Publication

Franchise & Distribution Attorneys Michael Conway, Thomas Pitegoff, and Stephen Forte Are Reunited at Offit Kurman

New York, NY | September 3, 2019 Offit Kurman is pleased to announce that Michael Conway, Thomas Pitegoff, and Stephen Forte have joined the firm’s offices in New York. The three attorneys bring significant experience in the areas of franchise and distribution law and litigation, as well as related business legal matters.

For Mr. Conway, Mr. Pitegoff, and Mr. Forte, the affiliation with Offit Kurman represents a reunion and a new opportunity to build a prominent franchise and distribution law practice. The attorneys previously worked together at LeClairRyan, where Mr. Conway and Mr. Pitegoff led the franchise team. Mr. Conway and Mr. Forte left LeClairRyan in 2016. Mr. Pitegoff exited in August of this year.

Mr. Conway first came into contact with Offit Kurman when he collaborated with a group of the firm’s lawyers in Maryland during a distribution case. Conversations with Offit Kurman leadership soon followed. Mr. Conway said he was “impressed” by the caliber of Offit Kurman’s attorneys and the firm’s pattern of rapid growth.

“When the time came to find a new firm, Offit Kurman seemed like a no-brainer,” he said.

The firm simultaneously drew the attention of Mr. Pitegoff, who became familiar with Offit Kurman through his colleague Stuart B. Newman—one of several attorneys who joined Offit Kurman’s New York offices in January of this year. Both Mr. Pitegoff and Mr. Newman serve on the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association’s Business Law Section.

“Between Stuart and Mike, there was good reason to seriously look at Offit Kurman,” Mr. Pitegoff said. “Mike and I like the fact that Offit Kurman is clearly growing fast. I also like the strong international business practice in the firm’s New York office. This kind of dynamic platform offers the ideal means to grow our practice together.”

“We want to grow in New York alongside an engaged and energized team,” added Mr. Conway. “In Offit Kurman, I saw exactly what we were looking for - an opportunity to share ideas and compete for business at the highest level.”

With the addition of Mr. Forte, a commercial litigator who serves as Counsel at Offit Kurman, the attorneys aim to develop a formidable practice in New York. The team’s capabilities will cover myriad services related to franchising, distribution, licensing, antitrust issues, and more.

More information about each of Offit Kurman’s newest attorneys in New York can be found below:

Michael Conway's practice is primarily focused on litigation on behalf of financial institutions, companies, officers, and directors in the areas of special asset recovery litigation, traditional civil litigation, and bankruptcy. A large portion of his practice involves advising clients in franchise and distribution matters such as bankruptcy filings and their effects on franchisor–franchisee relationships, as well as trademarks and other intellectual property rights. He is the author of the American Bar Association’s The Bankruptcy Handbook for Franchisors and Franchisees, the only full-length book substantively analyzing the intersections of bankruptcy and franchise law. Mr. Conway frequently represents franchisors in disputes arising from the termination of franchise agreements and in drafting separation agreements with franchisees and in actions relating to non-payment of franchise fees. He has litigated numerous franchise-related disputes ranging from wrongful termination cases to representing franchisees in wage and hour class action matters.

Mr. Conway has also successfully represented securities clients in swaps terminations and clawback actions in bankruptcy, class action matters, and single-plaintiff securities fraud court actions, as well as in regulatory matters before FINRA and the SEC. He regularly defends broker-dealers, fund managers, and registered representatives in adversary proceedings filed in the bankruptcy courts or in state court actions for provisional relief, including both prosecution and defense of actions to enforce non-compete and/or non-disclosure agreements. He has successfully represented major institutions in “bet the company” litigation, obtaining dismissals of numerous matters including a securities class action seeking to recover $186 billion under an “improper cash sweep” theory and a mortgage-backed securities action seeking approximately $1.8 billion for alleged underwriting deficiencies.

