David Sanford

Mr. Sanford is the Chairman and co-founder of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP. Since 2004, Mr. Sanford has recovered more than $1 billion for individual clients and the United States government.

I turned to Sanford Heisler Sharp after numerous unsuccessful efforts of sharing my concerns of bias and gender discrimination to my management. The discrimination continued for many years. I had a long successful career, a Masters degree in Organizational Management, with numerous awarded accomplishments. So, I decided I was no longer going to allow the discrimination to continue to myself or others. David Sanford and his team took on this giant international company, with concern and respect, diligence, detail, and an in-depth understanding of the numerous levels of inequities of gender discrimination from training, promotions, salaries and harassment within the company's culture. They achieved both a great outcome of compensation for the victims, and helped insure a plan of corrective measures for the company. I would highly recommend Sanford Heisler, their amazing efforts and results made such a positive difference to so many, and could do the same for you. It certainly did for me. Deborah Doak Davis, Plaintiff in Novartis Gender Discrimination Matter

I worked with the team and Sanford Heisler Sharp in a class action litigation against a Fortune 500 company—a frightening thing for anyone to sign up for, let alone a middle-aged woman with more than 25 years at that same company. The care, concern, and understanding from David Sanford and the team at the firm were so supportive. They also knew exactly how to make the company pay attention, resolve the issues, and compensate the victims. I was able to leave with my dignity, my pride and a future that has been wide open with new possibilities. Margaret Harding, Former Client

David has the largely unique ability to be extremely aggressive and, at the same time, both very professional and even-tempered. Defendants who have a claim asserted by David Sanford and his firm know they have their hands full. You know you’re going to have a real fight on your hands. Glen Nager, Partner, Jones Day

David is an awesome attorney, down to earth and has a big heart. I think he is a wonderful person and has a great team of personnel. I loved working with him. I am so grateful to him and his team for all the time, effort and support they gave me. Donna Bryan, former client

Watch David’s Interview on the Ellen Pao Sex Discrimination Case

Ellen Pao Sex Discrimination Case

David Sanford is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, a national law firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, San Diego, and Nashville. He received his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1995.

Legal Representation

David Sanford has recovered more than one billion dollars for individual clients and the United States government since 2004. Mr. Sanford represents C-suite executives, as well as non-managerial, hourly employees throughout the United States. David has served as lead counsel in more than 50 class actions and numerous qui tam fraud cases around the country.  David has represented more than 100 General Counsel and attorneys (in-house and outside counsel) in contract disputes, employment matters, and severance packages.

David is currently class counsel in gender discrimination cases against Forest Labs, Merck, KPMG, Daiichi, Alcon, and Publicis; class counsel in a race discrimination matter against the U.S. Marshal Service; wage matter against Cotsco; counsel representing general counsel of Armani and Zara; class counsel in a matter against Georgetown and other defendants on behalf of women who were surreptitiously videotaped while performing a cleansing ritual; counsel representing a professor at the Columbia Business School in a gender discrimination/sexual harassment matter; qui tam counsel against Depuy; and counsel representing partners of law firms throughout America.

Professional Recognition

David Sanford was inducted into the National Law Journal’s Elite Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame and he is listed among the top 100 trial lawyers in America by the National Trial Lawyers.  Mr. Sanford has been recognized as a “Top Employment Lawyer” by American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and the National Law Journal; was recognized by Law 360 as an Employment Lawyer MVP in both 2014 and 2015, and as “Titan of the Plaintiffs’ Bar;” and he has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” in both Washington, DC and New York.  Since 2006, Mr. Sanford has been AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating given to an attorney by judges and attorneys throughout the United States.

Largest Employment Verdict in United States History

Mr. Sanford served as lead counsel representing approximately 7,000 female employees in Velez v. Novartis. After a seven-week trial, Mr. Sanford secured the largest employment verdict ($253 million) in United States history.  The presiding federal judge described the case as having been “brilliantly tried” and the result as “extraordinary” and “one of a kind.”

