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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Bettina Knoetzl

Bettina Knoetzl

KNOETZLHerrengasse 1ViennaAustria1010
Watch interview with Bettina Knoetzl

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Bettina Knoetzl is a keystone of the Austrian white-collar crime space. Peers describe her as “a top-notch lawyer” and “a real expert who is super responsive”.

Questions & Answers

Bettina Knoetzl heads the litigation and white-collar crime practices at KNOETZL, an elite disputes and asset recovery firm in Vienna, Austria. She was the first European to be recognised as “Lawyer of the Year” for asset recovery. Before founding KNOETZL, she created and grew the firm-wide disputes team at the largest firm in the region. Bettina is a past co-chair of the IBA Litigation Committee, the current president of Transparency International – Austrian chapter and the exclusive Austrian representative of ICC FraudNet.

What skills are needed to successfully collaborate with lawyers, experts and authorities in different jurisdictions?

It is a “cocktail” of various skills and talents that lead to success. The basis rests upon in-depth knowledge of the available legal “tools” and measures that may be (successfully) applied in one’s home jurisdiction. Add a good portion of solid understanding of the systematics of foreign legal regimes, a cup of good common sense, a portion of top analytical talent, and a dash of cross-cultural understanding of people to form the most effective strategy. Top with strong communication skills to execute the collective strategic decisions, and sprinkle with a generous portion of flexibility to adjust to new developments, and you should have the right mixture.

What are the main considerations when developing strategies for the international search and recovery of assets?

The driving force is the client’s goal. Usually, clients and their counsel are acting under significant cost constraints and we need to be mindful of the client’s reputation and confidentiality. Often, the question of funding the operation needs to be resolved first. This requires an assessment of the chances of a) locating assets and b) gaining a legal attachment for the client. For this purpose, we need to select the right tools and legal means to achieve a freeze of assets. Some jurisdictions offer more easily expandable tools -- like worldwide freeze orders-- than others. In some jurisdictions, the bar to obtain a freeze order is higher than in others. Therefore, geography and where to place the first stroke, play significant roles. Then, the decision to file a criminal complaint or to simply stick with civil remedies will determine the next steps, as will costs associated with these legal steps and the later accessibility of the attached assets. Finally, timing is a crucial factor. Which steps should be prepared and executed before the opponent is alerted about being targeted?  

What breadth of cases are you currently working on?

Our cases reach from Far East, Middle East, Russia, Austria’s neighbouring countries, including Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Hungary to the western world. They cover the whole spectrum: from fraud and embezzlement, running Ponzi schemes, money laundering and bribery to “participation in criminal organisations”. Austria offers a high standard of living, with beautiful modern cities located in the heart of Europe, considered to have some of the best cities in the world to live in, offering good schools, culture and safety. One should not be surprised that criminals with “too much money” choose Vienna as their second home and Austrian banks as their trusted depositaries. Currently our portfolio covers cases with key individuals located in Hong Kong, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, London, New York and various “tax havens” such as Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Guernsey, BVI, Cook Islands etc.

What new types of fraud are you seeing emerge and develop during the covid-19 pandemic? How are you ensuring that you and your clients are well equipped to tackle them?

The importance of a high level of technical understanding and state-of-the-art computer and network technology had been continuously increasing. In asset tracing, it is important to stay on top of innovation and best practices in the legal and forensic industry. Given the diminished opportunity for personal meetings of professionals at international conferences and similar events, it has become even more essential to pursue a lively exchange of experiences with colleagues in international networks.

What do you predict will be the long-term effects of covid-19 on white-collar crime and related proceedings?

Internet-related fraud will likely increase. Effects will be so proliferated that current predictions might miss the mark. It certainly affects all sorts of financial crimes, small as well as big ones. Neither may a €50 bill be tempting enough to pass on a piece of information, nor can the briefcase with piles of money be easily handed over, as home office and travel restrictions continue to be in place. Even the “old school” intelligence work has been heavily affected by the covid-19 crisis. The need to utilise wire transfer in exchange for information has increased. Therefore, it is predictable that crimes committed with the help of the (much less regulated) cryptocurrencies will increase significantly.  

