Britt Whitesell Biles is a trial lawyer and a partner in the Business Litigation Group. Resident in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, Britt has extensive experience at the highest levels of the federal government, having served in senior legal roles at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the White House, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). She has nearly two decades of experience representing and advising clients in high-stakes government investigations and bet-the-company litigation.
Most recently, Britt served as the General Counsel of the SBA. She was appointed in 2020 to manage the immense and unprecedented legal needs that arose from the SBA’s role as a lead agency in the federal government’s economic response to COVID-19; the Agency was under intense pressure to implement and administer trillion-dollar loan and grant programs established by the CARES Act and faced unparalleled levels of scrutiny from Congress, the media, and the public. As the SBA’s chief legal officer and third-highest-ranking official, Britt led the SBA’s legal function, managing 140 lawyers and staff across the country.
Britt was the principal legal advisor to the Administrator on the CARES Act and related legislation. She supervised the drafting of regulations and guidance that implemented the Paycheck Protection Program and designed key aspects of the loan review and forgiveness process. She worked closely with senior officials across the federal government to establish data-sharing and cooperation agreements to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of fraud and abuse in the COVID-19 loan and grant programs. Britt oversaw the litigation of cases arising under the CARES Act and devised the SBA’s strategy for responding to oversight, audits, and inquiries. She regularly counseled senior Agency officials in connection with Congressional testimony and briefings, including before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the House and Senate Small Business Committees, the House Financial Services Committee, and the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. In addition to acting as a legal advisor, Britt performed a crisis management role, advising the SBA on its communications strategy and engagement with external stakeholders. Britt, along with her staff in the Office of General Counsel, received the 2020 Administrator’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Before she was appointed General Counsel of the SBA, Britt served as a Special Assistant to the President and Associate White House Counsel. During her tenure at the White House, she provided legal advice on financial regulation and reform, consumer protection, privacy, transportation, and congressional oversight matters. She also was the White House’s legal liaison to the Departments of Treasury, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as independent financial services and consumer protection agencies, including the SEC, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Britt also recently held a senior enforcement position at the SEC. As Assistant Chief Litigation Counsel, she investigated and litigated securities matters involving insider trading, cybersecurity, accounting and disclosure fraud, registered and unregistered securities offerings, market abuses, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, broker-dealers, investment advisors, and other regulated entities. Her cases involved millions of dollars in civil monetary penalties and disgorgement. She routinely worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on parallel criminal proceedings. Britt also worked with international authorities, handling significant cross-border enforcement actions involving China, Macau, India, and Eastern Europe.
During her time at the SEC, Britt investigated and litigated many of the Commission’s most significant cases. In 2017, she received the Chairman’s Award for Excellence for leading the litigation in SEC v. Hong, a ground-breaking case in which Chinese nationals were charged with insider trading in connection with a cyber-attack on two New York law firms. The case received international attention because it demonstrated the reach of the SEC’s enforcement program as the SEC recovered illegal trading profits from foreign defendants who lived abroad and carried out their illegal scheme without entering the United States. Britt also twice received the Division of Enforcement Director’s Award for making outstanding contributions to the enforcement of the federal securities laws — in 2015, for her work on an $80-million-variable-annuity-fraud case, and again in 2016, for her work on a conflict-of-interest case against one of the world’s largest asset managers and its chief compliance officer.
In addition to serving in senior legal roles in the federal government, Britt was a partner at a global law firm and a Washington, D.C. litigation boutique. She represented high-profile individuals and public and private companies in the financial services, healthcare, pharmaceutical, defense, communications, government contracting, technology, manufacturing, and entertainment industries. She defended clients in investigations and enforcement matters by Congress, the DOJ, the SEC, the FTC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and various state attorneys general. She also represented clients in commercial litigation, including securities, contract, cybersecurity, data privacy, defamation, consumer protection, unfair competition, professional liability, environmental, and product liability cases. An experienced trial lawyer, Britt litigated in state and federal courts nationwide. She presented cases to arbitrators and mediators. Britt also was a lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law, teaching a course on electronic discovery.
Britt began her law career as a federal appellate clerk for the Honorable Julia Smith Gibbons on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, after graduating magna cum laude from Duke University School of Law and being elected to the Order of the Coif.
Any result the lawyer or law firm may have achieved on behalf of clients in other matters does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.
Prior to joining Womble Bond Dickinson, Britt was involved in the following selected matters:
Public SBA Matters
- Prepared the SBA Administrator and Associate Administrators to testify before Congressional committees.
