Michael has over twenty-five years of legal experience in the area of complex commercial litigation and is chair of the firm’s complex commercial litigation practice. His commercial litigation experience is enhanced by his business experience as a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner.
Michael has broad complex commercial litigation experience. He has a concentration of experience in professional liability defending accountants sued under a variety of legal theories in connection with the performance of professional services. He also has defended a chief financial officer sued by a bankruptcy trustee for breach of fiduciary duty. Michael has defended attorneys, real estate brokers, appraisers and notaries who were sued for professional malpractice. He pursued environmental clean-up recovery actions on behalf of a major Chicago real estate developer and represented a manufacturer in an administrative hearing before the United States Environmental Protection Agency. He represented a half-owner of a livestock exchange in a dispute with another family member over the management of the company. Michael also has conducted an internal investigation for the board of directors of a publicly-held corporation in regard to a potential action against an accountant.
While the overwhelming majority of his legal experience has been in complex commercial litigation, Michael demonstrated his ability to adapt and versatility as a lawyer when he represented a plaintiff survivor of a fire and the estate of two deceased persons who perished in a low-income apartment building fire in a personal injury/wrongful death action. Michael settled that case for $8,000,000, one of the largest settlements in the state for that year. Michael again demonstrated his versatility as an attorney when her represented a mother in a child custody case and convinced the trial court judge to reverse itself and award sole custody of a minor daughter to the mother.
Michael has prepared appellate briefs in several matters in Illinois appellate courts and one in the Seventh Circuit. In the Seventh Circuit appeal, the appellate court affirmed the grant of summary judgment that Michael obtained at the trial court level in favor of an accountant who had been sued for malpractice when it allegedly failed to detect an employee embezzlement. The Seventh Circuit decision is Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Les Coval and Joe Pieciak & Co., P.C., 71 F.3d 1311 (7th Cir. 1995).
Michael has handled litigation pending in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and in the bankruptcy court of the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. He has litigated cases in Illinois state courts, in the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, Lee, Livingston, McHenry, Whiteside and Will.
Michael has represented either plaintiffs or defendants in litigation involving the following substantive areas of the law:
- Accountant liability – representing both plaintiffs and defendants in actions alleging theories of negligence, breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act
- Administrative law – representing an individual in an appeal of the denial of an application for a license by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, including an administrative hearing with the Department
- Asbestos liability – representing defendant corporations in personal injury and wrongful death actions and property damage actions
- Attorney liability – representing both plaintiffs and defendants in actions alleging theories of negligence and breach of contract
- Child custody – representing mother in custody dispute
- Class actions – representing defendants in class actions alleging attorney fraud, insurance fraud and violations of city residential apartment ordinances
- Construction law – representing a defendant in a breach of contract action
- Director and Officer liability – representing a Chief Financial Officer sued for fraud in connection with a bankrupt hospital
- Elder abuse/undue influence – representing estate prosecuting caregivers who diverted $2,000,000 from a public university foundation while caring for the donor
- Employment law – representing plaintiffs in actions alleging discrimination and breach of contract for failure to pay commissions; representing a plaintiff in an action alleging breach of a non-compete agreement
- Environmental law – representing plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of clean-up cost actions, including an administrative hearing with the United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Franchise law – representing plaintiff franchisor corporation in actions alleging breach of franchise agreements
- Intellectual property – performing electronic document review in actions alleging patent and copyright infringement, violations of non-compete agreements
- Legal invoice review for appropriateness of charges
- Notary liability – representing defendant notary in an action alleging negligence
- Personal injury – representing plaintiff survivor of an apartment fire
- Product liability – representing commercial kitchen appliance manufacturer in personal injury and property damages actions; asbestos manufacturers in personal injury, wrongful death and property damage actions
- Real Estate Appraiser liability – representing defendant appraisers sued in actions alleging negligence
- Realtor liability – representing defendant real estate agents in actions alleging negligence, fraud, violations of Illinois Consumer Fraud Act
- Wrongful death – representing plaintiff estate of a mother and child who perished in an apartment fire; representing plaintiff estate of an individual killed in an automobile accident
He has performed the following work on a variety of cases on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants:
- Drafted complaints, answers, affirmative defenses, counterclaims and third-party complaints
- Drafted dispositive motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment
- Drafted federal court pretrial orders
- Drafted and responded to written interrogatories, document requests and requests to admit
- Interviewed clients and independent witnesses
- Conducted an independent investigation for a board of directors of a publicly-held corporation into matters relevant to a potential action against an independent accountant
- Searched for, interviewed and selected expert witnesses to opine on matters such as standard of care applicable to accountants, attorneys and environmental consultants, damage calculations including business valuations and lost profits, asbestos product identification, fire causation, origin and propagation, post-traumatic stress disorder, cause of death, real estate appraisals, child custody evaluation
- Prepared for and deposed fact witnesses
- Prepared for and deposed expert witnesses on matters related to breaches of the standard of care applicable to accountants, attorneys and environmental consultants, damage calculations including business valuations and lost profits, fire causation, origin and propagation, post-traumatic stress disorder, asbestos product identification and child custody evaluations
- Performed both hard copy and electronic document reviews, using software such as Concordance, Discovery Radar, CaseLogistix, IConnect, Alpha Lit, Discovery Radar and other internal law firm software
- Conducted trials, hearings on substantive motions, including, but not limited to, temporary restraining orders, arbitrations and mediations
Michael began his legal career as a tax attorney and researched a variety of federal and state tax issues, in addition to preparing individual and corporate income tax returns. During the course of his career, Michael has prepared engagement letters on behalf of accountants and negotiated and drafted settlement agreements, joint defense agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and confidentiality agreements. He also has negotiated and drafted vendor agreements on behalf of clients.
While in law school, Michael was a law clerk in the Corporate and Securities Group of the Navistar International Corporation Legal Department. During this time, Michael researched a variety of securities regulation issues, drafted real estate leases, franchise documents and other corporate documents and assisted with the counseling of employees on internal company matters.
Upon his graduation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1983, Michael became an auditor in the Chicago office of the then Big-8 accounting firm of Price Waterhouse. Michael worked at Price Waterhouse for nearly 4 years, leaving as a senior accountant to attend law school. While at Price Waterhouse, Michael audited primarily large, publicly-held corporations such as Standard Oil Company, Dark & Kraft, Inc., Hammermill Paper Company and Amsted Industries. He audited subsidiaries of publicly-held corporations such as Dean Foods, Tribune Company, Dana Corporation and Hartmarx Corporation. He also performed an acquisition audit of a dairy for a publicly-held corporation and audited a privately-owned newspaper, television and radio station company. In addition, he performed audits of
governmental entities such as the State of Illinois Treasurer’s Office and the Regional Transportation Authority.
Michael’s auditing experience typically required him to gain an understanding of a client’s system of internal accounting controls. He also would perform substantive testing of account balances that were to be reflected in the client’s financial statements and other SEC-required disclosures. He also would perform compliance testing of internal accounting controls and develop recommendations for improvements of controls to senior management. During Michael’s auditing experience, he would supervise a team of as many as 4 accountants and work with clients to learn of and obtain pertinent accounting and other financial information relevant to financial statement and disclosure requirements. Finally, Michael obtained the designation of Certified Fraud Examiner (“CFE”) in November 2011.
Fraud Investigation Experience
Michael has performed investigations of senior management accused of wrongdoing or criminal acts in connection with their official duties and responsibilities as officers or owners of a company.