Cliff Brinson litigates business disputes. He assists clients with a full range of commercial litigation matters, including corporate and securities litigation, contract disputes, and business-related tort and statutory claims, including class action lawsuits. He also assists companies in internal investigations.

In his corporate and securities litigation practice, Cliff represented a Fortune 500 company in a shareholder appraisal trial. The Court held in the company’s favor, and the verdict was affirmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Cliff has represented public companies and their directors in merger challenges, and private companies in a variety of post-closing disputes. He has been named Raleigh’s “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers® for Mergers and Acquisitions Litigation (2022 & 2024) and Securities Litigation (2020 & 2023). He serves as co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Mergers & Acquisitions Litigation Subcommittee (part of the ABA Commercial & Business Litigation Committee).

Cliff also represents business in class action lawsuits and other business-related tort and statutory claims. He is co-chair of the firm’s PFAS Team and is currently representing a chemical producer in the largest PFAS-related litigation in the country. He has successfully defended financial institutions in class actions alleging violations of Paycheck Protection Program regulations, as well as in class actions alleging improper lending practices. He has also successfully defended clients in class action litigation alleging violations of the Consumer Leasing Act.

In his business contract practice, Cliff helped a client obtain a $37 million judgment at trial, one of the largest jury verdicts in North Carolina history. The judgment was affirmed unanimously by the Court of Appeals and satisfied in full ($48.5 million including interest). Cliff helped another client obtain a declaratory judgment at trial in a commercial contract case, resulting in cost savings to the client of over $100 million. Following trial, the court awarded the client over $1.2 million in fees and costs.

Areas of Focus



  • The Best Lawyers in America®
    • Commercial Litigation (2019-2024)
    • Litigation-Mergers and Acquisitions (2018-2024)
    • Litigation-Securities (2018-2024)
    • "Lawyer of the Year," Raleigh, Litigation-Securities (2020, 2023)
    • "Lawyer of the Year," Raleigh, Litigation-Mergers and Acquisitions (2022, 2024)
  • Benchmark Litigation
    • North Carolina Litigation Star (2015-2024)
    • North Carolina Future Star (2009-2014)
  • Super Lawyers
    • North Carolina Super Lawyers (2014-2023)
    • North Carolina Super Lawyers Rising Star (2010, 2012)


  • Law Clerk for the Hon. Gerald B. Tjoflat of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit


  • Yale Law School, J.D., 1998
    • Notes Editor, The Yale Law Journal
  • Duke University, B.A., 1993

Bar & Court Admissions


  • Co-Chair, Mergers & Acquisitions Litigation Subcommittee of the Commercial & Business Litigation Committee, American Bar Association
  • Co-Chair, Securities Litigation Subcommittee of the Commercial & Business Litigation Committee, American Bar Association
  • Member, Class Actions & Derivative Suits Committee, American Bar Association
  • North Carolina Business Court Rules Committee
  • North Carolina Bar Association, Litigation Section
  • Wake County Bar Association


