For large periods of his life, Fukumura surfed five days a week. He still surfs occasionally, particularly when he returns to Hawaii for family visits. Here
he celebrates passing the bar in 1993 at G-Land, a renowned surfing beach in East Java, Indonesia.
Ultimately, the case settled to the benefit
of Fukumura’s client.
Fukumura, now a partner at Cooley LLP,
who has defended approximately 40 M&A
class actions and in excess of 50 securities
class actions and derivative suits, typically
speaks of his adversaries with great
respect, and this case is no different. “I
was in awe of these people. My opponents
are great lawyers and they’re also great
teachers—I think of myself as a sponge
that takes everyone in and uses what
works. It was such great training to get my
butt kicked but then to also have a plan to
stop this disaster from going on.”
The story demonstrates a lot about
Fukumura. “He’s a good balance between
a laid-back Hawaiian and a street fighter
from Philadelphia,” says Brian Robbins,
co-founder and the managing partner
of Robbins Arroyo, who has faced off
against Fukumura in complex security
litigation cases. “And he always shows
good judgment on how to balance those
HE WAS BORN IN JAPAN, raised in Hawaii,
and describes himself as an “Oahu boy
at heart,” who, for large swaths of his
life, surfed five days a week. Just as the
sport is the ultimate exercise in balance,
the Hawaiian culture was countered by
Fukumura’s intense father, a Japanese-born physician.
“My father was a super achiever
who made me spend at least one day
every weekend doing chores at home,”
Fukumura says. “He was pushing me. …
And he was inspiring to me.”
From an early age, Fukumura seemed
destined to follow in his father’s footsteps.
He earned a degree in molecular, cellular
and developmental biology from the
University of Colorado Boulder in 1989,
then spent a year as a medical researcher.
It wasn’t meant to be. “At this time, there
was something bordering hysteria about
managed care,” Fukumura remembers.
“Practically everyone I talked to was negative
about what this transition would mean to
doctors—that they’d have to work twice as
long while providing less care. … I also came
to the opinion that my feisty nature was
After law school, Fukumura was hired
by Bochetto & Lentz, a small Philadelphia
law firm that handled both criminal and
civil cases, which lured him in part by
telling him he’d take 30 depositions in his
first year. He exceeded that number. He
was given DUI cases, aggravated assaults
and an attempted murder, but mostly
he did commercial work, including large
SEC enforcement action and RICO cases.
“That’s what really formed the foundation
of my [current] practice,” he says.
On the face of it, Fukumura’s first big
securities case, the one with the speaking
objections, was a loser. The bank charged
that his client had borrowed half a million
dollars and never paid it back. “There
aren’t many defenses to that,” he says,
but he remained undaunted and taught
himself federal securities law. After hours,
he read the Securities Exchange Act of
1934 beginning to end; and it was there
that he came across a section that made
an interesting point: any contract whose
purpose is to violate federal securities law
Since it was alleged that Fukumura’s
client was using the money the bank loaned
him to make illegal trades, Fukumura filed
a motion contending the bank knew it was
lending money that might allegedly violate
federal securities law; and this, he argued,
voided the contract.
It was an original defense. “There wasn’t
a single case found in any court talking
about this statute in this way,” he says.
And it worked. When the judge denied
the bank’s request for summary judgment,
the bank agreed to settle for less than
the loan principle, as well as to waive the
substantial interest that was due—a clear
victory for his client.
This experience helped forge two parts
of the basic foundation Fukumura operates
under as a lawyer, and which he constantly
preaches to young associates.
First, every lawyer is responsible for his
or her own development.
“Most lawyers get a case and research
all the related cases, looking at the
problem as a self-contained world,” he
says. “I tell young lawyers if I hand them a
case: They can take that approach, or they
can learn about that [larger] area of law on
their own—gaining a bigger understanding
of security or corporate governance to get
the big picture.”