Jeffrey Ernest Grell
Jeffrey E. Grell graduated magna cum laude from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with a B.A. in Government / International Affairs in 1987. Jeff then went directly to Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., and graduated magna cum laude in 1990.
From 1990 until 1993, Jeff was an associate with Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. From 1993 until 1997, Jeff was an associate with Leonard, Street and Deinard, and from January 1998 until April 2003, Jeff was a shareholder at that firm. From April 2003 until October 2008, Jeff was a solo practitioner engaged in general commercial litigation and consultation with attorneys and parties bringing / defending against Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act claims across the country. Jeff was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota from 2008 through 2010, when he left the Attorney General’s Office to create the law firm of Grell Feist PLC (www.grellfeist.com). Since 1999, Jeff has been an associate adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he teaches a course regarding the RICO Act.
Jeff has been a commentator and has been a source of information or cited for his expertise in racketeering law by various news organizations, including USA Today, the Associated Press, the Economist, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, NPR’s Voice of the Nation, Chicago Tribune, the BBC, U.S. News & World Report, the National Law Journal, the National Review, Investor’s Business Daily, Corporate Legal Times, Tech News World, the Boston Globe, Conde Nast Portfolio, La Presse (Montreal, Quebec), the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Cleveland Scene, the Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario), the Scotsman, Primera Hora (Puerto Rico), WCCO Radio (Minneapolis, Minnesota).
The Early Years: Jones Day & The BCCI Litigation
Jeff spent his first three years of practice at the office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Washington, D.C. Shortly after he began at Jones Day, the firm was retained to represent the federal trustee appointed to oversee the assets of the First American Bank. First American Bank was the U.S. bank secretly acquired by the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (“BCCI”). BCCI collapsed in the late 1980’s, causing billions of dollars in depositor losses, mostly in third-world countries. In the United States, no depositors lost money because the accounts were insured by the FDIC. Nonetheless, after First American collapsed and the depositors were paid by the FDIC, the FDIC obtained control of the bank’s assets and appointed the federal trustee.
The federal trustee hired Jones Day to sue BCCI, its officers, the officers of First American (Clark Clifford and Robert Altman), who allegedly conspired with BCCI to violate U.S. banking laws, and the actual and apparent shareholders of First American, who participated in a nominee scheme to conceal the bank’s true ownership interests from federal regulators.
The RICO Act was used by Jones Day to recoup the FDIC’s losses from BCCI and the related parties. At the time, no one at Jones Day was a “RICO expert,” so a team of attorneys were given the task of developing the federal trustee’s theories under the statute and drafting a complaint. Jeff was member of the BCCI team and worked on this project for about three years. In July 1993, Jones Day filed a 282 page RICO complaint in the United States District Count for the District of Columbia.
Jeff also participated in the defense of numerous actions brought against First American by depositors and other creditors. The BCCI litigation continued until the late 1990’s and generated numerous reported decisions. See e.g., Hamid v. Price Waterhouse, 51 F.3d 1411 (9th Cir. 1995); In re First American Corp., 1998 WL 148421 (S.D.N.Y. 1998); First American Corp. v. Price Waterhouse L.L.P., 988 F. Supp. 353 (S.D.N.Y. 1997); United States v. BCCI Holdings (Luxembourg), S.A., 980 F. Supp. 496 (D.D.C. 1997); First American Corp. v. Al-Nahyan, 948 F.Supp. 1107 (D.D.C. 1996).
The Road to the United States Supreme Court Runs Through Minneapolis
In September 1993, Jeff began working for Leonard, Street and Deinard in Minneapolis. At the time, civil RICO had not yet begun to blossom in the Midwest, but within a short time, Leonard Street encountered more and more clients being sued under RICO. Given his experience with the RICO Act at Jones Day, Jeff was given the opportunity to develop the defenses to the RICO claims being asserted against Leonard Street’s clients.
One of the highlights of Jeff’s career occurred in April 1997, when one of Leonard Street’s RICO cases was reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. See Klehr v. A.O. Smith Corp., 521 U.S. 179 (1997) (respondent’s brief at 1997 WL 126146). Leonard Street represented the defendant, A.O. Smith Corporation, the manufacturer of an allegedly defective agricultural silo known as the “Harvestore.” The issue presented by Klehr was when the statute of limitations on a federal civil RICO claim begins to run.
In Klehr, the Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations begins to run when a plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered its injury or when a plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered its injury and that the injury is caused by a pattern of racketeering activity, rejecting a third rule that postponed the running of the statute of limitations until the defendant’s last predicate act.
In a later decision, the Supreme Court settled on the principle that the statute of limitations on a RICO claim begins to run when a plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered its injury. Rotella v. Wood, 528 U.S. 549 (2000). The Harvestore Litigation has generated many other decisions concerning the RICO Act. See, e.g., Martin v. A.O. Smith Corp., 931 F. Supp. 543 (W.D. Mich. 1996); Valleyside Dairy Farms, Inc. v. A.O. Smith Corp., 944 F. Supp. 612 (W.D. Mich. 1995);Wight v. Agristor Leasing, 652 F. Supp. 1000 (D. Kan. 1987); Agristor Leasing v. A.O. Smith Corp., 634 F. Supp. 1208 (D. Kan. 1986).
Although widely recognized as a RICO consultant, Jeff’s twenty years of practice are not limited to RICO litigation. Jeff has extensive experience in the areas of general commercial litigation, consumer fraud, trade regulation, business torts, personal injury, and real estate litigation.
In 2006, Jeff was retained by members of a Kuwaiti Family, who sought advice relating to the management of a $4 billion fortune. Jeff spent over a week in Kuwait, mediating among family members, advising family members of their rights under U.S. law, and consulting with Kuwaiti regulators with regard to securities regulation and government corruption.
