Areas of Practice
- Capital Markets / Securities
- Class Action Defense
- Commercial Litigation
- Corporate Governance
- False Advertising & Lanham Act Litigation
- False Claims Act
- FCPA / Anti-Corruption
- Financial Services
- Government & Internal Investigations
- IP Litigation
- Securities Litigation & Enforcement
- Trade Secrets
- White-Collar Criminal Defense
- Duke University, J.D., 1978
- Yale University, B.A., 1975
Bar & Court Admissions
- US Supreme Court
- US District Court, Eastern District of Missouri
- US District Court, Northern District of Illinois
- US District Court, Southern District of Illinois
- US District Court, Central District of Illinois
- US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
- US District Court, Western District of Michigan
- US District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
- US District Court, Eastern District of Texas
- US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Chicago IL 60603
TEL: +1 312 577 1243
FAX: +1 312 577 1370
Michael Dockterman is described by Chambers USA as a lawyer “who can see through the garbage and cut to the chase.” An accomplished trial lawyer whose extensive litigation experience ranges from private commercial matters through disputes with the federal government, he is focused on counseling boards of directors on compliance and corporate governance, as well as government investigations. Over the course of his career, Mr. Dockterman has been involved in a number of significant trials.
The National Law Journal named Mr. Dockterman as one of its “Top 10 Winning Litigators in the US” and "Trailblazers in Litigation." He is also recognized by Law360, which named him to its inaugural list of the 50 “Trial Aces” in the US.
As principal trial counsel in state and federal courts in over half of the United States, Mr. Dockterman has tried securities, antitrust, intellectual property, environmental, contract, fraud and product liability cases, as well as a variety of amateur sports disputes, and both federal and state white-collar criminal cases. He has led multinational litigation over matters pending simultaneously in courts around the world, including The Hague, London, Stockholm, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. Mr. Dockterman has tried more than 70 cases and litigated, mediated, arbitrated or resolved countless other matters.
Mr. Dockterman counsels corporations and boards of directors on matters of corporate governance and compliance, and has experience in CEO evaluation, board self-assessment, committee function and structure, and facilitating strategic planning within the roles appropriate to management and board members. Working with audit committees, corporate governance committees, and special committees of independent directors in such high-profile matters as Archer Daniels Midland Company, Eaton Corporation, DaVita Healthcare, and Exide Corporation, Mr. Dockterman has guided clients through disputes with institutional investors in both cooperative and adversarial contexts, and has litigated a wide range of corporate governance issues in derivative litigation. Mr. Dockterman has represented management, special litigation committees, board members, outside auditors, and others in a broad variety of related securities and governance litigation.
Mr. Dockterman also guides clients through investigations by federal, state, and local authorities. He has led corporate responses to investigations by federal and state agencies, and conducted internal investigations for corporate clients involving subjects as diverse as defense contracting, antitrust, accounting, executive misconduct, securities, corporate theft, healthcare, environmental, and other regulatory matters, and acted as special counsel to the Bankruptcy Court investigating and then pursuing assets wasted by those responsible for their administration. He also has represented professionals before their responsible self-regulatory and disciplinary bodies.
Mr. Dockterman was the lead trial lawyer for Toys “R” Us in its successful litigation with Amazon.com over the Toysrus.com website, Toysrus.com, et al. v. Amazon.com et al. He repeated that success when the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision to return the website to Toys “R” Us two years later and remanded for a further finding of damages to be awarded for the breach, which Amazon then settled by paying Toys “R” Us $51 million.
This is only one of several “once in a lifetime” cases Mr. Dockterman has tried to verdict. On four days' notice, Mr. Dockterman defended the City of Chicago in a two month trial challenging the largest public works project in the country, construction of the People-Mover for O’Hare International Airport. The trial vindicated the city’s procurement process and disposed of all challenges to the city’s award of the contract.
Following a raid by the FBI on its headquarters, Mr. Dockterman was engaged by the directors of Archer Daniels Midland Corporation to serve as counsel to the company’s newly formed governance committee. In this role, Mr. Dockterman defended directors in federal and state court derivative and shareholder actions in Illinois and Delaware, counseled the independent directors through the criminal and civil cases showcased in the books and film about the investigation, negotiated a groundbreaking settlement affirmed by the US Supreme Court to resolve all civil litigation and ensure corporate governance reforms. The court authorized Mr. Dockterman to conduct a two-year worldwide legal compliance audit to implement the settlement.
