Brenda R. Sharton

Brenda R. Sharton

Partner Chair, Privacy + Cybersecurity
Brenda R. Sharton

Brenda Sharton, a senior litigation partner with Goodwin, is a first chair trial lawyer with 30 years of experience. Ms. Sharton is the global Chair of Goodwin’s Privacy & Cybersecurity practice, recognized as one of less than 19 "Leading Lawyers" by Legal 500 for Cyber Law, including Data Privacy and Data Protection. She also served as Chair of its Business Litigation practice for nearly a decade. She counsels and represents public and private corporations and their boards in complex commercial litigation, arbitrations and civil government/regulatory matters. Ms. Sharton is a nationally recognized expert, pioneer, and thought leader in the area of privacy and cybersecurity law, having founded the firm’s practice some 20 years ago. She has handled hundreds of data breach investigations, including those brought by nation states and organized crime, ransom/ransomware and has handled instances of business email interruptions, DDoS and insider threats. She has defended companies in numerous privacy-related government investigations and enforcement actions brought by states attorneys’ general, the FTC, HHS and the Office of Civil Rights, among others as well as defended companies in class action litigation arising from those data breaches.

Ms. Sharton has extensive first chair experience in all manner of claims in complex commercial litigation, internal investigations, arbitrations and civil government regulatory matters, involving contract claims, trade secret, post-closing disputes, non-compete, false advertising, business torts, fiduciary duties, banking and trust claims, fraud, minority shareholder and partnership disputes, among others. She is experienced with virtually every civil claim brought against financial services institutions and has a deep expertise in the industry, including fintech and digital currency as well as in the technology space, and artificial intelligence field. She has successfully tried cases to conclusion in federal and state courts throughout the country, and has represented clients in the full range of ADR procedures. In addition to trial work, Ms. Sharton has handled investigations and civil enforcement actions brought by an alphabet soup of federal and state regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Department of Labor (DOL), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).





Ms. Sharton’s representative experience includes:

Business Litigation

  • Ms. Sharton has represented major corporations as well as start-ups, in disputes involving products ranging from computer operating system architecture to mailpost designs and hockey sticks and has handled all related claims including trade secret misappropriation and copyright, trademark and trade dress infringement.
  • Represented of one of the country’s largest managed health care companies in an Office of Civil Rights (HHS Division) investigation involving alleged violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The settlement, at the time, was one of only 12 OCR settlements nationwide.
  • Dismissal of numerous claims, in federal district court in California, involving alleged violations of Los Angeles rent ordinances against multiple banks including BONY Mellon and HSBC. Ms. Sharton argued the motion to dismiss in federal court on behalf of all the bank defendants.
  • Won summary judgment for a national advertising agency and its president in a case involving claims of trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract/fiduciary duty as well as the rights to a national advertising campaign utilized by a Fortune 50 company. The case, in federal district court in South Carolina and with damages claimed in excess of $100 million, was appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed summary judgment for the client.
  • Conducted arbitration involving trade secret and breach of acquisition agreement between two public companies related to the right to do business in 21 states.
  • Successful resolution of a claim for tens of millions of dollars, pending in federal district court in Michigan, for trade secrets/interference with an acquisition after successfully defeating an initial injunction motion.
  • Successful settlement of a trade secret case mid-jury trial after cross-examination of opposing party's CEO.
  • Won arbitration award for asset manager against international third-party marketing firm with claims of almost $100 million. 
  • The successful resolution of numerous civil claims related to the Bernard L. Madoff Securities fraud.

Privacy and Cybersecurity

  • Chair and founding member of the firm’s Privacy + Cybersecurity practice, started informally in the late 1990s and formally in 2004.
  • Summary judgment victory in the landmark Patco v. People’s United Bank case in federal district court in Maine, which involved an alleged breach of the bank’s online security system through keylogging malware. One of the first cases of its kind to be decided by an appellate court and named a “national case to watch” by the American Banker, the dispute was resolved after the First Circuit reversed in part and remanded the district court’s decision.
  • Taught one of the country’s first law school classes in cyberlaw in 2001, and has frequently lectured in the privacy/cybersecurity area, including at the Harvard Law School executive leadership program.
  • Defended companies in numerous privacy-related government investigations and enforcement actions brought by states attorneys’ general, the FTC, HHS and the Office of Civil Rights, among others.
  • Handled hundreds of data security breaches, including global investigations for public companies, handling one of the first major data breaches for a public company in 2002.
  • Representation of numerous private and public companies in connection with major data security breaches, of all manner and types including ransom/ransomware scams, breaches by nation states and organized crime, interfacing with FBI, Secret Service and other law enforcement.
  • Representation of numerous information security companies in privacy/cybersecurity matters. 
  • Represented online video and media service providers in class action litigations filed nationwide challenging the alleged use of local shared objects, also known as “flash cookies.”
  • Prepared a complete privacy scheme and policy for employees, volunteers and collaborating parties of The One Fund, which was created to provide financial assistance to survivors and families of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombings.
  • Counseled private and public companies on privacy-related issues in merger and acquisition transactions as well as on programs and policies, including table top exercises and board presentations.
  • Counseled companies on privacy/cyber law diligence issues related to mergers and acquisitions. 
  • Defended companies in TCPA litigation.