Presentation at the United Nations

In July 2011, Mr. Sanford gave an address on women’s rights at the United Nations. The United Nations recognized the Novartis case as among the top 10 cases in the world advancing women’s rights, and is the only case from the United States so recognized by the UN.

One of Largest Wage Settlements in United States History

Mr. Sanford served as lead counsel in a wage and hour case against Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation.  The case settled for $99 million on behalf of sales representatives who were not paid overtime wages.

Lead Counsel In False Claims Act (Qui Tam) Cases

Mr. Sanford has served as lead counsel in numerous fraud matters brought by individuals on behalf of the United States government.  Among his successful False Claims Act (qui tam) matters, Mr. Sanford was lead counsel for a relator in a case against Amgen that the United States government settled for $762 million to resolve criminal liability and False Claims Act allegations.  Mr. Sanford was the lead counsel in a case against Smith & Nephew, which was the first whistleblower settlement involving false country of origin claims for medical devices. The case settled for $11 million. Mr. Sanford was also lead counsel in a case against Medtronic, which settled for $23.5 million.

Historic Settlement Against Cracker Barrel

Mr. Sanford was lead counsel in a race discrimination class action against the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, which was the only race discrimination case intervened in by the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Sanford represented the NAACP, as well as Cracker Barrel employees and customers. The case settled for more than $8 million.

Television Interviews, Radio Appearances and Professional Presentations

Mr. Sanford has appeared on most major television networks and cable news shows, including “Good Morning America,” “NBC News with Brian Williams,” “20/20,” Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and Voice of America. Mr. Sanford appeared on the Forbes Radio Channel in a “Special Tribute to America’s Best Lawyers,” and has been quoted in major newspapers and journals throughout America on pending matters of importance in the law.

Mr. Sanford speaks throughout the United States on complex litigation matters.  He has recently addressed the Stanford Law School; Harvard Law School; Columbia Law School; the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee of the American Bar Association; the Memphis Bar Association; the National Employment Lawyers Association; the American Conference Institute; the National ABA Conference; the Pennsylvania Bar’s Employment Law Institute; the New York County Lawyers’ Association; the ABA National Institute on Class Actions; the District Director/Regional Attorney Conference of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and a group of judges and attorneys at a New York/Chicago JAMS Conference.

Board Membership

Mr. Sanford sits on the Board of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem; the Board of Corps Africa; and the Board of the Center for WorkLife Law. Mr. Sanford is also an advisory board member of FAIR (Foundation for Advocacy, Inclusion, and Resources), which is a non-profit designed to increase diversity in the plaintiffs’ employment bar and to raise public consciousness about workers’ rights.

Prior to Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Before founding his firm in 2004, Mr. Sanford opened and was the managing partner of the Washington, DC, office of a civil rights firm from 1998 through 2003. He also worked with David Boies on antitrust matters and commercial litigation and worked in the appellate division of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, drafting petitions of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Sanford served as a law clerk for the Honorable Gladys Kessler of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia; as a law clerk in the White House Counsel’s Office under President Clinton; and as a summer law clerk for the Honorable Dorothy Nelson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Before law school, Mr. Sanford was a professor of philosophy at Williams College and taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Oberlin College.


  • J.D., Stanford Law School 1995
  • ABD, UNC, Chapel Hill 1985
  • M.A., UNC, Chapel Hill 1984
  • B.A., Vassar College 1980


  • Honorable Gladys Kessler, United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Bar Admissions

  • Maryland 1997
  • District of Columbia 1998

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida
  • U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court District of Maryland

Sedgwick Gender Discrimination Class Action

Traci M. Ribeiro, a high-performing, non-equity Partner at Sedgwick, alleges that Sedgwick engaged in systemic pay and promotion discrimination and thereby violated Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and analogous state laws.