Mr. Dockterman also tried the landmark “Clickety-Clack Track” trade secrets case to a successful jury verdict. At issue was whether two inventors operating under an oral non-disclosure agreement – who modified a piece of wooden toy train track so it made noise when a toy train ran over it – could claim ownership of the trade secret in the face of a patent obtained by the people for whom they had cut the sample. The jury sided with the inventors, awarding them a lifetime royalty in the track and all products developed to run on the track. The trial court entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict, but the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed, entered judgment for the inventors and remanded for trebling of the damages and attorney’s fees. The appellate opinion set the standard by which trade secrets are proven under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
Mr. Dockterman is one of two advocates who tried a case before the International Olympic Committee, where the IOC overturned the USOC’s ban against Mr. Dockterman’s client’s participation in international competition. For more than 30 years, Mr. Dockterman has represented both amateur athletes and coaches in a wide range of contests over their eligibility to participate in international competition, as well as sports governing bodies defending their regulation of competition and competitors.
- Representing former CEO of an audience measurement and analytics company in connection with securities class actions, derivative suits, and breach of fiduciary duty claims.
- Defending largest investor in public company against securities class actions asserting failure to disclose fully both the nature of the investor’s interests and his preferred position over other investors.
- Counseling audit committee and independent directors of public company on potential exposure under federal and state law threatened by investors alleging failure to disclose adequately the company’s succession plans.
- Advising public company on potential exposure under securities laws threatened by investor challenging handling of investments made by the company in certain financial instruments.
- Defending Royal Bank of Canada’s Capital Markets unit in litigation filed in federal court in Milwaukee. The dispute centers on the scope of plaintiff’s sale to RBC of a book of quarterly rankings for financial institutions and their debt offerings. Plaintiff asserts that its license to RBC was limited and that RBC exceeded the scope of the license by posting some data on its intranet and using the data as a sales tool. The license, however, is a site license, not a seat license, and plaintiff expressly markets its rankings as a selling tool.
- Representing officer defendants in numerous suits in multi-district litigation in New York and in adversary proceedings in Delaware challenging the LBO of Tribune Company. Plaintiff bondholders and the Litigation Trustee seek damages for allowing the LBO to proceed, to recover the amounts paid as stay compensation and the amounts made on stock acquired in the LBO-related offering.
- Representing Great Lakes Dredge & Dock in litigation in Delaware arising from the sale of two businesses and related litigation involving the use of bonds, close-out of government contracts and resolution of lien claims.
- Representing several Publicis agencies in litigation on a range of matters, including contract disputes, copyright, rights of publicity and bankruptcy claims.
- Defending KeyBank Real Estate Capital in litigation over servicing of a $3.9 billion pool of loans arising from the default of the mortgage on the Bryant Park Hotel.
- Defending VTech Corporation in class action litigation arising from the hacking of information created to use the online aspects of tablets and other electronic devices.
- Representing Toys “R” Us in litigation under Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code over recognition of foreign proceedings invoked to avoid pending litigation obligations in the United States.
- Defending Lenovo and Motorola Mobility in class action litigation challenging the warranties and service provided to purchasers of smartphones and smart watches.
- Defending Credit Suisse in actions challenging the electronic registration system for real estate transactions against claims that the system wrongly avoids county filing fees.
- Representing a major financial institution in pay-to-play investigations and related litigation arising from pension investments by governmental agencies.
Recent Commercial Litigation
- Successfully defended Motorola Mobility and its directors in several lawsuits challenging the consideration for its acquisition by Google. Resolved disclosure claims prior to transaction and obtained dismissal of all rescissory damages claims.
- Tried to defense verdict commercial customer claims by a refinery against PG&E following a power outage in San Francisco.
- Defeated injunction action against Toys “R” Us on a trademark, trade dress and trade secrets claim that sought to prevent the sale of one of the hottest toys for the 2012 holiday season; plaintiff’s application for a TRO was denied after an evidentiary hearing and plaintiff ultimately dropped its claims.
- Successfully defended Credit Suisse in matters involving the sale of certificates representing residential mortgage backed securities under various state securities laws
- Successfully defended Toys “R” Us in one of the largest multi-district consumer class actions ever brought, twice defeating certification and ultimately resolving settling suits to recover statutory damages for over 16 million claims in alleged violation of FACTA.
- Successfully defended claims against a national drug store chain that a tugboat captain was provided with prescriptions that left him unfit to guide a container ship that struck the Bay Bridge and fouled San Francisco Bay with bunker fuel.
