Peter G. Verniero is Chair of the Sills Cummis & Gross Corporate Investigations and Integrity and Appellate Practice Groups.
Mr. Verniero joined the Firm in September of 2004 after serving as the then youngest member of the New Jersey Supreme Court in modern history. Prior to his judicial service, Mr. Verniero served as the 51st Attorney General of New Jersey as well as chief of staff and chief counsel to Governor Christine Todd Whitman. He is the only person in the state’s history to have served in those four senior positions within the executive and judicial branches.
At the Firm, Mr. Verniero has worked on a number of significant matters. He has, for example, advised numerous entities in matters pending before various state and federal regulatory or law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of N.J. and the U.S. Department of Justice. He has conducted internal investigations for large, public companies, in addition to advising business entities on document retention policies and on the rules governing discovery of electronically stored information.
As another example, Mr. Verniero represented Third Point LLC as part of its proxy contest for the election of directors to the board of Campbell Soup Co. Working with New York counsel, he filed suit on Third Point’s behalf in state court in the Camden Vicinage. Mr. Verniero personally argued twice in court before the matter settled, with Third Point successfully placing two of its nominees on the Campbell board and gaining a role in selecting a third director and the hiring of Campbell’s CEO.
Also as an example, Mr. Verniero represented Johnson & Johnson, successfully arguing before the New Jersey Appellate Division for the reversal of a $223 million jury verdict. This was one of the largest verdicts against J&J to be overturned in talc litigation in New Jersey.
The State of New Jersey has retained Mr. Verniero to handle matters under the respective administrations of Governors Chris Christie and Philip Murphy. He also has chaired numerous governmental advisory panels as well as committees of the state Supreme Court. He is the past chair of the Professional Responsibility Rules Committee, which considers and recommends attorney ethics rules to the Supreme Court, and is the current vice chair of the Civil Practice Committee, which performs a similar function in respect of the civil court rules.
As Attorney General, Mr. Verniero personally argued cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. For example, in E.B. v. Verniero, 119 F.3d 1077 (3d Cir. 1997), he argued successfully in defense of Megan’s Law, New Jersey’s sexual-offender notification statute. At the time of the court’s decision, it was the first federal appellate court ruling in the country upholding a state’s version of Megan’s Law.
As an associate justice of the state Supreme Court, Mr. Verniero authored and signed 124 judicial opinions touching on a wide array of civil and criminal areas, including employment, corporate, and constitutional law. For instance, he authored the Court’s opinion in In re PSE & G Shareholder Litigation, 173 N.J. 258 (2002), which articulated and applied a modified business judgment rule in upholding the dismissal of shareholder-derivative litigation. That opinion has been cited by numerous courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court of Appeals for the State of California, and the Supreme Court of Minnesota. Other judicial opinions authored by Justice Verniero have been cited by courts at different levels in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Hawaii.
Mr. Verniero annotates and provides commentary to the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey, a widely used reference guide for the legal profession published by Gann Law Books.
Mr. Verniero’s essays on legal and public policy issues also are widely published and have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Star-Ledger of Newark, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Investor’s Business Daily, the New Jersey Law Journal, and the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. In addition, he is frequently quoted on legal topics in various media outlets.
He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including, in 2016, the Medal of Honor, the highest award conferred by the New Jersey Bar Foundation. After his retirement from the Supreme Court, Mr. Verniero received the Gatekeeper Award in recognition of his “leadership in restoring public confidence in the law,” given by Common Good, a national bipartisan legal reform organization. He, together with his spouse, have been honored by SAFE of Hunterdon in recognition of their efforts to end domestic violence.
As a former state Attorney General, Mr. Verniero is a member of the Society of Attorneys General Emeriti and frequently attends meetings of the National Association of Attorneys General. At one national meeting, he sat on a panel of current and former judges, offering insights on effective appellate advocacy before a nationwide audience of state solicitors and appellate chiefs. He similarly has lectured on effective appellate advocacy at meetings of various county bar associations in New Jersey.
Mr. Verniero began his career as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Robert L. Clifford, New Jersey Supreme Court. He also was an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the County College of Morris, where he taught business law.