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Oracle Commissions Wage & Hour Lawsuits

Sanford Heisler Sharp has filed claims that through the use of a long and confusing set of Terms and Conditions issued to each sales representative with his or her compensation plan, Oracle unlawfully and retroactively reduced the commissions of sales representatives based on grounds, criteria, and methods not defined in a signed commission contract. The case is currently in discovery and continuing investigation.

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Novartis Pharmaceutical Gender Discrimination Class Action – $253 Million Jury Verdict; $175 Million Settlement

In the largest gender discrimination case to ever go to trial, Sanford Heisler Sharp successfully represented a class of 5,600 female sales representatives of Novartis Pharmaceutical Company in their gender pay and promotion and pregnancy discrimination claims. A unanimous decision by a jury of nine found Novartis liable for gender discrimination in pay and promotion and pregnancy-related matters and awarded 12 former Novartis sales reps $3.36 million in compensatory damages and the class of 5,600 women an additional $250 million in punitive damages In addition, the verdict from the jury meant that the remaining 5,600 women in the class were also entitled to additional awards of backpay and to seek compensatory damage awards up to $300,000 each. The verdict and the resulting monetary awards was the largest ever in the U.S in an employment discrimination case.

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Chadbourne & Parke LLP Gender Discrimination Class Action

According to Plaintiff Kerrie Campbell, a nationally recognized trial lawyer and partner in Chadbourne’s Washington, DC office, female partners at the firm are excluded from positions of decision-making authority and receive less pay and bonuses even when they out-perform their male counterparts. There is only a one-tier partnership, with every partner characterized as an equity partner.

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Novartis Pharmaceutical Wage & Hour Class Action – $99 Million Settlement

In 2012, Sanford Heisler Sharp reached a $99 million settlement with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (”Novartis”) to resolve a nationwide class and collective action brought on behalf of thousands of Novartis sales representatives. The settlement ranks among the largest wage and hour settlements.

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United States ex rel. Kelly v. Amgen Corporation (E.D.N.Y.) – $762 Million Settlement

The whistleblower (“relator”) who was represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp, one of several relators who took part in the Government’s investigation, had been employed as an oncology pharmaceutical sales representative for Amgen from 2002 through 2005. In 2007, the relator filed suit against her.

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Qualcomm Gender Discrimination Class Action – $19.5 Million Settlement

In addition to monetary relief, the settlement requires Qualcomm to institute comprehensive programmatic relief, which will ensure that female employees working, for example, in STEM and related positions will enjoy equal job opportunities at the company. The settlement on behalf of a class of approximately 3300 women was reached before Plaintiffs filed suit.

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United States ex rel. Cox v. Smith & Nephew (W.D. Tenn.) – $11 Million Settlement

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP won a $11.3 million qui tam settlement against Smith & Nephew one of the world’s largest medical device manufacturers. The whistleblower, represented by the firm and the U.S. Department of Justice, alleged that Smith & Nephew violated the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) and the False Claims Act by selling products to the Government that were manufactured in countries with which the United States is not a trading partner, under contracts governed by the TAA.

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Daiichi Sankyo Gender Pay, Promotion and Pregnancy Discrimination Class Action – $8.2 Million Settlement

In February 2013, six current and former female pharmaceutical sales professionals filed a $100 million class and collective action gender discrimination lawsuit against Daiichi Sankyo in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging discrimination in pay, promotion and other terms and conditions of employment based on gender, pregnancy and family responsibilities. The case was settled for $8.2 million in 2016.

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Fairfield Resorts Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Class Action – $5 Million Settlement

Sanford Heisler Sharp represented a class of women in a sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims against Fairfield Resorts Incorporated, a major resort and timeshare company. The case was settled on behalf of all female employees at Fairfield’s Nashville, Tennessee facility in 2006, with over five million dollars in damages and significant modifications to Fairfield’s internal policies and procedures.

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