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Automotive

Shift your representation into high gear.

Our multi-disciplined team has the drive and depth to take on any legal automotive challenge. We’ve been serving automotive clients for over 20 years from our base at the center of the U.S. automotive and manufacturing sector. We are thoroughly familiar with our clients’ business and the competitive, highly regulated climate in which they operate. Our invaluable insight, combined with deep industry knowledge, empowers OEMs, suppliers and equity firms from around the globe to not simply manage through or survive, but also position themselves to thrive in today’s global marketplace.

Automotive Contacts

  • Patricia Burgess Attorney Photo
    Patricia Kirkwood Burgess

    Member

    Florence, KY

    Lexington, KY

  • Kelley M. Haladyna Profile Image
    Kelley M. Haladyna

    Member

    Ann Arbor, MI

AutoConnect Returns Spring 2022

A one-day conference offering a platform for stakeholders across all segments of the automotive industry to engage in dialogue concerning the year’s most exciting and alarming trends. No other industry event draws on such broad-based expertise while offering attendees exclusive networking opportunities to truck with the very best in the automotive business.

Areas of Focus

One-stop auto shop. Unstoppable drive.

Acquisitions, Mergers & Startup Activity

There’s an art to auto industry transactions — we call it adding value.

Suppliers, OEMs and equity investors need legal counsel that combines in-depth industry knowledge with the finesse to craft mergers and acquisitions in ways that mitigate risk and maximize opportunity. Our experienced automotive M&A attorneys have helped negotiate and structure complex transactions up and down the auto supply chain for decades. No matter which side of the deal we are on, we dig deep and ask the right questions to ensure our clients’ best interests are achieved. From the purchase price and payment terms to warranties and covenants, our attorneys efficiently navigate negotiations, ensuring critical issues are explored and resolved.

  • Robert V. Sartin Profile Image
    Robert V. Sartin

    Chairman

    Nashville, TN

Automotive Antitrust

High stakes require highly knowledgeable representation.

Our attorneys bring deep industry knowledge to the world of antitrust law, where there are few black-and-white rules that can be equally applied to different situations. We have represented clients up and down the supply chain on everything from price fixing and price discrimination to market allocation and monopolization. Our years of automotive experience translate to sophisticated business analysis.

From products to strategies and market dynamics, we know how automotive companies compete. We help our clients compete while mitigating the risks of antitrust violations, which can carry hefty fines and — in offenses like price fixing — jail time. We work with companies to minimize the risk of antitrust litigation before entering into agreements, or proactively develop antitrust compliance programs to protect against future monopolization, tying and exclusive dealing lawsuits.

  • Matthew C. Blickensderfer Profile Image
    Matthew C. Blickensderfer

    Practice Group Leader

    Cincinnati, OH

Commercial Litigation

Experience that goes the distance — from risk management to trial.

The automotive industry is as complex as it is global. Our commercial litigation attorneys know the auto industry inside and out, and we work quickly to help clients avoid and resolve business conflicts, allowing them to remain focused on running their companies. When legal action is unavoidable — whether defending breach of contract claims or securing the supply chain through injunctive actions — our high-stakes, multi-jurisdictional trial experience empowers us to effectively achieve our clients’ desired goals.

  • Kelley M. Haladyna Profile Image
    Kelley M. Haladyna

    Member

    Ann Arbor, MI

Connected Car Technology

Helping clients innovate as technology accelerates.

Today’s cars are more connected than ever, making contracts between OEMs, vendors and suppliers that much more complex. And while existing laws have yet to catch up to the technology, deep experience is essential to navigating this next frontier. Our experienced team works with all the key players in the auto space to mitigate risks, maximize opportunity and fully deliver on their enterprise technology initiatives.

This includes helping SaaS and PaaS companies and suppliers identify ways to monetize their new technologies, including how to package these services and whether to sell directly to OEMs or work with Tier suppliers. We also make introductions to cutting-edge software or platform developers and work with clients to successfully integrate new technologies into the existing infrastructure or supply chain.

What sets our team apart is that we take a holistic view of all parties involved — and how they fit into the larger automotive supply chain — when drafting contracts based on current contracting principles as well as to address the regulatory overlay for this new, more connected landscape.

  • Terrence J.L. Reeves
    Terrence J.L. Reeves

    Office Member-in-Charge

    Ann Arbor, MI

  • Nilesh (Neal) Patel Profile Image
    Nilesh (Neal) Patel

    Member

    Cincinnati, OH

Environmental Law

Helping companies comply as they innovate.

