Michael Dockterman is a celebrated and versatile trial lawyer who has tried scores of commercial disputes, both civil and criminal, throughout the United States. His litigation and trial experience includes cases arising from contracts, securities, antitrust, intellectual property, government fraud, product liability, real estate, and environmental, along with a variety of amateur sports disputes. In addition to litigation in jurisdictions throughout the United States, he has led multinational litigation over matters pending simultaneously in courts around the world, including The Hague, London, Stockholm, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. Along with his extensive trial work, he counsels boards of directors on a wide range of corporate governance matters, including fulfillment of obligations overseeing compliance and government investigations. His success in the courtroom has been recognized by The National Law Journal, which named him one of its "Top 10 Winning Litigators in the US" and a "Trailblazer in Litigation," and by Law360, which called him one of 50 "Trial Aces" in the United States.
Counseling, Compliance, and Corporate Governance
Michael’s counsel to corporations and boards of directors involves matters of corporate governance and compliance. He 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, Michael 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. Michael has represented management, special litigation committees, board members, outside auditors, and others in a broad variety of related securities and governance litigation.
Government & Internal Investigations
Michael 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.
Michael 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 Michael has tried to verdict. On four days' notice, Michael 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, Michael 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, Michael 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 Michael to conduct a two-year worldwide legal compliance audit to implement the settlement.
Michael 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.
Michael is one of two advocates who tried a case before the International Olympic Committee, where the IOC overturned the USOC’s ban against Michael’s client’s participation in international competition. For more than 30 years, Michael 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.
- Supreme Court of the United States
- 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, First Circuit
- US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
- US Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
- US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
- US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
- J.D., Duke University, 1978
- B.A., Yale University, 1975
Areas of Practice
- Representing Sears Holdings in multiple matters in litigation with vendors under various provisions of the UCC arising from supply chain agreements.
- Representing public utility in matters arising from power failure at world's busiest airport.
- Representing PG&E in several matters in litigation over contractual obligations and over business interruption claims.
- Defending Royal Bank of Canada’s Capital Markets unit in federal court litigation over the scope of plaintiff’s sale to RBC of a book of quarterly rankings for financial institutions and their debt offerings.
- 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, indemnification claims, 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 major financial institution against claims arising from servicing of mortgage pools totaling in excess of $4 billion.
- 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 former CEO of an audience measurement and analytics company in connection with securities class actions, derivative suits, and breach of fiduciary duty claims.
- 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.
- Tried to defense verdict claims by shareholder that he was entitled to greater share of sale proceeds following liquidity event for portfolio company.
- Successfully arbitrated real estate joint venture dispute for Sears Holdings arising from contracts governing allocation of cost responsibilities.
- Obtained dismissal of securities class action claims against largest investor in public company asserting failure to disclose fully both the nature of the investor's interests and his preferred position over other investors.
- 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.
- Successfully resolved claims against Lenovo and Motorola Mobility in class action litigation challenging the warranties and service provided to purchasers of smartphones and smart watches.
- 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.
- Counseled 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.
- Advised public company on potential exposure under securities laws threatened by investor challenging handling of investments made by the company in certain financial instruments.
- 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.
Moderator, "Financial Markets," Law Bulliten's 2017 Chicago White Collar Crime & Corporate Governance Conference, Chicago, IL, April 19, 2017
News & Publications
August 15, 2019
April 29, 2019
January 28, 2019
August 15, 2018
May 4, 2018
May 3, 2018
January 25, 2018
Chambers and Partners
August 15, 2017
July 14, 2017
- Chambers USA: America's Leading Business Lawyers, Litigation: General Commercial
- Legal 500 US, Litigation: Commercial Litigation (2016-2017)
- National Law Journal's "Trailblazers in Litigation" (2016)
- Law360 Inaugural Trial Ace (2015)
- Leading Lawyers, Commercial Litigation (2019)
- Lawdragon, Leading Litigators in the United States
- Lawdragon, Leading Lawyers in America
- Best Lawyers in America, Commercial Litigation; Litigation: Intellectual Property
- Super Lawyers, Illinois, Business Litigation (2005-2019)
- Super Lawyers, Illinois, "Top 100 Attorneys"
- International Law Office and Lexology, Top Illinois Litigator, 2013 Client Choice Award
- 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
- 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
- Member, American Bar Association
- Member, Chicago Bar Association
- Fellow, American Bar Foundation