Financial Services Litigation

  • Ms. Sharton has represented major financial institutions in litigation and regulatory matters, including BNY Mellon, Citigroup, Citizens, Countrywide, Edward Jones, Fifth Third, GE Capital, HSBC, IBT, Marsh & McLennan, People’s United Bank, Putnam and State Street, as well as bankers' trade associations including the American Bankers Association and many state bankers’ associations, including the Massachusetts Bankers’ Association.
  • Successful resolution of a case in federal court in New York against a Fortune 100 public company financial institution for breach of fiduciary and financial fraud claims following its acquisition of a financial services company and the infusion of $2 billion into that institution.
  • Successful defense of a major mutual fund company in connection with SEC and FDIC investigations.
  • Successful negotiation and resolution of a consumer financial services class action case, pending in Ohio state court against a Fortune 50 company for more than 10 years.
  • Successful defense of Fortune 100 financial institution in class action case in both state court and Ohio appeals court alleging pregnancy discrimination in mortgage lending practices. The case was settled favorably for client.
  • Has represented the Massachusetts Bankers Association for over a decade with respect to litigation issues affecting banks.
  • Ms. Sharton is virtually undefeated in financial institutions litigation and has won cases on motions to dismiss and summary judgment for her clients, including the following:
  • Marta Farb v. People's United Bank. Won dismissal of putative class action complaint in the Farb v. People's United Bank case in state court in Connecticut, which involved claims that the bank breached its deposit agreement with customers by re-ordering debit transactions from highest dollar amount to lowest dollar amount, resulting in an increase in the number of overdraft fees incurred. Secured one of the few dismissals among the hundreds of overdraft cases that have been filed against banks across the country.
  • Patco Construction Company, Inc. v. People's United Bank d/b/a Ocean Bank. Summary judgment victory in the landmark Patco v. People's United Bank case in federal district court in Maine, which involved an alleged breach of the bank's online security system through keylogging malware. One of the first cases of its kind to be decided by an appellate court and named a "national case to watch" by the American Banker, the dispute was resolved after the First Circuit reversed in part and remanded the district court's decision.
  • Robert Purdy, et al. v. East Cambridge Savings Bank. Won motion to dismiss complaint in its entirety with prejudice in a suit filed in Middlesex Superior Court arising out of a construction loan default. The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the judgment in our client's favor.
  • Melvin Cohen v. State Street Global Advisors. Won motion to dismiss a complaint filed in Massachusetts Superior Court seeking recovery of losses during broad stock market decline. Dismissal affirmed by the Mass. Appeals Court.
  • Harold Cohen v. State Street Global Advisors. Won summary judgment of a complaint alleging breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract; claims dismissed as time barred under three-year statute of limitations. Summary judgment affirmed by the Mass. Appeals Court.
  • Julianne M. Bowler, Commissioner of Insurance, et al. v. John D. Hawke and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Won summary judgment in Massachusetts federal district court for Massachusetts Bankers Association and group of banks in a constitutional challenge to Massachusetts statutes that restricted how banks could sell insurance. Submitted amicus brief to First Circuit Court of Appeals in support of affirmance of summary judgment of litigation under Section 304 of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999; petition to vacate was dismissed.

Representative Internal Investigations

Ms. Sharton routinely represents private and public company boards of directors and audit committees in conducting internal investigations into alleged misconduct. Examples include:

  • Internal investigation related to potential fraud allegations related to FDA certifications for private company.
  • Internal investigation for board of trustees for registered mutual funds related to alleged misconduct by advisor personnel in connection with trading timing.
  • Internal investigation involving a revenue recognition issue at the Japanese subsidiary of a public company.
  • Internal investigation for the Somaly Mam Foundation Board of Directors regarding the background of an international sex-trafficking activist.
Professional Activities

Ms. Sharton is a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals and served a two-year term as the Co-Chair of the Business & Commercial section of the Boston Bar Association.

For several years Ms. Sharton was an adjunct professor of law at Boston College Law School. In addition to teaching a “Technology Litigation Practice” course, she also taught one of if not the first cyber-litigation law school course in 2001, years before that topic became a standard area of legal study. She currently co-chairs the Board of Directors for the Victim Rights Law Center, a national organization that provides pro bono representation to victims of rape and sexual assault.



Ms. Sharton is recognized as a “Leading Lawyer” by Legal 500 United States for Cyber Law, including Data Privacy and Data Protection. She has been recommended for her financial services litigation and privacy and data security work by The Legal 500 United States consecutively since 2012. She was named one of the “Top Women of Law” by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Since 2004, she has been recognized in Boston magazine as a “Massachusetts Super Lawyer” in the area of Business Litigation. Ms. Sharton has been listed in U.S. News-Best Lawyers for her commercial litigation, class action litigation, and banking and finance litigation work each year since 2015. Ms. Sharton received the Boston College Public Interest Law Foundation Curtin Award for Public Service in 2012. She received the Annual Shining Star Award from the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) in Boston for her pro bono work on behalf of rape victims. In addition to her own pro bono work, she has supervised more than 25 Goodwin Procter attorneys who have donated more than 1,200 hours to the VRLC. While at Boston College Law School, Ms. Sharton served as an editor of the Boston College Law Review.

In The News









J.D., 1990
Boston College Law School

(summa cum laude, valedictorian, Order of the Coif)

B.S., Economics, The Carroll School of Management, 1987
Boston College

(magna cum laude)

Rice University, Undergraduate School of Management, Varsity Tennis Team (1983-1985)


1990 to 1991 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Honorable Joseph R. Nolan





U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Tax Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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