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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Joseph J Wielebinski

Joseph J Wielebinski

Winstead PC2728 N. Harwood StreetSuite 500DallasTexasUSA75201

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Joseph Wielebinski is praised by peers around the globe as “an excellent lawyer” when it comes to representing clients in financial fraud, money laundering and other white-collar crime proceedings.

Questions & Answers

Joe Wielebinski is a shareholder in Winstead’s business restructuring practice group. For over 30 years, Joe’s practice has concentrated on bankruptcy, financial restructuring and related litigation. He has also represented victims in complex financial frauds and asset recovery. Joe is the executive director emeritus of FraudNet, an invitation-only organisation of lawyers worldwide who have significant expertise in offshore asset recovery. Joe has been ranked by Chambers USA as a “leader in the field” since 2005.

Describe your career to date. 

For over 35 years, I have focused my practice on business restructurings, bankruptcy and related litigation, and for the past 15 or so years, I have worked on matters involving cross-border fraud and asset recovery. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work on various cases throughout the US (since I typically practise in federal court) and around the world. In addition, I have worked on matters in a large variety of industries, including real estate, oil and gas, professional sports, high tech, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, and finance. My fraud matters have always been on behalf of victims, for which I am most proud. Unlike many practitioners, I have only worked at two law firms, and the one where I started my practice is the one I have returned to after 32 years at another firm I helped to build. Overall, I have been most fortunate to have a career that has kept me excited about going to work every single day. 

What cases most stick in your mind and why?

Certainly there are memorable cases that generated tremendous results for the client, were high-profile or contained cutting-edge legal issues. One case of recent vintage involved the second-largest Ponzi scheme in history. I was part of an international recovery team, and the case involved all aspects of asset recovery, including fraud, insolvency, receivership and substantial litigation, in a multi-jurisdictional environment, capped off with my testifying as an expert in the Swiss ancillary insolvency proceedings on fraudulent conveyance law. 

How has your membership of the ICC FraudNet enhanced your commercial fraud practice?

FraudNet has been an invaluable complement to my fraud practice for several reasons. FraudNet was at the forefront of developing the asset recovery practice and today remains the pre-eminent network for asset recovery lawyers. It is composed of the world’s premier asset recovery lawyers in over 70 jurisdictions throughout the world, including some of the key tax and asset “havens”. In addition, FraudNet provides members with a worldwide network of experienced asset recovery practitioners who have local knowledge and recognise the critical importance of responsiveness in any asset recovery effort. Also, FraudNet holds regular meetings where members are educated on cutting-edge issues in asset recovery, and learn about strategies and tactics that led to successful recoveries for others. In addition, it provides a “brain trust” of practitioners who are willing to provide insights and guidance in matters that often take us to uncharted legal waters. Finally, FraudNet is a tremendous source of business referrals. 

What developments in your jurisdiction should foreign practitioners be following and why?

There are almost too many developments to identify. 

First, there are still challenging problems with getting access to the courts in the traditional manner. While most courts are open, they are often on limited schedules and with limited access. Trials are often being postponed or handled remotely. New laws have been and are being enacted to assist companies and employees to survive, but they may present challenges with implementation. As such, it is imperative that knowledgeable local experts be retained to provide the necessary insights to best achieve your client’s objectives.

Are firms prepared for the wave of restructurings coming their way as a result of covid-19? How are you preparing as a firm? 

It depends. Some firms are well prepared and others are not. Any firm that has an established insolvency practice will be better situated than one that is only now trying to build a practice or that recently hired one or two practitioners in anticipation of the economy entering a recession after 10-plus years of booming growth. Restructurings can be all-consuming and often require a large number of people to address all the issues in a timely manner. Bench strength will matter, and firms with an established reputation will likely weather the coming storm much better than small boutiques or “service partners” handling more routine matters. Relatedly, some firms have built up niche practices that are now struggling in these uncertain times, or have hired highly compensated partners whose business either no longer exists or has been dramatically reduced. In addition, firms that were barely able to compete with the larger or more established firms pre-covid will find that the current environment is substantially more challenging.

In which industries are you seeing the most immediate problems and how do you plan to react to this?

Certainly, there are some industries that have faced a bigger impact than others, but the breadth and scope of the economic tsunami resulting from the covid-19 crisis has left few industries unscathed. Oil and gas, retail, airlines, and restaurants have been particularly hard hit. However, we have not yet seen the full extent of covid-19’s impact, and it is expected that there will be additional fallout as the full extent of the pandemic and resulting shutdown begin to unfold. Fortunately, my firm has a strong insolvency group that has significant experience in workouts and financial restructurings involving these and other industries. In addition, many of my non-insolvency colleagues have lived through prior downturns, which gives them the ability to rapidly adapt to the challenges presented. Developing cross-specialty teams enhances our ability to better address clients’ pressing needs and challenges.

