O’Melveny Worldwide

Steve Olson is global co-chair of O’Melveny’s White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations Practice and a member of the firm's management committee.

Steve is a trusted advisor to clients facing sensitive regulatory oversight and enforcement actions, and to boards investigating allegations of fraud and misconduct. A former federal prosecutor, he guides clients through complex inquiries with reputational ramifications, and prepares efficient and coordinated defense strategies for parallel government investigations, criminal and regulatory proceedings, and civil litigation.

Corporate and university boards and independent directors regularly turn to Steve for counsel on strategic initiatives and crisis management, and rely on his in-depth understanding of the nuanced responsibilities and liabilities of board leadership. Steve recently advised the boards of CenturyLink (now Lumen Technologies), Mattel, USC, and UCLA in high-profile investigations involving allegations of financial fraud and misconduct, and he represents UCLA, Stanford, and other universities in connection with athletic conference realignment matters that have reshaped the landscape of college sports.

As a former senior advisor to the US Commerce Secretary and executive director of SelectUSA, Steve also advises non-US headquartered companies on investing and operating in the US and navigating the regulatory and political environment.

In 2021, Steve served as interim general counsel and chief legal officer for Hyundai and Genesis Motor Americas. He is chair of the World Trade Center Los Angeles and past chair of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. He also serves on the board of the Public Policy Institute of California and is a trustee of Pomona College.

Steve has been recognized by Chambers USA, The Legal 500 US, and Benchmark Litigation as a leading lawyer in the area of White Collar Criminal Defense. In recent editions of Chambers USA, clients describe Steve as “very adept at anticipating legal issues—quickly cutting through complex facts to distill key issues” and as someone with “great integrity” who is “always working to protect his client.” Clients also note that Steve is “completely committed to his clients” and “a top-flight investigations and trial attorney.” Sources also tell Chambers that Steve “is very results-oriented, and delivers with extraordinary speed,” “has a very, very good touch in terms of negotiations,” and “can make on-the-spot calls which inevitably turn out to be right and he has a sixth sense when it comes to governmental agencies.” Steve has also repeatedly been recognized as among the “Top White Collar Lawyers” by the Daily Journal and among the “Most Influential People in Los Angeles” by The Los Angeles Business Journal.

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Strategic Advisory Experience

  • Served as interim general counsel and chief legal officer for Hyundai Motor North America and Genesis from March to October 2021.
  • Represent UCLA, Stanford, and other universities in connection with high-profile athletic conference realignment matters.
  • Represented BYD Motors, a global Chinese electric vehicle and battery company, on a range of regulatory, litigation, and business-operations matters in US before various local, state and federal government agencies.
  • Represented a leading Los Angeles-area independent school in connection with matters related to the college admissions bribery cases.
  • Provides ongoing regulatory advice to Honor Device Co. and several other non-US headquartered companies regarding national security issues.
  • Provides ongoing strategic advice to several public and private universities and high schools regarding corporate governance, internal controls, and reporting procedures.
  • Helps clients develop and plan responses to risk scenarios, manage strategy involving numerous investigatory agencies, prepare community town halls, and coordinate other crisis communications.

Board-Led and Internal Investigations

  • Represented the Audit Committee of Mattel’s Board of Directors in an internal investigation into allegations by an anonymous whistleblower of an accounting error that resulted in a misstatement of the toy maker’s income tax accounting.
  • Represented the Board of Trustees of the University of Southern California in multiple high-profile investigations and corporate-governance issues, including an internal investigation into the conduct of a former campus gynecologist and concerns about reporting issues at the University.
  • Represented the Board of CenturyLink (now Lumen Technologies) in a large-scale internal investigation of consumer sales and billing practices and allegations of sales of unwanted services, and in related regulatory, consumer, and shareholder litigation.
  • Represented the Regents of the University of California in an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct at UCLA medical facilities. The engagement included reviewing the university’s policies and procedures for preventing, identifying, and responding to complaints of sexual harassment or misconduct in its health centers, clinics, and hospitals, which together make up one of the world’s largest healthcare systems.
  • Represented the audit committee of a large, Newport Beach-based real estate investment company, in an internal investigation into allegations of fraud and embezzlement by a longtime senior executive.
  • Represented a US-based global semiconductor company in an internal FCPA investigation arising from a whistleblower complaint alleging improper payments to foreign government officials in Asia to influence government bid awards.
  • Represented the audit committee of an NYSE-listed pharmaceutical company in an internal investigation regarding revenue-recognition issues and the capitalization of certain payments.
  • Conducted an internal investigation on behalf of the audit committee of a California-based health system regarding allegations of conflicts of interest involving senior officers.