What impact has technological innovation had on the nature of asset recovery cases you have been seeing?

The ability to make data available quickly and to extract the essential findings is critical to success. Most likely, the development of tools that utilise what we currently call “artificial intelligence” will be accelerated, given the need to make up for missing exchange of information in person.

What are the key challenges that the next generation of asset recovery lawyers may face?

Artificial intelligence could change the whole industry. My recommendation for younger asset recovery lawyers is to strive to become rather good lawyers than forensic experts. The lawyering part of asset recovery will be needed, even if intelligent machines and/or programs can take care of the whole background and factual research.   

What can younger lawyers be doing to establish themselves in asset recovery?

Develop a true passion for it. 

Everything that you do with joy, you do better, and it will be more satisfying to leverage your enthusiasm. Try to find a law firm that specialises in asset recovery. Ask one of the more senior lawyers, who you deem ideal for the task, to be your mentor and to provide help and advice to allow you to excel.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Bettina Knoetzl is a prominent figure in the Austrian market thanks to her adept handling of complex litigation across the banking, pharma and construction sectors.

Questions & Answers

Bettina Knoetzl is a passionate trial lawyer with 25 years’ experience in litigating and settling most critical disputes. She has tried, won or settled thousands of high-stake cases. Bettina heads the litigation practice at Knoetzl, an elite, go-to disputes, asset recovery and white-collar crime firm in Vienna, Austria. She is active in the IBA (chair of the litigation committee, 2016-2017) and was the first European to be recognised as a “Lawyer of the Year” in asset recovery.

What do you enjoy most about your role as a litigator?

Developing a laser-focused strategy together with the client and executing it, step by step, with a passionate team that enjoys the incremental victories as much as winning the whole battle. To me, litigation is like playing chess, involving strategic thinking, tactical moves, flexibility, smart adjustments where needed, and never losing sight of your goal. Or, in other words: the one who laughs last, laughs best. This has to be our client, working together with us.

What do clients look for in an effective litigator?

Someone who achieves the client’s goal with a minimum of strain. Effectiveness is not only about winning in the end, but also reaching the optimal outcome with a precise investment of resources. A lofty reputation in the market as a feared opponent, and respect from the court, are among the “tools” of a thoroughbred trial lawyer. They can save a lot of extra hours.

How have you seen technological advancements impact litigation proceedings since you began practising?

I started my career with a typewriter, and without email or internet. Now, forensic research is assisted by smart technologies. Austria has an electronic court filing system; we frequently “meet” via video conference; we work with shared data rooms and shared files; and we opportunely dictate into our smartphones. Basically, everything has changed.

What do you find most challenging about handling complex cross-border disputes?

Making sure that critical differences between the various systems surface. Once the difference becomes apparent, it can be addressed. But, if both sides have no clue that they are working with different assumptions, results can easily be flawed, and the overall strategy can be at risk due to an “unforced” error.

Have there been any changes to the enforcement of foreign judgments in recent years? Do you foresee any further changes?

The growing geographical reach of the EU has expanded the possibilities to enforce a European judgment significantly. Also, the speed of enforcement proceedings within the EU has increased. However, more needs to be done. For example, Austria is still one of the countries where US judgments are not enforced. We hope that future US presidents will find it beneficial to join forces with the EU and pave the way to a more global effect of US and EU judgments. For arbitral awards, the New York Convention works extremely well. We should strive to implement a similar global reach for official court judgments.

What role are you currently seeing third-party funding playing in litigation?

Third-party funding has become a staple of litigation. For disputes involving higher amounts, funders will continue to play a significant role. Law societies need to be mindful of the circumvention of long-lasting ethical borders, such as the “quota litis” prohibition in many civil law-based countries. Sharing a portion of the proceeds, with the person taking the whole financial risk, is apparently not against our current mores. However, we should maintain a clear separation between the financing businesses and lawyering services, or at least create a duty of transparency, where interests are mixed and conflicts are possible.

In your view, how competitive is the legal market in Austria at present? How has this changed since the start of your career?