Our automotive environmental team helps OEMs and suppliers proactively comply with a range of regulations, from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. As Tier suppliers and OEMs continually innovate, they must understand how their new installations, expansions, products, systems, facilities and more will impact the environment and proactively develop strategies to mitigate those impacts.

Before you modify operations, we can quickly and effectively evaluate the impact on compliance and environmental regulations, providing innovative solutions that maximize operational flexibility, minimize waste and avoid unnecessarily stringent permit conditions when possible. We will also walk the plant floors, review all manufacturing operations, permits, record keeping and reporting and applicable standards to ensure systems are in place to maintain current and ongoing compliance.

Should a company face a state or federal Notice of Violation, our team can help determine the options and the best course of action in order to avoid any production disruption, minimize exposure and provide counsel every step of the process.

  • William D. Hayes Profile Image
    William D. Hayes

    Member

    Cincinnati, OH

Global Services

The auto supply chain is global, and we’re everywhere our clients need us.

Our team works with clients in a wide range of cross-border legal matters. No two cultures are alike, and our team includes native speakers of the languages where many of our clients work and operate, as well as an extensive network of foreign attorneys who work closely with us in the auto sector.

By understanding vast differences in cultures, language and legal systems, we can quickly and effectively help clients resolve supply chain issues, create enforceable rights and duties and deal with complex global business matters.

We work as part of a client’s team to mitigate risks and maximize profitable growth and market expansion. Whether it’s importing or exporting goods, our international trade and customs team provides strategic planning to help minimize duties, fines and risks.

  • Kai Bitter Profile Image
    Kai Bitter

    Member

    Cincinnati, OH

Immigration

Helping global automotive companies get the right professionals in the right places at the right times.

Our decades of experience serving hundreds of automotive OEMs and suppliers, including numerous Japanese-owned U.S. subsidiaries, have given us an in-depth understanding of the industry’s inner workings, including its global workforce mobility requirements, procedures, timelines and more. Our attorneys are fluent German, Japanese and Spanish speakers, with solid relationships in both key and developing markets around the globe.

We provide a full range of automotive inbound and outbound immigration services as well as I-9 compliance training and government enforcement actions. No matter where our clients are located, we integrate seamlessly with our clients’ overseas professionals, adapting and honoring their cultural norms and regional practices.

  • Haifeng Hong Profile Image
    Haifeng Hong

    Member

    Louisville, KY

    Dallas, TX

    Houston, TX

Labor Relations & Workforce

Working hard to ensure our clients have strong working relationships.

Whether you’re an OEM, supplier, or, like us, an automotive law firm, your team is one of the biggest factors driving your success. Our labor and employment team has walked the plant floors, worked extensively in the auto market and understands the unique challenges auto manufacturers and suppliers face every day — from unions and strikes to trade secrets and immigration issues. We counsel on the complete range of issues arising in the employer/employee context, from hiring, discipline and termination, to immigration, benefits, wage and hour, to safety, leave management and reasonable accommodation.

On a routine basis our attorneys draft and enforce employment agreements, joint-development agreements and restrictive covenants to protect your company’s information assets while maintaining employee talent and competitive positioning. We also have considerable experience handling collective bargaining, responses to grievances and labor arbitrations, as well as class and collective actions, including those brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  • Mekesha H. Montgomery Profile Image
    Mekesha H. Montgomery

    Industry Team Leader

    Nashville, TN

Lending & Commercial Services

Auto knowledge matters, especially in money matters.

Innovative companies must have capital to compete in today’s fast-changing marketplace, yet just-in-time inventory and extended payment terms can make it difficult for suppliers to finance new initiatives and product lines. We help clients overcome these challenges. Our deep understanding of the automotive industry, coupled with extensive experience handling financing transactions, means we are well-positioned to achieve our clients’ capital objectives.

Our attorneys work with suppliers to leverage existing assets to obtain funding based on the value of their inventory, equipment and receivables. Alternatively, we arrange “traditional” cash-flow loans, receivables sale transactions, as well as taxable and tax-exempt bonds to help bridge the gap created by many OEMs’ extended payment terms.

We also guide borrowers through the procedures and due diligence unique to each transaction, leveraging our industry and subject-focused knowledge to identify the right options, mitigate risks and successfully achieve our clients’ goals.

  • David S. Bence Profile Image
    David S. Bence

    Member

    Cincinnati, OH

Product Liability

Driven to deliver cost-efficient solutions to minimize clients’ trial exposure. 