Government Investigations

  • Defending one of the largest global automakers in multi-year federal (DOJ and CDCA USAO-led) criminal grand jury investigation. Defended same company in earlier three-year federal (SDNY USAO-led) grand jury and NHTSA investigations about the scope and timing of certain recalls, persuading them to not bring charges.
  • Defending a global financial institution in regulatory investigations and a Delaware Chancery Court action concerning Elon Musk’s purchase of shares of Twitter and deal to acquire the company.
  • Representing a former executive in an SEC investigation into how the company handled employees’ allegations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination, and related disclosures.
  • Defended ExxonMobil in multi-year federal, state and local agency investigations following an incident concerning its downstream activities in California.
  • Defended a US-based semiconductor company in a lengthy grand jury investigation into export controls issues surrounding joint ventures in China. Persuaded DOJ Main Justice and the US Attorney’s Office in Austin to not bring charges.
  • Defended Bumble Bee Foods in a DOJ Antitrust Division grand jury investigation that spanned nearly two years and was resolved on favorable terms for the client.
  • Represented two former Banc of California executives in an SEC investigation involving allegations that the bank misled investors in its fight against a short seller.
  • Defended JPMorgan Chase in unfair competition and Fair Housing Act cases brought by Los Angeles City Attorney, achieving an early dismissal of all cases.
  • Represented independent directors of O’Reilly Autoparts (formerly CSK Auto) during a sensitive internal investigation regarding allegations of widespread accounting fraud and in subsequent SEC and DOJ cases.
  • Defended international real estate investment firm in SEC investigation concerning investor disclosures.
  • Defended employees of leading Wall Street bank in SEC and NY Federal Reserve FCPA investigation of its hiring practices in Asia.

Civil Litigation and Arbitrations

  • Defended ESSA, a Mexican State-owned enterprise and the world’s largest producer of sea salt, in multi-billion dollar lawsuits in US federal court.
  • Represented medical testing company Myriad Genetics in a successful challenge to a revised California Department of Public Health policy that limited consumer choices for prenatal screenings.
  • Successfully defended a Wall Street Bank in an arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against claims alleging insufficient disclosures about a $60 million foreign exchange investment, unauthorized trading, and negligent supervision of a financial advisor.
  • Secured a multi-million dollar victory with punitive damages for client Contessa Premium Foods when a jury found defendant Thai Union International—along with several of its subsidiaries and two employees—had schemed to compete unfairly with Contessa in the sale of frozen shrimp and other seafood in the US.

Admissions

Bar Admissions

  • California

Court Admissions

  • US District Court, Central District of California
  • US Court of Appeals, Sixth and Ninth Circuits

Education

  • University of Michigan, J.D., 1995: Contributing Editor, Michigan Journal of International Law 
  • Stanford University, B.A., 1990: with honors 

Honors & Awards

  • Named a “Local Litigation Star” for White-Collar Crime by Benchmark Litigation (2020-2024)
  • Recognized by Chambers USA for White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (2017-2023)
  • Recommended by The Legal 500 US for Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense (2016-2023)
  • Named a “Top White Collar Lawyer” by the Daily Journal (2020, 2021)
  • Named to the "500 Leading Litigators in America" list for White Collar Defense & Corporate Investigations by Lawdragon (2022)
  • Named “One of the Most Influential People in Los Angeles” by the Los Angeles Business Journal
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers® in Criminal Defense: White Collar in Los Angeles, CA (2023-2024)
  • Named a “Super Lawyer” in surveys conducted by Law & Politics Media Inc. and published in Los Angeles Magazine

Professional Activities

Clerkships

  • Honorable Wm. Matthew Byrne, Jr., US District Court, Central District of California 

Chair

  • Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC)
  • World Trade Center Los Angeles

Board Member

  • Public Policy Institute of California
  • Rose Bowl Legacy

Trustee

  • Pomona College

Speaking Engagements

  • Panelist, “What Does ‘Student Athletes as Employees’ Really Mean? How Does it Work? And How Does It Impact the Intercollegiate Athletics Model?,” Sports Business Journal’s 2023 Intercollegiate Athletics Forum (December 2023)
  • Panelist, “Securities Enforcement in 2023: Discussion on Hot Topics and Enforcement Priorities,” Southern California Regional Subcommittee of the ABA White Collar Crime Committee (June 2023)
  • Panelist, “The Future of Investigations Part 2: Regulatory Oversight & Enforcement,” FTI Consulting (October 2020)

Corporate & Government Experience

  • Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce, and Executive Director of SelectUSA, US Department of Commerce (2011-2013)
  • Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California (1999-2004)