- Defended marketing and transporting defendants against claims arising from the Lac-Mégantic fire and explosion in Canada in personal injury litigation in Illinois and Maine as well as in the bankruptcy court overseeing the reorganization of the rail carrier.
- Arbitrated a number of complex commercial matters in the financial services industry, including the dispute between Toys “R” Us and Chase over their co-branded credit card program, leading to favorable decisions or resolutions.
Recent Corporate Governance and Counseling Engagements
- Advised expanded Audit Committee and independent directors of global healthcare company during grand jury investigation, regulatory investigation and related qui tam and derivative litigation over alleged overcharging, conducting an internal investigation and guiding the board through resolution of all civil and criminal claims.
- Defended Nalco and its directors in multiple derivative actions challenging the disclosures and compensation to be paid to the company’s shareholders in connection with its proposed acquisition by Ecolab. Plaintiffs challenged the judgment of the board of directors related to the proposed merger and allege that the purchase price was too low and undervalued shares. Matter settled without payment to plaintiffs.
- Defended the outside directors of SFXE in connection with derivative litigation alleging corporate misconduct and a failure of board oversight in the sale of the company.
- Advised two special committees of the board of directors of KeyCorp, one involving a demand and one alleging demand futility, arising from executive compensation and revenue recognition issues, respectively. Both actions were resolved favorably on governance bases.
- Defended Sturm Ruger against consolidated securities class actions filed in Connecticut alleging that certain officers and directors of the company violated federal securities law by issuing public statements failing to predict the adverse consequences of manufacturing and inventory changes at the company; matter settled favorably to our client.
- Represented the chair and CEO of a leading financial services firm following shareholder inquiries and subsequent demands concerning executive compensation and the quality of risk disclosures during the period leading up to the financial crisis of 2007-08. Matters were resolved without claims being made or payments to shareholders (or their lawyers).
- Advised several boards on reorganizing nonprofit organizations to bring them to an equal position with the standards required of public corporations under Sarbanes-Oxley and the listing standards of the principal self-regulatory organizations, including investigation and resolution of federal contracting issues arising from company conduct.
- Successfully defended antitrust, copyright and RICO claims against the board of a standard-setting body and its related entities for alleged exclusionary and predatory conduct.
- Board investigation of CEO over charges of favoritism.
- Board investigation of legal department over charges of mishandling of claims against the corporation and complicity in judicial bribery.
- Board investigation into handling of tax issues and international investments.
- Company investigation of allegations of pay-to-play involvement by senior management of operating unit.
- Board investigation into allegations of procurement fraud in federal contracts to rebuild infrastructure destroyed in combat.
- Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers, Litigation: General Commercial
- National Law Journal's "Trailblazers in Litigation," 2016
- Law360 Inaugural Trial Ace: 2015
- Leading Litigators in the United States, Lawdragon
- Leading Lawyers in America, Lawdragon
- The Best Lawyers in America, Commercial Litigation; Litigation: Intellectual Property
- Illinois Super Lawyers, Business Litigation every year since inception
- Top 100 Super Lawyers in Illinois
- Top Illinois Litigator, 2013 Client Choice Award, International Law Office and Lexology
- Who’s Who in the World
- Who’s Who in America
- Who’s Who in the Midwest
- Who’s Who in American Law
- Who’s Who in Practicing Attorneys
- Who’s Who in Business and Finance, and Leading Illinois Attorneys
Select News & Events
- Law Bulletin’s 2017 Chicago White Collar Crime & Corporate Governance Conference, April 19, 2017
- Illinois Super Lawyers Recognizes Steptoe Attorneys
- Law360 Quotes Michael Dockterman on What He’s Most Thankful For in 2016
- Steptoe Receives 80 Individual Mentions in Best Lawyers 2017
- Law360 Quotes Michael Dockterman on Time-Effective Tasks for Partners
- Steptoe Receives 26 Practice, 120 Individual Mentions in Legal 500 US 2016
- Law360 Quotes Michael Dockterman on Ways to Bag a Client
- Chair, Board of Visitors of Duke University School of Law, 2007-2009
- Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke University School of Law
- Instructor, Women’s Director Development Program at Kellogg School of Management
- Former president, Duke University School of Law Alumni Association
- Member, President’s Circle of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
- Member, National Association of Corporate Directors
- Fellow, American Bar Association