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NJL People: Douglas L. Elsass

Having practiced law for over 30 years, Doug is a highly skilled business litigator with experience in a variety of industries. He has worked extensively on shareholder and partnership disputes, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and business competition cases.  These cases have been litigated in state and federal court (including bankruptcy court) and in arbitration proceedings. He has represented businesses and individuals in cases involving the health care, financial services, retail, agriculture and professional services industries, among others.  Doug has often been chosen to represent local law firms or fellow lawyers in disputes, reflecting his strong reputation in the Twin Cities legal community.  For years, he has been heavily involved with local bar organizations, including serving as President of the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and as Chair of the Civil Litigation Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association.  Based in part on this experience and involvement with Minnesota courts, Doug often acts as local counsel to a variety of national firms.

Doug thrives on the variety of his cases and has a large capacity to quickly learn new industries. In the court room, he is not only known for his intellectual heavy lifting, but he is also adept at distilling the complexities of a case into an easily understood package for a judge or jury.

When not counseling or representing clients, Doug can be found at his cabin, attending a Twins game, biking, playing tennis, reading, and spending time with his family.

Key Practice Experience

  • Shareholder and partnership disputes, including within professional services
  • Fraud claims, including in receivership and bankruptcy proceedings
  • Contract disputes
  • Special counsel to companies for shareholder derivative and indemnification claims
  • Non-competes and other business competition disputes
  • Health care business disputes
  • Administrative and regulatory proceedings, including FINRA matters

Key Industry Experience

  • Small businesses
  • Family-owned businesses
  • Financial services
  • Professional services
  • Farming/agriculture
  • Health care entities/payers
  • Retail

Representative Matters

  • Finn v. Moyes (U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, 2014-2017). Obtained a favorable settlement for clients in claims brought by a receiver for a Ponzi scheme that alleged aiding and abetting, fraud and sought over $75 million in damages. The settlement came after the court’s order granting summary judgment, which significantly narrowed the claims, and also dismissing a defendant for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Finn v. Moyes, 2017 WL 1194192 (D. Minn. March 30, 2017).
  • Scarlett v. White (U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, 2016-2017). Represented majority shareholders in wine industry shareholder case in which a former shareholder alleged breach of fiduciary duty and attempted to force litigation in Minnesota, his state of residence. Prevailed on motion to transfer case to California to be consolidated with prior litigation there based on “first-filed” rule of federal court procedures.
  • Petters Bankruptcy Proceedings – Fraud and Claw-Back Claims (U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Minnesota, 2010-2016). Represented the trustees and receiver in adversary proceedings arising from one of the largest Ponzi schemes ever, a multi-billion dollar scheme operated by Tom Petters. The adversary cases included claims against many investors who profited from the scheme, as well as fraud claims against a primary lender to the Petters organization.
  • In re Hallmark Capital Corporation (U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, 2007-2008). Represented Israeli corporation seeking production of documents for arbitration in Israel in a case of first impression in the Eighth Circuit. Prevailed on motion to obtain documents and testimony under a United States federal law allowing discovery for purposes of cases or arbitrations in foreign nations, 28 U.S.C. section 1782. See In re Application of Hallmark Capital Corp., 534 F. Supp.2d 951 (D. Minn. 2007).
  • Bergerson v. Deephaven Capital Management, LLC (U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, 2003-2006). Represented an extremely successful manager of a hedge fund in his compensation claims against Deephaven, a local investment firm then owned and controlled by Knight Trading Group of New Jersey. Defeated a TRO motion by Knight intended to prohibit Bergerson from operating his own hedge fund based on claims of unlawful competition and misappropriation of trade secrets. Prevailed on certain summary judgment issues that allowed a favorable settlement for the client for payment of significant bonus compensation due to him prior to his departure from Knight.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission v. Rivers (U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, 2002-2004). Won jury verdict for client against claims of stock manipulation brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC contended that the plaintiff had violated stock fraud statutes and rules by “marking the close” through his purchases of a thinly traded stock at the end of the day. This case required explaining complicated investment and regulatory matters to the jury and responding to the SEC’s insistence that it had the power to declare what acts are illegal.
  • Afremov v. Amplatz, Gougeon and AGA Medical Corporation (Hennepin County District Court, Minnesota, 2003-2004). Represented the founding shareholder of a medical device manufacturer in a complex minority shareholder lawsuit. The company had become enormously successful based on Dr. Amplatz’s device for the non-surgical repair of holes in the heart wall. The case involved competing claims for shareholder oppression, fraud, and self-dealing regarding company assets, as well as FDA regulatory issues.

Recognitions and Honors

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers®, 2013-2024, Commercial Litigation
  • Selected to the Minnesota Super Lawyers lists, 2000-2023
  • Best Lawyers in America – Commercial Litigation
  • Top 40 Lawyer in Business Litigation – Minnesota Law & Politics magazine

Professional Associations

  • Past Chair, Civil Litigation Section Council, Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Past President, Minnesota Chapter, Federal Bar Association
  • Past member, Federal Practice Committee, United States District Court
  • Member, Hennepin County and Ramsey County Bar Associations
  • Member, American Bar Association

Community Involvement

  • Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Law School, 2011-2015 and 2018-2022 (Seminar on Law Firm Practice and Management)
  • Board of Directors, The Fund for Legal Aid, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, 2012 to present

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