Britt K. Strottman
Britt K. Strottman is a seasoned litigator with 15 years of experience, more than 30 jury trials, and over 60 state and federal administrative hearings. She serves as Chair of Meyers Nave’s statewide Crisis Management: Public Policy, Ethics and Investigations Practice Group and California Public Utilities Commission Practice Group. Britt has earned numerous honors for her expertise, results and leadership in the legal profession, including “Energy Trailblazers” (2017), “Top Women Lawyers” (2017, 2015, 2014), “Top 100 Lawyers” (2016, 2017), “Top 20 Under 40” (2015), and “Giant Slayer” (2015). In addition to unique expertise in high-profile state and federal gas regulatory prosecutions, Britt focuses her practice on municipal law special counsel issues, criminal prosecutions, crisis management, whistleblower matters, and workplace investigations.
She has received local, state and national recognition for her successful representation of the City of San Bruno against Pacific Gas & Electric Company regarding a deadly gas line explosion that attracted international news coverage. Britt’s pioneering work on behalf of the City of San Bruno (described below) transformed California’s utility regulatory landscape and raised concern about utility regulations across the country. In 2014, Law360 named Meyers Nave a “California Powerhouse” and highlighted that the firm “flexed its muscle” by “marshaling the City of San Bruno through the aftermath of a devastating pipeline explosion.”
For seven years, Britt served as Special Counsel to San Bruno, handling legal, regulatory and crisis management issues relating to the pipeline explosion and fire that killed eight people, injured 58 others and destroyed or damaged 90 homes. At the onset, she served as a member of the City’s negotiating team that obtained a $70 million settlement from PG&E to fund the City’s community development trust and $50 million to pay the City’s expenses for physical recovery as well as its participation in state and federal legal and regulatory matters. Britt advised the City on non-profit and governance matters relating to implementing the long-term local community support programs.Read More
Her work included serving as lead counsel in complex and high-profile evidentiary hearings before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which resulted in a record $1.6 billion penalty against PG&E, the largest fine levied against a utility in the U.S. She also assisted the City in the federal regulatory investigation and hearings about the explosion before the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB investigation resulted in a criminal prosecution on issues that are usually handled by regulatory agencies. In August 2016, a federal court jury convicted PG&E of one felony count of obstructing the federal probe of the blast and five felony counts of knowingly violating pipeline safety laws before and after the disaster. In January 2017, a federal judge ordered PG&E to pay a maximum $3 million fine, complete 10,000 hours of community service and serve five years of probation. Under the penalty guidelines, the maximum fine was $500,000 for each of the six counts.
On March 28, 2017, PG&E agreed to pay $86.5 million in penalties and fines over 164 illegal ex parte communications it had with CPUC regulators over a five year period. The settlement is the final chapter in the email scandal initially exposed by the City of San Bruno, which broke in 2014 when 7,000 pages of emails revealed questionable communications between CPUC and PG&E. Under pressure, PG&E agreed to release 65,000 emails sent between 2010 and 2014. The emails revealed an overly cozy relationship between PG&E officials and CPUC regulators both before and after the gas explosion. The City of San Bruno was joined in the case by the City of San Carlos, another one of Britt’s clients, and both cities will receive $6 million in the settlement.
The information and evidence that Britt uncovered and presented in state and federal administrative proceedings also led to claims of corruption and improper dealings resulting in the resignations of the CPUC President and his Chief of Staff; PG&E ending the employment of its Sr. V.P. of Regulatory Affairs, V.P. of Regulatory Relations, and V.P. of Regulatory Proceedings and Rates; and PG&E creating the position of Chief Regulatory Compliance Officer. In recognition of the importance of Britt’s work to expose corruption through the City’s Public Records Act lawsuit, the City of San Bruno received a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Northern California Society of Journalists. A representative list of media coverage quoting Britt regarding the PG&E matter can be found here.
Britt also represents the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea before the CPUC against PG&E regarding a catastrophic gas pipeline explosion in 2014 that led to a $10.8 million fine. Britt assisted Carmel-by-the-Sea officials in successfully demanding that CPUC escalate its initial inquiry into a full-scale regulatory investigation of the blast, which resulted in the discovery that PG&E lost 12 years of gas-line repair records for a large section of the Bay Area. Britt appeared before the CPUC on the City’s behalf in evidentiary hearings relating to millions of dollars in potential fines against PG&E for record-keeping deficiencies on its gas distribution system in Carmel and elsewhere. In June 2016, the CPUC issued a decision by an Administrative Law Judge which imposed an additional $24.3 million fine against PG&E.
The County of Calaveras has also retained Britt to assist with legal and regulatory matters against PG&E regarding the company’s potential involvement in causing the 71,000 acre Butte Fire in October of 2015 that killed two people and destroyed 921 structures, including 549 homes and 368 outbuildings. Investigations of the source of the fire include possible negligent and improper operation of PG&E’s power lines and equipment, as well as failure to maintain vegetation clearance from power lines and electrical equipment.
Britt’s experience also includes working with the Oakland City Attorney’s Office as co-counsel to successfully obtain a civil gang injunction against violent Norteños gang members. The Honorable Robert Freedman of the Alameda County Superior Court granted the City of Oakland’s request for a preliminary civil gang injunction order in full—preventing the gang members from associating with one another, intimidating witnesses, recruiting youth into the gang, knowingly being in the presence of drugs or firearms, wearing gang colors or being on the streets between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Another high-profile matter that Britt handled involved the corruption investigation of the City of Bell’s former administration. Britt argued a motion against the City’s former City Chief Administrative Officer, Robert Rizzo, on the City’s right to issue a legislative subpoena. Britt also drafted several motions relating to the Attorney General civil investigation.