Jeff recently represented a Minnesota printing press sales company in litigaiton against an Iowa competitor and a Japanese manufacturer who allegedly made false statements to the Minnesota company’s customers and engage in other tortuous actions. Jeff also represented a Japanese manufacturer who sued its U.S. distributor in Japan for trade secret misappropriation. The U.S. distributor then brought suit in the United States for breach of contract. The U.S. claims were dismissed in favor of the Japanese action on the basis of forum non conveniens. In the past, Jeff represented the Mall of American when it was suited by a class of foreign-born taxi cab drivers who alleged racial, religious and ethnic discrimination. The cab drivers’ class claims were not certified and the remaining claims were dismissed on a motion for summary judgment.
Jeff has extensive experience representing plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury litigation. At one time, Jeff defended an in-line skate manufacturer in all of its product liability litigation east of the Mississippi. Jeff represents a plastic manufacturer with a large fleet of vehicles. Jeff has successfully settled claims arising out of accidents involving the fleet and, in one case, obtained a defense verdict from a jury who decided that the plaintiff intentionally ran her car off the road and was not forced off the road by the defendant’s vehicle. Jeff also represented a four year-old girl from Iowa who suffered third-degree burns to one-third of her body when her cotton dress caught fire after contact with a candle. The plaintiff sought more than $10 million in damages. The action settled favorably.
Assistant Attorney General
From 2008 through 2010, Jeff was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota. In that capacity, Jeff advocated on behalf of citizens adversely affected by a corporate dairy facility’s extensive violations of state ambient air quality standards. Jeff testified on behalf of the Minnesota Attorney General before a committee of the Minnesota Senate and before the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Jeff represented the State of Minnesota in various multi-state actions and investigations concerning satellite television, cholesterol-lowering pharmaceuticals, digital random access memory systems, and concert / event ticket sales.
Jeff was responsible for prosecuting internet-based debt relief companies who were operating in Minnesota without proper regulatory approval and who were engaged in multiple violations of Minnesota’s debt relief laws. Jeff returned hundreds of thousands of dollars to consumers injured by deceptive debt settlement practices.
Jeff also monitored the policies and practices of numerous credit card companies operating in Minnesota. Jeff reviewed their compliance with the Truth-in-Lending Act, Regulation Z, and the CARD Act. Jeff also prepared comments on behalf of the State of Minnesota regarding various rules proposed by the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission.
Jeff is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School where each Fall he teaches a course regarding civil RICO. Pursuant to his instruction, Jeff has compiled and edited a case book entitled, “Grell on RICO,” which is published by RICOACT.COM LLC. In 2000, Jeff launched this website.
Jeff has also authored several articles that analyze issues presented by the RICO Act, including:
Minnesota Business Torts Deskbook, Chapter 10 -RICO (3d Ed. March 2011).
Boyle v. United States: Does a RICO Association-in-Fact Enterprise Require Proof of an Ascertainable Structural Hierarchy Distinct from the Acts of Racketeering?, ABA Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases, Issue No. 4, Vol. 36, p. 216 (January 12, 2009).
Bridge v. Phoenix Bond & Indemnity Co.: Is a Plaintiff Required to Prove Reliance in Civil RICO Cases Predicated on Acts of Mail and Wire Fraud?, ABA Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases, Issue No. 7, Vol. 35, p. 321 (April 14, 2008).
Odom v. Microsoft Corp. : The Ninth Circuit Abandons the Enterprise / Racketeering Activity Distinction, www.ricoact.com (May 4, 2007).
Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Williams: The Eleventh Circuit Revisits RICO’s Application to the Employment of Illegal Aliens, www.ricoact.com (September 27, 2006).
Ideal Steel Supply Corp. v. Anza: The Second Circuit Determines that No Reliance is Necessary When a Defendant’s Alleged Acts of Mail and Wire Fraud Directly Cause Injuries to a Competitor or to the Target of the Scheme to Defraud, www.ricoact.com (July 2, 2004).
American Chiropractic Ass’n, Inc. v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc.: The Fourth Circuit’s Attempt to Achieve a Balance Between the Policies Reflected in the McCarran-Ferguson Act and RICO, www.ricoact.com (May 6, 2004).
Wagh v. Metris Direct, Inc.: The Ninth Circuit Wisely Dismisses Civil RICO Claims under Section 1962(a) and (b), but Affirms the “Result-Oriented” Racketeering Activity / Enterprise Distinction Under Section 1962(c), www.ricoact.com (Nov. 7, 2003).
Green Leaf Nursery v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Co.: The Eleventh Circuit Revisits the Proximate Cause Issues of Reliance and Intervening Third-Party Victims, www.ricoact.com (August 15, 2003).
Western Associates Limited Partnership v. Market Square Associates.: The D.C. Circuit’s Ill-Advised Attempt to Revive a Multiple Scheme Approach to RICO’s Pattern Requirement, Civil RICO Report (April 2001).
RICO: Businesses’ Best Weapon Against Bribes, Kickbacks, and Other Forms of Corporate Corruption, www.ricoact.com (December 2000).
RICO and Eminent Domain: Condemnation or Crime, www.ricoact.com (Nov. 2000).
United States v. Goldin Industries, Inc.: Is the Eleventh Circuit Trading One Conflict for Another?, Civil RICO Report (Sept. 1, 2000).
HMO’s Under RICO: Issues the Courts Are Likely to Confront, Civil RICO Report (May 10, 2000).
Exorcising RICO from Product Litigation, 24 WM. MITCHELL L. REV. 1089 (1998).
Many of these articles are available for download on the Articles page.