AREA OF PRACTICE

Litigation

Biography

Laurel Zaeske is a partner in Brown Rudnick’s Litigation group in California. Laurel has more than twenty years of experience in handling complex business litigation matters and representing individuals, companies and trustees in contested bankruptcy proceedings.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Laurel was a practicing CPA, where she worked with, among others, the national accounting firms Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. and Arthur Andersen & Co. As a CPA, Laurel focused her practice in the areas of audit, private placements and business acquisitions. Much of Laurel’s law practice involves contested financial matters which allows her to bring to bear both her experience as a CPA and a lawyer.

Laurel has been appointed and currently serves on the ADR/mediation panels with the United States District Court and Bankruptcy Court in the Central District of California and, where appropriate, incorporates mediation strategies to achieve client goals.

Representation

Litigation

CCR&R Inc. adv. Rainbow Disposal Co., Inc.: Represented major Southern California waste hauler and processor in defense of claims by competitor for unfair business practice/anti-trust allegations under California state law and cross-claims for accounting and breach of contract where competitors were partners in the hauling and processing of a single municipality resulting in a $6 million judgment on behalf of client. The case was subsequently settled before entry of final judgment.

In re the Custodianship of Alexander Reynolds Hughes: Ongoing representation of the Custodian of the heir of Herbalife founder, Mark Hughes, including representation of the Custodain in defense of a Petition for Review to the California Supreme Court of an order affirming denial of attorneys fees requested by Guardian’s attorneys; and defending appeal of order in case of first impression as to the ability of trustees to seek contribution from custodianship to pay support obligation owed to minor. The California Supreme Court denied Petition for Review of order affirming denial of $3.0 million in attorneys’ fees requested by Guardian’s attorneys.

Enough For Everyone, Inc. v. Provo Craft & Novelty, Inc.: Represented the President and sole owner of Enough For Everyone, Inc. in a royalty dispute against Provo Craft & Novelty. Client was granted judgment of $1.8 million, which was recently affirmed on appeal.

Diamond, as Trustee of Brea Hospital Properties v. Snell & Wilmer, LLP: In two coordinated cases in the Orange County Superior Court, represented prominent regional law firm against claims prosecuted by the Bankruptcy Trustee of the failed Brea Community Hospital Corporation and the hospital’s principals and parent company. After a five week jury trial, a defense verdict was rendered in favor of Snell & Wilmer.

NZMP, Inc. v. Siegel, et al.: Defended a former principal of the predecessor corporation to the failed Global Health Sciences, one of the largest manufacturers of nutriceuticals in the United States and principal product supplier to Herbalife. The case was prosecuted, pursuant to a Chapter 11 liquidating plan, by creditors holding $225 million of bonds issued in conjunction with the leveraged sale of the company. The case was favorably settled for the firm’s client.

ACC/Lincoln Savings Securities Litigation: Represented the plaintiff class of bondholders who recovered in excess of $250 million from the professionals who assisted Charles Keating against whom a $4.0 billion jury verdict was rendered in this notorious fraud case involving the collapse of Lincoln Savings & Loan, focusing on claims against the accountants and served as one of the trial attorneys.

FTC v. First Alliance Mortgage Company: Represented the Chairman and CEO of this publicly traded, national mortgage lender in multiple Federal Court coordinated class actions and lawsuits brought against him by the Federal Trade Commission and various States Attorney General alleging unlawful lending practices which were the subject of The New York Times and 20/20 features. The actions were settled in 2002 in a manner favorable to the client, thereby eliminating a nationwide exposure in excess of $500 million.

TMI Partnership Litigation: Part of team designated by the Court as lead counsel in this complex litigation on behalf of a class of approximately 20,000 California teachers seeking recovery for the diversion of cash in the operation of more than 30 publicly syndicated limited partnerships. Concluding in settlement payments of over $20 million were made by the managers of the partnerships, their lawyers, banks and national accounting firm.

Corporate Reorganization / Bankruptcy

In re Stockwell Properties: Represented the Bankruptcy Trustee and successfully liquidated millions of dollars in real estate and defended fraudulent transfer claims thereby preserving the assets for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate.

In re Hill Williams Income Funds: Represented the Bankruptcy Trustee and prosecuted litigation against the professionals who aided and abetted the manager of these failed public syndications, which had raised and dissipated more than $80 million in connection with the fraudulent real estate empire of developer Donald Hill Williams.

In re Bill L. Walters: Represented the Bankruptcy Trustee in the notorious case of a Denver real estate developer and President of that city’s Chamber of Commerce, who was accused, along with the son of President George H. W. Bush, of having responsibility for the multi-billion dollar collapse of Silverado Bank & Savings in the early 1990’s.

In re Jack Clark: Represented the Bankruptcy Trustee in this bankruptcy case of former major league baseball player which was commenced as a “no asset” Chapter 7 liquidation. The Trustee was successful in having the case converted to a Chapter 11, where a Plan was confirmed within seven months providing for a 100% payout of more than $2.5 million to unsecured creditors.

Education

University of Southern California Law Center – J.D., 1988
University of Colorado – B.S., 1981

Bar Admissions

California
Colorado
Publications
Co-author, Fraudulent Transfer: Litigation Under the Bankruptcy Code and State Law, 29 Cal. Bankr. J. 255 (2007), which was cited by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in In re JTS Corporation, 2010 WL 3122867 (C.A.9 (Cal.))
Speaking Engagements
Laurel regularly lecturers on trial preparation and substantive areas of commercial and bankruptcy law for the CEB and other professional organizations.
While attending law school, Laurel served as an instructor in Management Accounting in undergraduate and MBA graduate programs at the University of Southern California, and continues to serve as a guest lecturer in USC's MBA program.
Awards and Honors
Laurel was recognized as one of the Top Attorneys in Southern California in 2012 as published in the Los Angeles Magazine
Laurel was also recognized by the Daily Journal for winning one of California's Top 10 defense verdicts of 2010
Professional Memberships
Member, American Inns of Court
Member, Federal Bar Association
Community Involvement
Laurel serves as a Director of the California Bankruptcy Forum, and has twice served as Conference Chair and also served as Education Chair for its annual conference.
Member, Orange County Bar Association; Chair of the Audit Committee (1998 – present); former Section Chair, Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section
Former Director and Treasurer, Orange County Bankruptcy Forum
Member, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce; Chairman of the Board (2008-2009), Chief Financial Officer (2005-2008 and 2012-2013)