Joseph J Wielebinski
2728 N. Harwood Street
Suite 500
+1 214 745 5210
+1 214 745 5390

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders Global Elite

Joe is a shareholder in Winstead’s business restructuring/bankruptcy section and focuses on insolvency and asset recovery. He is active throughout the US in a variety of complex cases. Joe recently served as lead counsel for the official creditors’ committee in a massive fraud involving a US$2.4 billion “life settlement” portfolio. He also served as Texas counsel for the joint liquidators of Stanford International Bank in Antigua. Joe is the executive director emeritus of ICC FraudNet.

Why did you decide to specialise in asset recovery?

Initially, I did not make a conscious decision to specialise in asset recovery. The need to become a specialist occurred over time because of the nature of my work. In the insolvency arena, you often encounter frauds and the need to pursue hidden assets to satisfy legitimate claims. In order to maximise recoveries, there was a growing need to have real expertise in high-stakes asset recovery, especially in offshore jurisdictions. At some point, I realised that I enjoyed the challenges presented by these cases and wanted to use my skills to help victims of fraud.

Which has been your most interesting case, and why?

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work on a number of interesting cases and they run the gamut: from an online gambling website in Costa Rica to a diamond thief whose entire family was corrupt, to a crazy doctor who was connected to the Russian “mafia” and would rather sit in jail than cooperate. It never ceases to amaze me how brazen and bold fraudsters can be, their lack of empathy for their victims and the belief that they are smarter than everyone else. To me, the most interesting case is the one where our planning, preparation and hard work results in the identification and recovery of assets sufficient to compensate victims for their losses.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The most challenging aspect of my role is the development of an effective “game plan” that will maximise the likelihood of recovery, despite the typical constraints imposed by the client, the underlying facts or the nature and location of the fraud. Rarely are you presented with a case involving unlimited resources and an uncomplicated fact pattern where the assets are easily identified and readily recoverable. It is usually the opposite: limited resources, an immediate need for prompt action and numerous uncertainties. Developing the right strategy and getting the right legal, forensic and investigative team in place is always critical to a successful result.

How do you prepare for your role as a receiver for fraud schemes in the US?

You prepare for your role like you do with any other case. You must fully understand the underlying facts, the nature of the fraud, the key parties involved, and the options available to maximise recoveries. Each case is different and presents its own limitations and challenges. Nevertheless, despite your best planning and preparation, there are always surprises and you can’t always plan for every eventuality.

In what ways did your position of executive director of the ICC FraudNet organisation enhance
your practice?

My involvement as the former executive director was incredible. Of course, in that role, I got to meet and interact with some of the best asset recovery lawyers in the world. But I also got the opportunity to shape the FraudNet network at a critical stage of its development. Among other things, FraudNet grew from a small group of skilled lawyers in some key jurisdictions to the number one ranked asset recovery network in the world. That was not just a matter of pure growth, but also great work on some high-profile cases that enhanced the network’s reputation. It also allowed us to become “thought leaders” on key issues and trends in the practice area. Finally, it opened doors to clients who recognised the value and benefit of a worldwide network of experienced asset recovery lawyers who could immediately and effectively respond to the client’s needs.

What impact has the booming economy in the US and elsewhere had on your practice?

Admittedly, the booming economy in the US has posed added challenges. There are fewer large-scale frauds and people are often less inclined to litigate when they have other lucrative opportunities to pursue. Nevertheless, even in a positive growth economy, there are always fraudsters taking advantage of victims. Now that the Lehman debacle just had its 10th anniversary, the cycle is sure to change. With that change comes the inevitable economic downturn, and that is typically followed by the discovery of ongoing frauds and significantly increased litigation. I’m expecting to get exceedingly busy in the not too distant future.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

The ability to enjoy a comfortable retirement ... but not any time soon.

Is there any advice you would give to someone starting out in the asset recovery practice area?

Don’t just expect to dabble in the practice. This practice requires a full time commitment. There are attorneys who may have handled one or two asset recovery matters and they now think they’re asset recovery experts. If you’re going to do this work, then you need to immerse yourself in the practice, learn the legal concepts, establish key contacts, get actively involved with the appropriate organisations and develop the necessary skill set. The practice is not for the faint hearted or a part-timer. To do it at the highest level, you need to work hard to keep up with legal developments, current trends and the never-ending creativity of sophisticated fraudsters.


Who's Who Legal Asset Recovery: Lawyers

Joe Wielebinski is a shareholder and has served as chairman of the firm's insolvency practice group for over 10 years. He is active throughout the US in a variety of complex cases.

Joe recently served as lead counsel for the 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 has substantial experience in bankruptcy-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 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 its bankruptcy and creditor-debtor rights law, and litigation: bankruptcy sections (published by Woodward/White, 2008-2016).

WWL says: Joseph Wielebinski is recognised as a leading name in the asset recovery field where he is commended for his top-tier work, particularly when it comes to insolvency-related matters.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Asset Recovery which can be purchased from our Shop.

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