- Prepared SBA senior officials to brief Congressional members and staff.
- Advised the SBA in connection with inquiries and requests by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
- Advised the SBA in connection with inquiries and requests by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
- Advised the SBA in connection with inquiries and requests by the House Financial Services Committee.
- Advised the SBA in connection with inquiries and requests by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).
- Led the SBA’s response to audits and investigations by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
- Led the SBA’s response to audits and investigations by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
Public SEC Matters
- Trial and investigative counsel in a ground-breaking case in federal district court in which Chinese nationals were charged with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws by trading on the basis of material nonpublic information that was stolen when two New York law firms were hacked.
- Trial counsel in an administrative trial against a registered broker-dealer for violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws in connection with an $80-million-variable-annuity scheme.
- Trial and investigative counsel in a settled action, charging one of the world’s largest asset managers and its chief compliance officer with violations of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 and the Investment Company Act of 1940.
- Trial and investigative counsel in a settled action, charging a multinational food and beverage company with violations of the internal controls and books-and-records provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
- Trial and investigative counsel in a settled action, charging a group of activist investors with violations of Sections 13(d)(1), 13(d)(2), and 16(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rules 13d-1, 13d-2(a), 16a-2, and 16a-3.
- Trial counsel in federal district court litigation to enforce a permanent injunction and impose sanctions on a public company chief financial officer for violating a lifetime bar on appearing or practicing before the Commission.
- Trial and investigative counsel in federal district court litigation against the chief executive officer of a publicly traded company for violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws by making fraudulent disclosures and engaging in manipulative trading.
- Trial and investigative counsel in an action involving violations of the auditor independence provisions of the federal securities laws by an international public accounting firm.
- Counsel to an A-list Hollywood actor in a breach of contract and professional liability suit against his former entertainment lawyer. Through motions practice, obtained a critical legal ruling on an issue of first impression in California law, ultimately leading to a favorable settlement for the actor. The legal ruling was reported on by The Wall Street Journal because the decision was expected to change how entertainment lawyers and actors conducted business.
- Counsel to a global engineering firm in connection with SEC and DOJ investigations.
- Counsel to a high-profile individual in connection with a confidential white collar investigation.
- Counsel to a private college in connection with allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct; led internal investigation into college’s response to the allegations.
- Counsel to a financial services company in connection with a Congressional investigation and hearing, an SEC investigation, and enforcement actions by the FTC and the Minnesota Attorney General.
- Counsel to a credit card company in connection with enforcement actions by the New York Attorney General, the FTC, and the FDIC, as well as a private securities class action.
- Trial counsel to a financial services company in connection with a commercial arbitration arising from a series of government investigations and enforcement actions. Favorable settlement reached on eve of arbitration.
- Trial counsel to pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors in hundreds of product liability cases. After a series of trials, a favorable global settlement was reached.
- Trial counsel to paint manufacturers in a product liability case that attracted national media attention. Obtained a complete defense verdict after a six-week trial.
Professional and Civic Activities
- American Bar Association, Member
- Federal Bar Association, Member
- Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, Sustaining Member
- Association of Securities and Exchange Commission Alumni, Inc., Member
- Women in Housing and Finance, Member
- Duke University School of Law, Class of 2005 Reunion Committee
- The Washington Ballet, Board of Directors, Member of Governance and Development Committees
- Capital Speakers Club, Member, Chapter Treasurer, 2016-2018
- National Child Research Center, Member of Tuition Assistance Auction, 2015-2018
- Securities and Exchange Commission’s Digital Currency Working Group, Member, 2015-2017
- Intown Playgroup, Board of Directors, Treasurer, 2014-2017
Publications and Presentations
- Featured Speaker, “The Fate of ALJs and Other Critical Issues Presented in Lucia v. SEC,” Securities Docket
- Author, “5 Pressing Issues Facing The SEC in 2018,” Law360, January 5, 2018
- Panelist, SEC, Division of Enforcement, Cyber-Enforcement, Hacking-to-Trade, and the Hong Case
- Panelist, Duke University School of Law, Women Law Students Association, Women in the Law, Alumnae in Private Practice
Honors and Awards
- SBA, Administrator’s Award for Outstanding Achievement, 2020
- Selected to the Washington, D.C. Rising Stars list by Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2019, 2018, 2014
- SEC, Chairman’s Award for Excellence, 2017
- SEC, Division of Enforcement Director’s Award, 2016, 2015
- Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Outstanding Achievement Award, 2010