Britt previously worked in the Litigation Department at Bingham McCutchen LLP in San Francisco, in the White Collar Investigations and Enforcement group in Boston, and Senior Assistant Attorney General at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. She has extensive experience regarding white collar litigation, securities class action litigation, Public Records Act and open meetings laws, class action lawsuits, and tobacco litigation.
While with the Ohio Attorney General’s office, Britt served on a special task force to restore public trust after the elected Attorney General left office due to sexual harassment and theft of office allegations. She served as the lead Assistant Attorney General, handling subprime securities class action litigation against E*Trade, Merrill Lynch, Freddie Mac, and Citigroup on behalf of the nation’s two largest public pension funds. Britt also served as the lead counsel for enforcing the public health provisions of the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, a 200-page contract with Fortune 100 tobacco companies. Britt was lead counsel in a bench trial for the $5 million lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds for an advertisement in Rolling Stone magazine. Britt acted as legal counsel in various litigation matters including constitutional challenges of federal and state law for Ohio Elections Commission, Supreme Court of Ohio, and Ohio Treasurer of State.
Britt also has significant jury trial experience and over 150 felony preliminary hearings while serving as a Deputy District Attorney at the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office. She handled felony and misdemeanor cases involving gang crimes and special allegations, embezzlement, identity theft, welfare fraud, elder financial abuse, and three-strike cases. Through these experiences, Britt understands the complex, sensitive, and ethical issues public agencies and companies face in highly-regulated industries.
In addition to her work as a litigator, Britt was Vice President at Van Prooyen Greenfield LLP, where she specialized in developing and implementing litigation and crisis communications marketing and public relations plans for public agencies, law firms, law schools and corporations.
Honors and Awards
- "Top 100 Lawyers," Daily Journal, 2017
- "Energy Trailblazers," The National Law Journal, 2017
- "Top 100 Women Lawyers," Daily Journal, 2017
- "Top 100 Lawyers," Daily Journal, 2016
- "Top 100 Women Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2015
- "Top 20 under 40,” Daily Journal, 2015
- "Giant Slayer” award, The Recorder, Litigation Department of the Year Contest, 2015
- "Top Women Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2014
- Advanced Moot Court, Advocate of the Year Competition
- W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services, The State Bar of California
Presentations and Publications
- Presenter, “Lessons Learned from a Deadly Gas Pipeline Explosion,” American Public Power Association Legal & Regulatory Conference, 2017
- Presenter, "City of San Bruno Gas Pipeline Explosion: A Six-Year David vs. Goliath Investigation that Slayed Two Giants," Anti-Fraud Alliance Quarterly Meeting, 2017
- Presenter, "Recent Developments in the Laws that Affect Government Agency Communications," University of San Francisco School of Law CLE program, 2017
- Presenter, "Women in the Courtroom," Women Leadership in Law conference, hosted by the Daily Journal, 2017
- Feature Article Interview, "People Power: A Passion for Helping People Motivates Britt Strottman to Fight the Good Fight – and Win!", USFLAWYER, University of San Francisco School of Law alumni magazine, Spring 2017 "Trailblazers" issue
- Presenter, "Uh-Oh! How to Steer the Ship Back to Safety in Emergency Situations," California Special Districts Association Annual Conference, 2016
- Profile Interview, "Britt vs. Goliath: Fighting for Accountability," University of San Francisco School of Law website home page, October 2015
- Presenter, "To Disclose or Not to Disclose? Public Records Act Requests at the California Public Utilities Commission," Conference of California Public Utility Counsel, 2015
- Author,"What Lies Below: Are high-pressure pipelines running through your community?" Lamorinda Weekly, July, 2015
- Attendee, "Lest History Repeat Itself – Pipeline Safety Initiatives," Mayors Council on Pipeline Safety 2015 Conference, Philadelphia, 2015
- Presenter, "San Brunos Actions to Seek Pipeline Safety and Reform," Introduction to Energy Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), 2015
- Presenter, "Uh-Oh! How to Steer the Ship Back to Safety in Emergency Situations," California Special Districts Association (CSDA) 46th Annual Conference, 2015
- Presenter, "Crisis Communications: Strategic Messaging, Team Management and Plan Implementation," Contra Costa County City Attorneys Association, 2015
- Presenter, "How to Lead Without Breaking the Rules," California Council of School Attorneys (CCSA), 2014
- Author, "Protecting our Power Grid," Daily Journal, April, 2014
- Author, "Under California: Knowing What Lies Beneath," Western City Magazine, June, 2013
- Author and Presenter, "The San Bruno, California Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion: Response, Investigation and Regulatory Actions," International Municipal Lawyers Association, Washington, DC, 2012
- Member, The State Bar of California
- Member, Mayors' Council on Pipeline Safety
- Member, Power Association of Northern California
- Member, Conference of California Public Utility Counsel
- Member, Anti-Fraud Alliance
- Member, Women Lawyers of Alameda County
- Member, California Women Lawyers
- Member, Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment
- Vice President, St. Perpetua School Board
- University of San Francisco School of LawJD, 2000
- Vanderbilt UniversityBA, English Literature and Spanish, 1997