Corporate and Securities Litigation 

  • Represented a public company in a shareholder appraisal action to determine the fair value of the company’s shares following a merger. The North Carolina Business Court ruled in our client’s favor, and that decision was unanimously affirmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Reynolds American Inc. v. Third Motion Equities Master Fund Ltd, 2021 NCSC 162.
  • Represented a private equity firm in litigation filed by a bankruptcy trustee alleging that millions of dollars in interest payments made to the firm by a portfolio company were voidable as insider preferences or fraudulent conveyances. The bankruptcy court granted our motion to dismiss, and the decision was not appealed. In re Parker School Uniforms, LLC, 2021 WL 4553016 (Bankr. D. Del. 2021).
  • Represented a public company as North Carolina counsel in a series of securities class actions filed following a drop in the company’s stock price. The trial court granted our motion to dismiss, and the decision was not appealed. In re Novan, Inc., Securities Litigation, 2018 WL 6732990 (M.D.N.C. 2018).
  • Defended a private equity firm in shareholder litigation challenging the firm’s proposed acquisition of a grocery store chain. After we filed a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff dismissed the case. Balint v. The Fresh Market, Inc., 16 CvS 4144 (Guilford County/N.C. Business Court).
  • Defended a technology company and its officers in a shareholder lawsuit alleging securities fraud. We filed a motion to dismiss, and the lawsuit was dismissed by the Court. In re ChannelAdvisor Corp. Securities Litigation, 2016 WL 1381772 (E.D.N.C. 2016).
  • Defended a special committee and the independent directors of a bank in shareholder litigation arising from a proposed merger. The litigation sought among other things to invalidate a bylaw requiring that certain shareholder actions be brought exclusively in North Carolina.  In a precedent setting opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery enforced the bylaw and dismissed the case.  City of Providence v. First Citizens Bancshares, Inc., 99 A.3d 229 (Del. Ch. 2014).
  • Defended a clinical diagnostic company and its board of directors in shareholder litigation challenging the proposed acquisition of the company.  A settlement was reached and the acquisition proceeded.  Overby v. LipoScience, Inc., 14 CvS 13448 (Wake County/N.C. Business Court).
  • Represented corrugated packaging companies in a post-closing dispute in which our client was attempting to collect on a deferred payment provision in the asset sale agreement. Summary judgment was granted in favor of our client for the full amount of the payment. Gallagher v. Southern Source Packaging, LLC, 568 F. Supp. 2d 624 (E.D.N.C. 2008).
  • Represented a group of shareholders to obtain judicial dissolution of a corporation in which management had been wasting corporate assets in a case receiving local media attention. The dissolution was granted by the Court.  Marosi v. M.F. Harris Research, Inc., 13 CvS 1230 (Carteret County). 

Business-Related Torts and Statutory Claims 

  • Representing a chemical producer in multi-district litigation regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foam. In re: Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2:18-mn-2873 (D.S.C.).
  • Represented a bank in litigation alleging that the Bank failed to comply with Small Business Administration regulations in connection with Paycheck Protection Program loans. The lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court. Pinehurst Neuropsychology, PLLC v. First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co., 2021 WL 4460273 (M.D.N.C. 2021).
  • Represented an apartment manager in a putative class action lawsuit by a tenant claiming that our client improperly charged fees in connection with summary ejectment proceedings. The lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court, and the case settled on appeal. Milroy v. Bell Partners, Inc., 2019 WL 3451506 (E.D.N.C. 2019).
  • Defended a venture capital firm and two of its principals in a lawsuit against allegations that they had engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices. The case was dismissed by the trial court and the dismissal was unanimously affirmed on appeal. Moch v. A.M. Pappas & Associates, LLC, 794 S.E.2d 898 (N.C. Ct. App. 2016).
  • Defended a bank in numerous consumer class action lawsuits around the country alleging that the bank facilitated improper lending practices. Elder v. BMO Harris Bank, 8:13-cv-3043 (D. Md.) and others.
  • Defended a provider of interlock ignition devices against a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the Consumer Leasing Act. The lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court and the dismissal was unanimously affirmed on appeal.  Cottle v. Monitech, Inc., 2017 WL 6519024 (E.D.N.C. 2017), affirmed 733 Fed. Appx. 136 (4th Cir. 2018).
  • Represented a bank seeking to have a defamatory video regarding one of the bank’s employees taken down. The court ordered the video removed, and the order was unanimously affirmed on appeal. Springs v. Ally Financial Inc., 684 Fed. Appx. 336 (4th Cir. 2017).
  • Defended a bank in a consumer lawsuit asserting emotional distress, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and numerous other claims as a result of a death allegedly caused by an improper automobile repossession. All non-contract claims were dismissed by the court. Costin v. Ally Bank Corp., 2014 WL 130527 (E.D.N.C. 2014). 
  • Defended the estates of pilots working for a NASCAR racing company against claims of willful and wanton negligence in connection with a fatal plane crash. After a lengthy trial, the jury found in favor of our clients. Dorton v. Hendrick Motorsports, Inc., 792 F. Supp. 2d 870 (M.D.N.C. 2011).
  • Defended a contractor who had been engaged by the United States government to rebuild municipal water and sewage facilities in Iraq against personal injury claims by an engineer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of our client, and unanimously affirmed on appeal. Ladd v. Research Triangle Institute, 335 Fed. Appx. 285 (4th Cir. 2009). 

