Debbie Harden is co-leader of the Firm’s Financial Services Sector Team and a partner in the Firm’s Business Litigation Practice Group. She has more than 30 years of experience as a strategic business litigator and trusted legal adviser. In addition to counseling on corporate, governance and fiduciary matters, Debbie has a broad-based litigation practice in state and federal courts including the specialized North Carolina Business Court. A Chambers USA-ranked commercial litigator with a Martindale AV ranking, she was also selected for inclusion by Best Lawyers in America in the fields of Commercial Litigation, Banking and Finance Litigation, ERISA Litigation, Securities Litigation, Mergers and Acquisitions Litigation, and Trust and Estates Litigation. Debbie has been recognized as both the “ERISA Litigation Lawyer of the Year” and the “Trusts and Estates Lawyer of the Year” for Charlotte and is included in the North Carolina Super Lawyers.
As summarized by Chambers USA from client interviews, Debbie is a “tenacious and meticulous advocate” and a "really fine litigator with incredible analytical skills.” She is also “acclaimed for her keen and committed client advocacy,” “noted by clients for her effective courtroom demeanor” and is “praised by clients for her efforts to understand their business and its needs.” (Chambers USA 2014 - present).
Debbie focuses on complex corporate and commercial litigation including fiduciary disputes, healthcare litigation, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) cases, class action defense, derivative actions, securities litigation, antitrust disputes, insurance matters, and mediation and arbitration. In the class action area, Debbie has successfully defended clients in putative and certified actions involving ERISA, securities, banking, consumer finance, insurance, real estate, mortgage, antitrust and tax claims. With respect to fiduciary litigation, Debbie has obtained numerous defense verdicts and countless summary judgments for her clients.
Civic and Professional Activities
- Mecklenburg County Bar Association
- Georgia State Bar
- North Carolina Bar Association, Litigation Section
- American Bar Association
- Board and Finance Committee of the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
- Board and Investment Committee of the Greater Cultural Trust
- Board of Managers of the Uptown YMCA, including service as Chairman
- Recipient of the Uptown YMCA Volunteer of the Year Award for 2005
- Governance Committee of Habitat for Humanity
Honors and Awards
- Chambers USA Ranked Lawyer, Litigation – General Commercial, North Carolina, 2016 – Present
- Super Lawyers Honoree in Business Litigation, Class Action/Mass Torts, Civil Litigation, Securities Litigation, North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine (Thomson Reuters), 2006 – Present
- Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America (BL Rankings) in the fields of Commercial Litigation, Litigation – Banking and Finance, Litigation – ERISA, Litigation – Mergers & Acquisitions, Litigation – Trusts and Estates, Litigation – Securities, 2006 – Present
- Received the Best Lawyers™ ERISA Litigation "Lawyer of the Year" award in Charlotte, North Carolina, 2019, 2021
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.
- Obtained five defense judgments after separate trials in ERISA severance lawsuits, which were affirmed on appeal by the Fourth Circuit.
- Obtained numerous summary judgments for insurance companies, plan sponsors, plan administrators and claims administrators in ERISA benefit lawsuits.
- Obtained summary judgment on alleged breach of fiduciary duty claims and state law claims asserted on behalf of all plan participants regarding the annuity funding of a pension plan. Case affirmed on appeal by the Fourth Circuit.
- Obtained class certification denial, upheld on appeal to Fourth Circuit, enabling a successful settlement of alleged discrimination case involving the sale of life insurance policies to minorities.
- Achieved favorable class settlement in ERISA retiree health care benefits litigation involving subsequent plan amendments.
- Achieved favorable settlement for institutional client after years of litigation alleging breach of fiduciary duty involving investments, distributions and conflicts of interest.
- Obtained summary judgment for Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. on claims of breach of fiduciary duty and fraud based on an alleged conflict of interest between trust services and commercial lending.
- Defended Duke Energy Corporation and its Board of Directors in federal securities litigation and derivative actions arising out of Duke’s merger with Progress Energy, as well as the company’s coal ash issues.
- Defeated class certification in putative class action alleging bait-and-switch tactics on the part of a mortgage broker.
- Represented Nationwide Insurance in defense of putative class action claims challenging its insurance practices.
- Serve as counsel for Americo Financial Life and Annuity Insurance Company, Investors Life Insurance Company of North America, and Americo Life, Inc. in annuity-based purported class action, where complete dismissal has been obtained. Plaintiffs have appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.