Mike is a trial lawyer. He litigates and tries complex commercial cases for large and small companies and individuals. Mike’s trial resume includes multiple plaintiff-side jury verdicts and settlements in commercial cases totaling nearly $300 million. Three of his jury verdicts have been recognized in The National Law Journal’s annual “Top 100 Verdicts” of the year issue. He has represented businesses, private equity funds and their portfolio companies, and financial institutions in litigation covering a wide range of industries, including real estate development and investments, finance and private equity, banking, pharmaceuticals and insurance. Over the past 20 years, Mike also has advised companies on litigation risk in connection with corporate transactions, and has successfully represented financial institutions before regulatory bodies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission. Prior to co-founding Kibler Fowler & Cave, Mike was a litigator at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP for over 18 years (14 years as a partner) in the firm’s New York and Los Angeles offices.
Mike’s representative experience includes:
- Lead trial counsel for the plaintiff Gray Development Group in a lawsuit against the master developer of a master planned community. Claims in the suit included breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and tortious bad faith in connection with the master developer’s efforts to block a competing project of Mike’s client. Following a six–week jury trial in Maricopa County Superior Court, a unanimous jury found for the plaintiff on all claims. The damage award—over $110 million—was reported to be the fourth largest in Arizona, ever. The verdict was recognized in The National Law Journal “Top 100 Verdicts” of 2010 issue.
- Lead trial counsel for the plaintiff Placentia Development Company—an affiliate of national homebuilder Toll Brothers—in a jury trial against an oil company concerning the development rights of land in Orange County, California. Following four weeks of testimony, the jury returned a verdict of liability, awarding Mike’s client over $26 million in compensatory damages for breach of contract, nuisance and trespass. And then, following the punitive damages phase of the trial, the jury awarded an additional $10 million in punitive damages. After the trial, the court awarded an additional $5.5 million in discretionary prejudgment interest, bringing the final judgment to nearly $43 million. The verdict was recognized in The National Law Journal “Top 100 Verdicts” of 2019 issue.
- Lead trial counsel for a large housing provider in a federal lawsuit filed by a plaintiff seeking millions of dollars in damages for claims under the Fair Housing Act and the California Disabled Persons Act. After being retained to try the case just two weeks before jury selection, Mike readied for trial on an expedited schedule, winning several key evidentiary motions before jury selection. A one-week jury trial before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in April 2023 resulted in a modest damages award for the plaintiff—a 90% reduction in Mike’s clients’ potential liability—and exposed several fatal legal infirmities in plaintiff’s case. Post-trial, Mike successfully moved for post-verdict relief on the grounds that no reasonable jury could have reached such verdict based on the evidence (or lack thereof) presented at trial. The Court granted the motion for judgment as a matter of law, vacated the entire damages award, and entered final judgment in favor of Mike’s client.
- Lead trial counsel for a Los Angeles-based hedge fund in seeking over $200 million in a fraud case against a global investment manager. Mike tried the case in a five-week bench trial in 2016 after the trial court, over Mike’s objection, struck his client’s jury demand. In that trial, Mike successfully defeated nine-figure counter-claims asserted against his client, but lost the fraud claims against the defendant. On appeal, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision on the counter-claims, but reversed on the fraud claims, holding that the court erred in striking the jury demand, and remanded to the trial court for a jury trial on the fraud claims. Upon remand, the case settled prior to jury selection on favorable terms.
- Co–trial counsel for plaintiff in a lawsuit involving U.S. Department of Defense contracts to supply fuel to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq through the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Mike’s client—a member of the Jordanian Royal Family—alleged that his partners defrauded him of his share of the profits after he played an instrumental role in establishing a new supply route for U.S. troops that facilitated the procurement of the defense contracts. Following a three–week trial in Palm Beach Florida Circuit Court, an eight-member jury awarded $28.8 million, finding for the plaintiff on all six counts under Florida and Jordanian law. The verdict was recognized in The National Law Journal “Top 100 Verdicts” of 2011 issue.
- Representation of Swiss Re, the largest property insurer of the World Trade Center, in epic litigation following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The owner of the World Trade Center claimed entitlement to two full policy limits for its destruction. Following three years of litigation and a three–month jury trial, a unanimous jury found for Swiss Re on all claims, limiting its exposure to a single policy limit.
- Successful representation of the Banc of California before the trial court and at the California Court of Appeal, which granted a petition for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order compelling a dispute to arbitration. The ruling Mike obtained on appeal marked a critical limitation in California to a U.S. Supreme Court decision addressing whether threshold questions of arbitrability should be decided by courts or arbitrators. Upon remand, the case settled on favorable terms.
- Representation of international banking institutions in nationwide litigation involving the sale of collateralized residential mortgage backed securities following the 2008 collapse of the housing market and Great Recession.
- Successfully argued a motion to dismiss on behalf of a New York private equity fund before the Delaware Chancery Court, resulting in a dismissal of all claims with prejudice.
- Successful representation of several financial institutions in non-public SEC investigations that resulted in the SEC declining to bring charges or engage in any public process.
In 2023, the Los Angeles Business Journal recognized Mike as one of the top trial lawyers in Los Angeles by naming him a “Leader of Influence: Litigators & Trial Attorneys.” Mike has received an “AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating” by Martindale-Hubble, has been included in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Lawyers” in the field of Commercial Litigation, and has been named a “Super Lawyer” eight times by Thomson Reuters in the field of Business Litigation. He is a past recipient of the Burton Award for Legal Achievement, which honors the nation’s finest legal writers.
Mike’s community activities include serving as Board Chair of Covenant House California, a non-profit serving homeless youth throughout California, serving as a Member of the BSA Western Los Angeles County Council Scout Executive Board, coaching baseball in the Beverly Hills Little League, and serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster in BSA Troop 223 in the Pacific Palisades.