What more could governments and standard-setting bodies be doing to assist firms facing insolvency? And what are they getting wrong or failing to understand?

Local and state governments are taking extraordinary actions to try to deal with the impact of covid, including helping employees and businesses to work through the financial challenges of a shutdown while trying to balance the health needs of all constituents until a cure is developed. It is a daunting task and more help is needed, especially for local governments who are on the front lines of the covid-19 battle. Certainly there will be mistakes and shortfalls. For example, the PPP loans to help businesses on an interim basis are not being provided to companies that filed for bankruptcy, although they are arguably most in need. Governments and standard-setting bodies should focus their energies on those individuals and companies who are most vulnerable during these unprecedented times.

How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?

I expect that my practice will be incredibly busy for the next several years as a result of the financial problems resulting from the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the increasing number of insolvencies, cross-border fraud cases will likely increase significantly as the economic impact of the pandemic spreads across the economies of the world. Existing frauds will be uncovered, and with the enormous amount of government spending to combat covid-19, new frauds will undoubtedly arise. These cases will not be resolved overnight, and if history is a guide, some larger cases will last for years, particularly the litigation emanating from larger insolvencies. Clients, courts and colleagues are all learning to adapt to the new realities of practising law, and certainly my practice will be forced to evolve as well. Travel is likely to be reduced, and technology will play an increasingly important role. Finally, we will all need to be more resilient to change and learn to adapt to rapidly developing circumstances that were hard to imagine only a few months ago. Despite the foregoing, much of what I have been doing on a daily basis will remain the same.

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Joseph Wielebinski enjoys praise for his first-rate work in offshore asset recovery proceedings.

Biography

Joe Wielebinski is a shareholder in Winstead’s business restructuring and bankruptcy practice group. For more than 35 years, his practice has concentrated on bankruptcy, creditors’ rights and financial restructuring, and he is active throughout the United States in a variety of complex restructuring, insolvency and bankruptcy matters and related litigation. 

Joe recently served as lead counsel for the official creditors' committee in a bankruptcy involving a US$2.4 billion “life settlement” portfolio that was alleged to be a massive fraud. He also served as Texas counsel for the joint liquidators of Stanford International Bank in Antigua. Joe also has substantial experience in bankruptcy and fraud-related litigation.

As part of the firm's fraud and asset recovery group, Joe has represented numerous victims in matters involving complex financial fraud, theft, money laundering and other white-collar crimes. Joe has served as a Federal District Court receiver at the request of the SEC in cases involving national and cross-border fraud schemes.

Joe is the executive director emeritus of ICC FraudNet, a London-based invitation-only organisation consisting of select lawyers throughout the world who have significant experience in complex commercial fraud and offshore asset recovery. Joe is a member of the International Bar Association, the International Association for Asset Recovery, the American Bankruptcy Institute and the Turnaround Management Association.

Joe received a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Temple University in 1980, and a master's degree in public administration and a juris doctorate from Syracuse University in 1983.

He is recognised by Chambers USA (2003–2016), where he is ranked as a “leader in his field”. He is also named a top lawyer by Best Lawyers in America, in both bankruptcy and creditor-debtor rights law and litigation: bankruptcy sections (published by Woodward/White, 2008–2016).

Restructuring & Insolvency 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Joseph Wielebinski is a long-standing and very active insolvency lawyer with remarkable expertise in complex bankruptcy, financial restructurings and litigation.

Biography

Joe Wielebinski is a shareholder in Winstead’s business restructuring/bankruptcy group. For over 35 years, he has concentrated on bankruptcy, creditors’ rights and financial restructuring, and is active throughout the United States in several restructuring and insolvency matters and related litigation. 

Joe recently served as lead counsel for the official creditors' committee in a bankruptcy involving a US$2.4 billion “life settlement” portfolio that was alleged to be a massive fraud. He also served as counsel for the Joint Liquidators of Stanford International Bank in Antigua. Joe also has substantial experience in bankruptcy and fraud-related litigation.

As part of the firm's fraud and asset recovery group, Joe has represented numerous victims in matters involving complex financial fraud, theft, money laundering and other white-collar crimes. Joe has also served as a federal district court receiver for the SEC in cases involving cross-border fraud schemes.

Joe is the executive director emeritus of ICC FraudNet, a London-based invitation-only network of lawyers throughout the world who have significant experience in complex commercial fraud and offshore asset recovery. Joe is a member of the International Bar Association, the International Association for Asset Recovery and the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Joe received a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Temple University in 1980, and a master's degree in public administration and a juris doctorate from Syracuse University in 1983.

He is recognised by Chambers USA (2003-2019), where he is ranked as a “leader in his field”. He is also named a top lawyer by Best Lawyers in America, in both bankruptcy and creditor-debtor rights law and litigation: bankruptcy (published by Woodward/White, 2008-2016).

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