Contract Disputes

  • Represented a publisher of telephone directories in a breach of contract case against a national telecommunications company. After a bench trial, the Court ruled in our client’s favor on all issues and issued a declaratory judgment that saved our client over $100 million, and awarded our client over $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees. R.H. Donnelley Inc. v. Embarq Corp., 2013 WL 4005261 (N.C. Ct. App. 2013).
  • Defended a financial services company in litigation challenging the company’s compliance with a loan agreement. The case was dismissed by the Court. Mumena v. Decker, 2023 WL 5385433 (Aug. 22, 2023).
  • Represented a blood plasma collection business in a breach of contract case against a pharmaceutical company. After a trial, the jury awarded our client $37 million plus interest. The judgment was affirmed on appeal and collected in full. Plasma Centers of America, LLC v. Talecris Plasma Resources, Inc., 731 S.E.2d 837 (N.C. Ct. App. 2012).
  • Defended a hair products manufacturer against a breach of contract claim by a distributor. After extensive litigation, the distributor dismissed its claim. T.W.T. Distributing, Inc. v. Johnson Products Co., 3:13-cv-171 (W.D.N.C.).
  • Represented tobacco manufacturers in North Carolina enforcement of the arbitration provision in a Master Settlement Agreement. Our clients were successful in getting the case sent to arbitration. State of North Carolina v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 666 S.E.2d 783 (N.C. Ct. App. 2008).
  • Defended a bank in confidential arbitration arising out of a contract dispute with a customer regarding ownership of certain funds at the bank. After a full evidentiary hearing, the arbitrator issued an award favorable to the bank.
  • Represented a nursing home owner to secure enforcement of an arbitration provision in its admission agreement with a resident. After numerous court filings, the resident ultimately agreed to abide by the arbitration provision. Durham III LLC v. Sexton, 5:11-cv-708 (E.D.N.C.).

Internal Investigations 

  • Assisted a medial device company in investigating potential accounting fraud.
  • Assisted a major university in investigating a security breach involving the improper disclosure of confidential and proprietary football game plan information to opposing teams.
  • Assisted a bank in investigating suspicious deposit activity.
  • Assisted a pharmaceutical company in investigating inconsistencies in clinical test results.



Publications & Alerts

Events & Programming

  • Presenter, “Fast Facts about PFAS,” NC Chamber Legal Institute, Raleigh, N.C.
    Speaking Engagement
  • Co-Presenter, "A Lie Can Travel Halfway around the World, while the Truth is Still Putting on Its Shoes," Smith Anderson 27th Annual Employment Law Update, Cary, N.C.
    Speaking Engagement
  • Co-Presenter, "New Rules, New Strategies: Managing Discovery under the Amended Federal Rules," North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys Annual Conference, Asheville, N.C.
  • Co-Presenter, "Swords and Shields: An Overview of Current Topics in Public Company Merger Litigation," UNC's Festival of Legal Learning, Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • Co-Presenter, "Is It Material?," Securities Breakfast Series
  • Co-Presenter, "Building Better Bylaws," Smith Anderson's Executive Roundtable Series: Session II
  • Proximity Hotel | Greensboro, N.C.
  • Speaker, "Cost-Effective Litigation: Winning the Case Without Breaking the Bank," Smith Anderson's Executive Roundtable Series - Session II
  • Speaker, "Bringing Your Commercial Case Alive for Judge & Jury – Tips and Strategies for Effective Courtroom Presentation of Commercial Cases," North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys Annual Conference
  • Speaker, "The New E-Discovery Rules: What Difference Do They Make?", North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys Fall Conference
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