Cyrus Mehri - Full Biography

Cyrus Mehri is a founding partner of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC. Mr. Mehri litigates cases involving discrimination, civil and consumer rights violations and corporate fraud. His impact on these landscapes has been documented in the New York Times, which said, “Mr. Mehri’s vision for corporate America involves sweeping change, not the piecemeal kind.” 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.” He 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’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: Roberts v. Texaco Inc., ($176 million; S.D.N.Y. 1997). Ingram v. The Coca-Cola Company ($192 million; N.D. Ga. 2001); August-Johnson v. Morgan Stanley ($47 million; D.D.C. 2007); Amachoev v. Smith Barney ($34 million; N.D. Cal. 2008); Norflet v. John Hancock Life Insurance Co. ($24 million; D. Conn. 2009):  Carter v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC ($32 million; D.D.C. 2011); and Brown v. Medicis Pharmaceutical ($7.1 million; D.D.C. 2013).  The hallmark of these settlements is innovative programmatic relief to change corporate practices for the better in the long.  That’s one reason why Trial Lawyers for Public Justice named Mr. Mehri a finalist for “Trial Lawyer of the Year” for his work on the Texaco and Coca-Cola matters respectively.

Mr. Mehri doesn’t just seek to win cases – he works to advance justice across industries. To that end, he has launched a number of projects aimed at systematically remedying discrimination, improving opportunities, and bettering corporate behavior. 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, Smith Barney, and Wachovia exceeding $114 million, along with transforming the opportunities available to women on Wall Street.

Mr. Mehri has also been instrumental in advancing equal opportunity in professional sports, both in the U.S. and abroad. After he wrote, with the late Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities, in 2003 the NFL adopted the “Rooney Rule,” named after Pittsburgh Steelers’ Owner Dan Rooney requiring that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for vacant head coach or general manager positions.  Mr. Mehri then co-founded the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an affinity group for NFL minority coaches, front office and scouting personnel. The work of the Fritz Pollard Alliance has led to a record number of minority coaches, and general managers and front office personnel. Indeed, 10 Super Bowl clubs have been led by a minority head coach or general manager since 2007: Tony Dungy (Colts), Lovie Smith (Bears), Jerry Reese (Giants, twice), Rod Graves (Cardinals), Jim Caldwell (Colts), Mike Tomlin (Steelers, twice), Ozzie Newsome (Ravens), and Ron Rivera (Panthers).

The Rooney Rule has been used as a model in other sports contexts. In 2009, the state of Oregon passed legislation mandating that a person of color be interviewed for every open athletic director and head coach position at any of the state’s seven public universities. Just a few years later, Mr. Mehri began working with leaders of the English Premier League, Football League and Football Association on adapting the Rooney Rule for professional soccer in the United Kingdom. His initial meeting with these groups in 2011 was heralded by the Daily Telegraph as “historic,” and by 2015, after continuing to work with Mr. Mehri, the Football League announced that it was implementing a form of the Rule.

The Rooney Rule has also been used as a model outside of sport in both the public and private spheres. The city of Portland, Oregon and Allegheny County, PA both now implement versions of the Rule when interviewing for certain governmental positions.  And in the private sector, leading companies such as Xerox, Intel, Facebook, and Pinterest have adopted forms of the Rule.

Mr. Mehri’s work is featured in several books, including: Advancing the Ball – Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL, by Professor Jeremi Duru;  , by Bari Ellen Roberts with Jack White, and , by Constance L. Hays.

Mr. Mehri has long fought for workers and workers’ rights. In Florin v NationsBank, he helped secure $16 million in a pension plan for Simmons Mattress Company workers bilked by Company insiders. In March 2016, Mr. Mehri gave a keynote address at the Human Capital Summit hosted by the UAW Trust entitled, “Harnessing Shareholder Power to Advance Opportunity.”  Recently, Mr. Mehri founded Working IDEAL with Pam Coukos to strategically advance better workplaces. One of their first action items was to petition the Securities and Exchange Commission to introduce corporate governance reforms, including encouraging publicly-traded companies to create a Human Capital Subcommittee so that Boards of Directors would place more emphasis on retention and development of workers.

In addition to pursuing groundbreaking litigation and internal reforms, Mr. Mehri has worked to advance justice through advocacy. In September 2008, he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee alongside Supreme Court litigant Lilly Ledbetter to call for diversifying the pool of potential judicial nominees, not just in terms of race and gender, but also in terms of life and work experience.

Mr. Mehri has written extensively about seeking justice in an ever-changing landscape. His works include: “Onward and Upward after Wal-Mart v. Dukes,” co-authored with M&S’s Michael Lieder, on successfully pursuing employment justice in the wake of Wal-Mart v. Dukes; the October 2008 paper, “” and its follow-up, ,” which was co-authored by former M&S partner Ellen Eardley; and “.” For the 2008 National Employment Law Association Convention, Mr. Mehri co-wrote, “A ‘Toolbox for Innovative Title VII Settlement Agreements.”

Mr. Mehri has written extensively on securities enforcement and corporate governance, including “Stock Option Equity: Building Democracy While Building Wealth” (November 2002).  Mr. Mehri also co-authored, “One Nation, Indivisible: The Use of Diversity Report Cards To Promote Transparency, Accountability, and Workplace Fairness” for Fordham Journal of Corporate and Financial Law, 9, 99-152 (with Andrea Giampetro-Meyer & Michael B. Runnels).

Among his awards and achievements, Mr. Mehri has received the Public Service Award from Cornell Law School, the “Award of Excellence” from the Pigskin Club in Washington, D.C., the Outstanding Youth Alumnus Award from Hartwick College and the Alumni Award from Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut “for becoming a beacon of good, positively affecting the lives of many.” The State Department profiled Mr. Mehri along with other successful Iranian-Americans, and The Xemplar detailed Mr. Mehri’s quest to level the playing field for Americans of all walks of life. The Detroit City Council passed a testimonial resolution honoring Mr. Mehri and wishing him “continued success in changing the fabric of America.”

Mr. Mehri serves on the advisory boards for Cornell Law School, the Peggy Browning Fund and Farmworker Justice, and the judicial nominations committees for the American Constitution Society and the National Employment Lawyers Association.

He is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and a popular lecturer on CLE programs. Selected interviews and appearances include:

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. He clerked for the Honorable John T. Nixon, U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee.