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Attorneys of the Year: Chris Madel

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For his third straight win as Attorney of the Year, Chris Madel triumphed on a case fraught with international intrigue, a Swiss bank account, money laundering and fraud. He has been representing three developers who spent millions on a condo project in Colorado, only to be tripped up by a pair of purported investors who took their loan fees but never provided the funds.

Thanks to Madel’s efforts, his clients secured a $185 million judgment in U.S. District Court in Colorado and an injunction that freezes nearly $7 million in a Swiss bank account belonging to one of the defendants. The case continues this year as Madel and his team fight the appeal and attempt to convince the Swiss government to compel Credit Suisse AG to release the funds owed to Madel’s clients.

“The most difficult part is that the defendant is Austrian, and every time I try to do something in Europe they accuse me of violating some European country’s criminal law. We’re dealing with international law even when we’ve established fraud here, and this guy is gaming our system,” says Madel, who serves on the executive board of Robins Kaplan. “That’s one of the most frustrating aspects I’ve ever had in a case when my clients have been so obviously wronged.”

As chair of the firm’s Government and Internal Investigations Group and a lawyer for 21 years, including a stint as a U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor, Madel knows his way around white collar crime and fraud. Currently about half of his cases involve conducting internal investigations for clients, such as the high-profile investigation Madel completed for the Fiesta Bowl in 2012 regarding financial impropriety and other wrongdoing. In January, the Minnesota Vikings retained Madel and others to investigate former punter Chris Kluwe’s claim that he was released for speaking out on the same-sex marriage issue.

For the fellow who wanted to be an attorney since he was five, Madel still has twin passions for helping clients and rooting out fraud. “Every day is different and fascinating, and it’s so incredibly rewarding,” he says. “I wouldn’t change jobs with anybody.”

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