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Michael Collyard, Robins Kaplan LLP
Michael Collyard, Robins Kaplan LLP

2022 Attorneys of the Year: Michael Collyard

The case against BMO Harris Bank and its involvement with Ponzi scheme mastermind Tom Petters finally reached the courtroom after a five-and-a-half-year delay.

It proved worth the wait. Robins Kaplan LLC’s Partner Michael Collyard, chair of the Banking and Financial Fraud Litigation Group and the Ediscovery Group, won a $564 million trial last year against the bank, the largest jury verdict in Minnesota history. Though Collyard asked for $1.95 billion to compensate victims, he came away “very happy with the result” of the trial.

The case turned partly on BMO Harris Bank’s intentional destruction of documents that revealed it knew about Petters’s deception. Originally BMO Bank acquired M&I Bank in 2011, which provided financial services to Petters, who received a 50-year sentence for his fraudulent activities.

The jury agreed with Collyard’s argument that the bank aided Petters in using the M&I Bank accounts to launder billions of dollars from 2002 to 2008. The bank’s deception about the backup tapes before admitting their existence also became evidence against it.

Robins Kaplan’s client Douglas A. Kelley served as trustee in the Petters case and clawed back more than $700 million from investors who made money in the scheme. In contrast, Collyard sought money from BMO Bank for “net losers who lost money in the Ponzi scheme,” he said.

To explain the complexities of Petters’ fraud empire to the jury, Collyard used a PowerPoint presentation that broke down the story with pictures of Petters’ business plan. “People ask me for copies, but I tell them that was millions of dollars of work,” he said.

The attorney also works with many pro bono clients and has served on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and as a mentor at the University of St. Thomas Law School.

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2022 here.

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