In 2020, the number of lawyers admitted to the Vienna Bar exceeded the number of lawyers admitted in the rest of Austria (outside Vienna). This shows that the market in Vienna has become more competitive. This trend will likely continue. From a more global perspective, we are still in the lucky position that not every global law firm is represented in Vienna. A highly specialised firm such as Knoetzl, with a laser focus on litigation, disputes and white-collar crime services, is well positioned to be in constant demand.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own firm?

Carefully evaluate the demands of the market on the one hand, and your own capabilities on the other hand. Provided you can fill a market gap with what you bring to the table, as Knoetzl was able to do, I strongly advise you wait no longer. Just do it! It is the best thing you can do – for your clients, your employees, the market and yourself. And, as hard and challenging it might be, this purely entrepreneurial work it is rewarding in so many ways. Chief among them, it is great fun.

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Bettina Knoetzl is a keystone of the Austrian white-collar crime space. Peers describe her as “a top-notch lawyer” and “a real expert who is super responsive”.

Biography

Bettina Knoetzl is a founding partner at KNOETZL, a leading litigation and dispute resolution law firm, with a groundbreaking focus on trial work in civil and criminal courts and arbitral tribunals, business crime, compliance and corporate crisis management.

Bettina Knoetzl has 25 years' experience in complex national and international disputes, and is currently and uniformly ranked as one of the leading litigation, dispute resolution and white-collar crime lawyers in Austria.

Bettina specialises in international and commercial litigation, focusing on defence of liability claims, especially for international pharmaceutical clients and other life sciences and significant healthcare providers, corporations, the real estate sector and in banking and finance, including financial derivatives. She has successfully defended clients in class action lawsuits, including one of Austria's largest civil cases, as well as in several collective actions against pharmaceutical companies and investor clients in well-known corporate and shareholder disputes. Bettina Knoetzl also provides legal counsel to significant government institutions. With various industries subjected to digital transformation, Bettina has successfully steered notable clients in social media and online sales through high-profile data protection disputes.

Bettina Knoetzl is a past co-chair of the litigation committee of the International Bar Association; the president of Transparency International – Austrian chapter; the exclusive Austrian representative of ICC FraudNet; and member of the advisory board of the ZBP Career Centre at Vienna University of Economics and Business. She teaches litigation and dispute resolution, including mediation, at the Austrian Lawyers' Academy and she is ranked in the top tier in litigation and white-collar crime by leading international directories, including Chambers and Partners. She is currently recognised as a Thought Leader by Who's Who Legal in litigation and asset recovery and was named Lawyer of the Year in asset recovery at the 2017 Who's Who Legal Awards.
WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Bettina Knoetzl is held in high esteem for her “excellent knowledge” of product liability and contentious proceedings in the life sciences sector.

Biography

Bettina Knoetzl is a co-founder and partner at KNOETZL, a leading firm in litigation, arbitration, alternative dispute resolution, business crime, compliance and corporate investigations. Bettina has 25 years’ experience in handling complex national and international disputes and is currently ranked as one of the leading litigation, asset recovery and white-collar crime lawyers in Austria.

Before founding the firm in 2016, Bettina developed the largest international litigation and dispute resolution practice in Austria and the contiguous region.

Bettina specialises in international and commercial litigation, focusing on business crime, investor protection, liability claims, corporate disputes, banking, insurance, investment funds and financial derivatives cases, and life sciences litigation. She has successfully defended against class action lawsuits, including Austria’s biggest civil litigation case to date, and represents corporate and investor clients in mission critical and well-known shareholder disputes. She is also called upon to provide critical legal counsel to significant government institutions. 

Bettina is notably involved in the leadership of the litigation committee of the International Bar Association, including service as co-chair during 2016 through 2017. She is the president of the advisory board of Transparency International (Austrian Chapter), the Austrian representative of the ICC-FraudNet and member of the advisory board of ZBP, the career centre of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. She lectures at the Austrian Lawyers’ Academy in dispute resolution and has been ranked in the top tier for more than a decade in litigation and white-collar crime by national and leading international directories, such as Chambers and Partners and Who’s Who Legal (including being the first European to be named Lawyer of the Year in 2017 by Who’s Who Legal, in asset tracing).

WWL Ranking: Recommended
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