Attorney and Client Interaction


Expertise

Commercial Litigation

Litigation is almost never a first option in resolving any dispute, but sometimes, if negotiations and other conflict resolution options have failed, litigation becomes the only remaining option. When pursuing or defending a lawsuit is necessary. Stefani & Stefani can be relied upon to obtain results. Our attorneys are skilled in litigating business disputes of many varieties, including breach of contract claims, collection of significant debts, real estate disputes, shareholder derivative suits, minority shareholder oppression suits, suits for an accounting by business partners, suits for interference with contract, and many others. Stefani & Stefani has a reputation for being willing and capable of taking a dispute to trial when necessary. Because of our willingness to try cases, we are often able to negotiate a favorable settlement for our clients without the necessity of a trial.

Tax Planning

Tax planning is the discipline of structuring transactions, both large and small, in a way that takes advantage of favorable tax treatment under federal and state tax laws. For example, tax planning comes into play in deciding whether to purchase or lease a commercial building or a piece of equipment in the name of the client's business or to form a separate entity to purchase it and have that new entity lease the building or equipment to the principal business. Disposing of major assets is another example of how tax planning may save a client money.

Often, unnecessary taxes are incurred when real property is sold when a tax-free exchange would have been possible and feasible and would have delayed the tax on the gain from the sale for years into the future. Obviously, the ways tax planning can minimize the tax consequences to businesses and to individuals entering into transactions can be as varied as the types of transactions undertaken and the tax code itself. So the next time you contemplate entering into a business investment or personal transaction, consider discussing it with a Stefani & Stefani attorney during the planning stage.

Appeals

Stefani & Stefani has handled appeals for our own clients as well as for the clients of other attorneys in the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court. Some of the appeals we have handled have not only been successful for our clients, they have established legal precedent that has proven to be of significant value in clarifying the law for other similarly situated individuals or businesses. We are proud of our record in the appellate courts, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss putting our appellate team to work on your case. The following are some of the significant appeals in which we have been involved.

Whistleblower & Wrongful Discharge Litigation

Typically, whistleblowers have reported illegal activity on the part of their employer, resulting in their employer firing them or otherwise retaliating against them with righteous indignation and authoritative statements that they, the employer, did nothing wrong. Accusing a business or government agency of wrongdoing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a certain type of person to successfully take on these powerful organizations. We have been told by many of our whistleblower clients that they chose Stefani & Stefani to represent them because they believed that, with our law enforcement experience, we would not be intimidated or stonewalled by their employers or former employers.

Because whistleblowers are often taking on a powerful business or government agency, they require the assistance of an attorney who will not be intimidated by powerful employers. They require an attorney who knows how to dig out hidden facts, one who will not be stymied by the roadblocks thrown up by the employer to prevent the discovery of the employer's wrongful acts and discovery of the real reason the employee was discharged or discriminated against.

The attorneys at Stefani & Stefani have proven their ability to successfully represent whistleblowers in some of the hardest-fought cases. Two of the cases handled by Stefani & Stefani, Jiraki and Brown, received the highest mediation awards ever awarded in a wrongful discharge case in Michigan as of the date of those mediations. Dr. Jiraki and Gary Brown also set records for the highest whistleblower recoveries in Michigan after jury trials and appeals.

Obviously, these were extraordinary cases, but they show that Stefani & Stefani has the expertise required to successfully represent whistleblowers and others who are wrongfully discharged.
Stefani & Stefani have not only handled many wrongful discharge cases successfully at the trial stage, we have handled several through the appellate courts. Several of the cases that we have briefed and argued in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court have resulted in favorable changes in the way the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act is interpreted.

Business Planning

Business planning involves advising clients on the most advantageous way to structure a business, to acquire and hold major assets for the business, and to attract and retain key employees. For example, we help clients decide whether a business should be established as a proprietorship, a corporation, a partnership, or a limited liability company. The choice of entity depends on the nature of business activity, the risks involved in the activity, the role financing will play in the activity, the future plans of the client, and other important issues.

Business planning also encompasses advising existing business owners on how best to provide for the trouble-free management of the business by the avoidance of disputes among co-owners and between the owners and employees. The business planner can provide advice to the business owner on deciding whether real property, machinery, and equipment should be acquired by purchase or lease and whether they should be owned by the business itself or by a separate entity. Designing employee benefit plans such as stock options and phantom ownership plans in order to attract and retain key management is also the province of the business planner.

Finally, planning for the retirement, death, or disability of an owner or key member of management is an aspect of business planning that is essential to the security of the business owner's family and the preservation of the value of the business should the services of the owner or key manager no longer be available to the business. Although there are other aspects of business planning, those mentioned above are some of the more important ways Stefani & Stefani can be of assistance to you or your business.

Significant Appellate Cases:

Sylvania Silica Co. v. Berlin Township, 186 Mich.App. 73; 463 N.W.2d 129 (1990)
Sylvania Silica Co. v. Berlin Township, 448 Mich. 993; 534 N.W.2d 522 (1995)
Kalil Jiraki, M.D. vs Wayne County, WL 33409643 (Mich. App. 2000)
Heckmann vs Detroit Police Chief, 267 Mich. App. 480; 705 N.W. 2d 689 (2005)
Gary Brown, et al. vs Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, et al., 271 Mich. App. 692;723 N.W. 2d 464 (2006)
Gary Brown, et al. vs Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, 479 Mich. 589; 734 N.W. 2d 514 (2007)

Investigation

We learned years ago that it was not wise to rely entirely on investigations conducted by our clients' human resources personnel, insurance company claims adjusters, or private investigators. As a result, we developed our own investigative capabilities. We employ two private detectives, each with his or her specialized investigative skills. In addition to our own investigators, we have access to some of the best private investigators in the business. Through Mike Stefani's contacts in the Society of Former FBI Agents and his police contacts, we have the ability to direct investigations throughout the United States and many foreign countries. As a result, we have conducted confidential investigations for major businesses and some of the most prominent families in the United States.

Estate Planning

The advantage of the personal service offered by Stefani & Stefani is probably most apparent in the estate planning area. The knowledge acquired by us concerning a client's often-unique family situation is especially useful in helping the client decide on the type of trust or trusts that is right for his or her family, as well as what provisions to include in that trust or trusts. Stefani & Stefani's approach to estate planning is to simplify the process for our clients. Because our clients know our capabilities and qualifications — and because most of them do not have the time to attend estate planning seminars to learn all the complexities of the law of trusts, state death taxes, and the Federal Estate Tax — they are often content to accept our recommendations as to which alternatives best meet their families' needs.

Real Estate

We have represented our clients in a large variety of real estate transactions including simple leases, complex leases, sales and purchase (both simple and complex), real estate financing, licensing agreements, easements, zoning and land-use matters, environmental issues, tax-free exchanges, three-party tax-free exchanges, deferred tax-free exchanges, reverse tax-free exchanges, subdividing land, and assembling of multiple parcels. Stefani & Stefani also actively manage a number of commercial buildings for its clients. Because of the depth of our experience in the commercial real estate area, we are capable of assisting clients with most real estate transactions.