A veteran trial attorney, Mr. Conway has litigated matters in venues across the United States. In addition to countless complex commercial litigation matters filed as arbitrations or in the state and federal civil court systems, Mr. Conway has represented clients in bankruptcy cases as both debtor’s counsel and creditors’ counsel, or as special litigation counsel for debtors in cases venued in New York, Delaware, Ohio and France, as well as official and ad hoc committees of unsecured creditors, bondholders and employees in cases venued in New York, Delaware, Montana, and California.

Thomas Pitegoff is an internationally recognized leader in the franchise and distribution field. He drafts franchise agreements and disclosure documents, obtains state franchise registrations, and provides ongoing franchise compliance counseling services. He also represents foreign franchisors in their U.S. business and U.S. franchisors expanding abroad. Mr. Pitegoff additionally handles business transactions outside of the field of franchising and distribution. His transactional work includes license and distribution agreements, service agreements, information technology agreements and intellectual property counseling. He also acts as general U.S. counsel for foreign companies and he provides outside general counsel services for U.S. companies.

Mr. Pitegoff is a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association’s Business Law Section, and former Chair of the Section’s Legislative Committee and Franchise Law Committee. He is a former member of the Governing Committee of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Franchising and a former editor of the Franchise Law Journal.

A prominent writer on franchise and distribution legal matters, Mr. Pitegoff has authored or co-authored articles and contributions for the American Bar Association and in Modern Restaurant Management, Core Compass, QSR, Food & Drink Magazine, Crain’s New York Business, and other industry publications. His notable works include the New York law chapter in the book Exemptions and Exclusions under Federal and State Franchise Registration and Disclosure Laws (American Bar Association 2017) and the chapter on “Franchise Relationship Laws” in the book Fundamentals of Franchising, 3rd Edition (American Bar Association 2008).

Mr. Pitegoff has received numerous honors, such as recognition in Metro New York Super Lawyers by Law & Politics magazine, Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Preeminent Top-Rated Lawyers, and Who’s Who Legal (London). He has been named a “Legal Eagle” by Franchise Times magazine (2009–2011, 2014–2019), listed among The Best Lawyers in America for Franchise Law since 2013, and was recently named Best Lawyers' 2020 Franchise Law "Lawyer of the Year" for New York, NY.

Stephen Forte focuses his practice in the areas of business, financial services, and real estate litigation in the federal, state, and appellate courts in New York and Connecticut, as well as other jurisdictions, including the New Jersey federal courts. His business litigation practice includes representing clients in actions involving business torts, corporate disputes, employment matters, breach of contract claims, breach of fiduciary duty claims, trade secrets, and trademark infringement.

In the area of financial services and real estate litigation, Mr. Forte’s practice involves the representation of national and regional banking clients and credit unions in workouts, foreclosures, bankruptcy, and title disputes. He also handles matters related to federal and state consumer protection statutes and regulations, including the Truth in Lending Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and Federal Regulation Z.

Additionally, Mr. Forte advises clients on emerging regulations and laws in the area of data privacy and cybersecurity. He also represents small to mid-sized companies and startup companies in corporate and franchise matters.

For more information about Offit Kurman’s legal services and the new attorneys joining the firm in New York, visit offitkurman.com.

Readers are also encouraged to learn about and register for Mr. Pitegoff’s upcoming NYSBA Continuing Legal Education (CLE) presentation, “Drafting Licensing, Franchise and Distribution Agreements,” on September 16. For more information, click here.

ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN

Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing full-service law firms in the United States. With 14 offices in seven states, and the District of Columbia, and growing by 50% in two years through expansions in New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina, Offit Kurman is well-positioned to meet the legal needs of dynamic businesses and the individuals who own and operate them. For over 30 years, we’ve represented privately held companies and families of wealth throughout their business life cycles.

Whatever and wherever your industry, Offit Kurman is the better way to protect your business, preserve your family’s wealth, and resolve your most challenging legal conflicts. At Offit Kurman, we distinguish ourselves by the quality and breadth of our legal services—as well as our unique operational structure, which encourages a culture of collaboration and entrepreneurialism. The same approach that makes our firm attractive to legal practitioners also gives clients access to experienced counsel in every area of the law.

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