We not only know vehicles from the inside out, having spent years walking plant floors, talking to engineers and exploring our clients’ operations from every angle. But we also know what it takes to try auto product liability cases. Conducting effective pretrial discovery is only part of the story. Our product liability attorneys can aggressively pursue trial if a settlement is not what our client wants.

At trial we work in tandem with company engineers and outside consultants to communicate technical concepts in clear, yet persuasive ways. All expert witnesses are not created equal: We leverage the nation’s leading experts in a wide range of scientific topics, including metallurgy, fire, restraint systems, biomechanics, glass and glazing and crashworthiness. We know how to effectively cross-examine expert witnesses to draw out their theories, persuade judges and juries and maximize favorable results.

With a thorough understanding of both the drivers behind our clients’ businesses as well as the scientific principles involved in auto product liability, our product liability team is well-equipped to take on wrongful death and serious personal injury cases in jurisdictions around the world.

  • Jeffrey J. Mortier Profile Image
    Jeffrey J. Mortier

    Member

    Indianapolis, IN

State & Local Tax

Experience adds up in tax strategies.

Income. Franchise. Federal. Real property. Tangible. Intangible. Sales and use. Excise. Motor vehicle. Fuel. Taxes in the auto industry come in many forms and quickly add up if not managed strategically. We work with suppliers and OEMs to ensure that tax considerations inform each and every business decision they make. We focus on providing solutions for our clients’ immediate tax needs as well as on proactive measures that will give them a degree of certainty with respect to long-term tax planning.

In addition to structuring and planning transactions, we help clients take advantage of government incentives and tax credits; collaborate with government relations firms to arrange off-the-books rulings and accommodations; and represent taxpayers in court during traditional audit defense, valuation disputes and other issues. On an international basis, numerous OEMs and suppliers have sought our counsel because we understand their cultural practices and can help them develop legally sound tax structures for reducing their tax burdens.

  • Mark F. Sommer Profile Image
    Mark F. Sommer

    Practice Group Leader

    Louisville, KY

Supplier Workouts & Bankruptcies

Only the strongest representation will do when suppliers are in distress.

Product recalls, new regulations, natural disasters, labor strikes and, of late, a global health crisis and its rippling economic effects. The industry at times seems one weak link away from catastrophic financial disruption. When the future of production is uncertain, our experience representing dozens of OEMs and Tier suppliers in these high-risk, highly complex matters is critical. Whether it’s restructuring or liquidating the supplier, in or out of bankruptcy, while protecting production, we help clients quickly understand the benefits and risks associated with all options.

Our deep bench includes former in-house counsel to international OEMs, along with a team skilled at negotiating with multiple parties with competing interests to determine the best course of action to minimize risk and stabilize the supply chain. Our experience ranges from distressed supplier workouts to many of the major bankruptcies over the last 20 years—including Collins and Aikman, Plastech, Chrysler, GM, Intermet, Revstone, Metavation, Exide and Chassix. We have navigated our clients through these uniquely complex challenges, time and time again.

  • Patricia Burgess Attorney Photo
    Patricia Kirkwood Burgess

    Member

    Florence, KY

    Lexington, KY

Supply Chain Management

No supply chain is immune to breaks — here’s how to strengthen yours.

Breakdowns in the global automotive supply chain are inevitable — from distressed suppliers to customs seizing parts at port. We’re skilled at helping OEMs and suppliers in times of crisis and equally skilled at mitigating risks and preventing crises from ever occurring. Our team includes lead outside counsel and former in-house attorneys for domestic and foreign OEMs, ensuring that there’s no learning curve for us when it’s time to negotiate deals between suppliers and OEMs.

We work with OEMs and suppliers to clearly communicate each party’s expectations to avoid conflicts and disputes in ways that, in turn, can clearly be communicated with other parties and departments. Our experience representing major players in purchasing, design, development or even the part-approval process allows us to quickly negotiate and draft terms and conditions as well as sourcing, tooling, confidentiality and exit agreements.

In addition, our team helps clients conduct facility audits to identify operational inefficiencies and develop detailed action plans to prevent red flags from becoming three-alarm fires. Whether it’s an OEM gauging the strength of its supplier network, or a supplier looking to identify weak links, our audits significantly curb risks up and down the supply chain.

  • Kelly W. Schulz Profile Image
    Kelly W. Schulz

    Member

    Louisville, KY

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