Cyrus Mehri is a founding partner of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC. He litigates cases involving discrimination, civil and consumer rights, and corporate fraud. Fast Company says, “He is something of a one-man army in the battle against business as usual…. His impact—both in terms of penalties and remedies—is undeniable,” while the New York Times says, “Mr. Mehri’s vision for corporate America involves sweeping change, not the piecemeal kind.”
Mr. Mehri’s reputation is well-earned. He has led and co-led some of the largest and most significant race and gender cases in U.S. history, including the two largest race discrimination class actions in history: Roberts v. Texaco Inc., which settled in 1997 for $176 million, and Ingram v. The Coca-Cola Company, which settled in 2001 for $192.5 million. Both settlements included historic programmatic relief, featuring independent Task Forces with sweeping powers to reform key human resources practices such as pay, promotions, and evaluations.
Mr. Mehri also spearheaded Robinson v. Ford Motor Company, which resulted in the creation of 279 apprenticeship positions for African American employees and a $10 million payment, as well as the creation of new state-of-the-art testing protocols for apprenticeship positions. Mr. Mehri achieved similar settlements involving selection procedures with other companies such as Alcoa and Visteon. He also played a lead role in the $24 million settlement against John Hancock Life Insurance Company, resolving claims of decades-old discriminatory practices in the sale and marketing of life insurance policies to African-Americans, including a $15 million cy pres component to be distributed to organizations that benefit African-American communities. In addition, he launched the Madison Avenue Project with the NAACP in 2009.
The “Women on Wall Street” project, which Mr. Mehri launched with the National Council of Women’s Organizations to end discrimination against women in financial institutions, has achieved settlements with Morgan Stanley & Co. ($47 million), Smith Barney ($33 million), and Wells Fargo/Wachovia ($32 million), exceeding $114 million in total, along with transforming the opportunities available to women on Wall Street.
Mr. Mehri also served as co-lead counsel in the Pars Equality Center case challenging the Trump Administration’s travel ban. The Pars Equality Center filed an amicus brief in Trump v. Hawaii, which was cited favorably in the dissenting Supreme Court opinions. 138 S. Ct. 2392, 2431 (2018) (Breyer, J., dissenting); id. at 2445 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).
Mr. Mehri has a history of representing defrauded investors, pensioners, and consumers, as well as small businesses subjected to price-fixing, in other class actions. For example, in 1993, Florin v. Nations Bank restored $16 million to a pension plan that was bilked by company insiders at Simmons Mattress Company. In 1991, In re Bolar Pharmaceutical Co. returned over $25 million to defrauded shareholders. Mr. Mehri serves as co-lead counsel in numerous consumer class actions. Mr. Mehri helped to prosecute one of the largest securities cases in history, a $2.5 billion settlement with AOL Time Warner.
Mr. Mehri has worked to dramatically change the face of NFL management—and level the playing field. After he co-wrote “Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities” with Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., the NFL adopted the “Rooney Rule,” a comprehensive diversity program under which the NFL has reached historical numbers of black management personnel, including head coaches. For seven straight years after the 2006 season, one or both clubs in the Super Bowl featured an African American General Manager or Head Coach. Along with Mr. Cochran and John Wooten, Mr. Mehri co-founded the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an affinity group for NFL minority coaches, front office, and scouting personnel that advocates for the hiring and promotion of minority candidates within the NFL ranks. The Fritz Pollard Alliance has served as the social conscience of the NFL: in calling for the name change of the DC Football Club since 2014; in supporting the breaking of barriers by women in the League; in supporting player protests since 2016; and in supporting voter registration drives at club facilities since 2018.
The NFL also looked to Mr. Mehri to implement a new Player Assessment Test (NFL-PAT), an innovative tool to capture the non-physical attributes of a successful NFL player and to reduce socioeconomic bias in the drafting process. The NFL-PAT was unveiled at the 2013 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and has been used by most of the NFL Clubs.
Along with Pam Coukos and Jenny Yang, Mr. Mehri founded Working IDEAL, a consulting company providing thought leadership on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Working IDEAL has brought innovative ideas and effective tools for fostering diversity and inclusion to a wide cross-section of entities, including universities, cities, labor unions, and non-profits.
Mr. Mehri graduated from Hartwick College in 1983 and Cornell Law School in 1988, where he served as Articles Editor for the Cornell International Law Journal. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable John T. Nixon, U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee.
For his advocacy, in 2014, Mr. Mehri was given the Cornell Law School Public Service Award. Hartwick College chose Mr. Mehri as its 2009 Commencement Speaker and inaugural alumni hall of fame. The Detroit City Council passed a testimonial resolution honoring Mr. Mehri and wishing him “continued success in changing the fabric of America”; the Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C. awarded Cyrus Mehri its Award of Excellence; and the City of Miami gave him the Distinguished Visitor Award. In 2019, Mr. Mehri accepted the Diversity and Trailblazing Award at the D&I Honors hosted by Diverse & Engaged. You can view the video here. Most recently, Hartwick College selected Mr. Mehri for an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws ’21.
Mr. Mehri was named by Regardie’s Power magazine as one of “Washington’s Ten Most Feared Lawyers” and by Workforce magazine as “Corporate America’s Scariest Opponent.”
Mr. Mehri has written and testified extensively about seeking justice in an ever-changing landscape. His work includes:
Mr. Mehri is a frequent guest on radio and TV. His work has been recognized in numerous books and articles including most recently in Diversity, Inc., authored by award-winning author Pamela Newkirk. Selected interviews and appearances include: