Handbooks  Course Handbooks Ethics in Context: August 2018
CHB Chapters  CHB Chapters Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP, Client Update: D.C. Circuit Upholds Privilege Protections in Compliance Investigations (July 3, 2014) - Ethics in Context: August 2018, Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Web Segment  Web Segment Policing the Markets: Updates on Securities Investigations and Enforcement - White Collar Crime 2018: Prosecutors and Regulators Speak, Tuesday, October 09, 2018
MP3 Audio  MP3 Audio Policing the Markets: Updates on Securities Investigations and Enforcement - Policing the Markets: Updates on Securities Investigations and Enforcement, Tuesday, October 09, 2018
Transcripts  Transcripts Policing the Markets: Updates on Securities Investigations and Enforcement - Policing the Markets: Updates on Securities Investigations and Enforcement, Tuesday, October 09, 2018
MP4 - Mobile Video Seg  MP4 - Mobile Video Seg Policing the Markets: Updates on Securities Investigations and Enforcement - Policing the Markets: Updates on Securities Investigations and Enforcement, Tuesday, October 09, 2018
On-Demand Web Programs  On-Demand Web Programs White Collar Crime 2018: Prosecutors and Regulators Speak, Wednesday, October 10, 2018, New York, NY
Live Seminar  Live Seminar Ethics for Commercial Litigators 2019, Thursday, February 21, 2019, New York, NY
The Attorney-Client Privilege and Internal Investigations 2019, Tuesday, August 06, 2019, New York, NY
Live Webcast  Live Webcast Ethics for Commercial Litigators 2019, Thursday, February 21, 2019, New York, NY
The Attorney-Client Privilege and Internal Investigations 2019, Tuesday, August 06, 2019, New York, NY
PLI Grpcast-Live Web  PLI Grpcast-Live Web Ethics for Commercial Litigators 2019, Thursday, February 21, 2019, Nashville, TN
Ethics for Commercial Litigators 2019, Thursday, February 21, 2019, Atlanta, GA
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