Peers and clients say:
"Michele is an excellent asset recovery lawyer"
"His trial experience stands out"
"He is frequently available for advice, which is always sound"
Michele Caratsch holds a law degree from the University of Zurich and a master of laws degree from New York University. He is admitted to the Zurich Bar and to the New York Bar and has extensive experience in the field of transnational civil and fraud litigation, leading specialist teams of lawyers, forensic accountants and investigators. Michele Caratsch is the co-executive director and Swiss representative of ICC FraudNet, a global network of leading attorneys in anti-fraud litigation.
What do you enjoy most about your role as an asset recovery expert?
On the client side, I derive special motivation from helping victims of fraud to trace and recover stolen assets or the proceeds of a fraudulent scheme; part of what drives me is the desire to correct the wrong that was done. The lawyer in me enjoys that asset recovery cases often require the deployment of legal instruments drawn from multiple legal branches, eg, a combination of insolvency law, criminal law and procedural law, mostly in a multijurisdictional and multicultural environment.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
In the past decade, asset recovery has developed into a quasi-separate discipline combining elements of civil litigation, including asset freezing and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, criminal law and international assistance in criminal matters, and debt collection and insolvency law. Given the frequent use of offshore vehicles by fraudsters, we are instructed in an increasing number of cases to obtain the recognition of foreign bankruptcy judgments. The recent simplification of the legal mechanism to repatriate assets from Switzerland to the foreign bankruptcy estate is greatly facilitating such asset recovery operations.
Which cases most stick in your mind and why?
Working as part of an international asset recovery team dealing with the fallout of the second biggest Ponzi scheme in history. The case included all aspects of an asset recovery effort, with combinations of criminal and insolvency law, fraud litigation and a flavour of regulatory law, all blended into a multijurisdictional environment.
To what extent have regulatory authorities’ reactions to covid-19 affected the work you are carrying out in your capacity as an asset recovery expert?
The Swiss authorities have reacted with a moderate response to the health crisis. Measures taken were temporary in nature and have mostly been phased out at this point. Some offices of the public prosecutor already suffered from a considerable case backlog before the crisis. This backlog has now increased, leading to further delays in certain investigations.
How does Baldi & Caratsch distinguish itself from the competition in terms of the asset recovery services it can provide?
Thanks to many years of expertise in the main fields of asset tracing and recovery, we are able to efficiently and effectively handle cases, whether we are instructed to freeze assets on a Swiss bank account, to obtain the recognition of a foreign bankruptcy judgments in Switzerland or to handle a case from initiation of proceedings all the way through to the enforcement stage. Our lawyers are at home in the courts of the German, French and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland, which offers us the ability to cover the entire territory of Switzerland. Finally, through our membership in ICC FraudNet we have direct access to a network of asset recovery experts in the most relevant jurisdictions in the world, allowing us to service our clients most efficiently and with real results.
How is technological innovation revolutionising the practice area at the moment?
Use of cutting-edge technology and AI has become an important tool in tracking the commission and operation of frauds and in identifying assets. Asset recovery practitioners must follow trends and remain ahead or at least on a level playing field with fraudsters, which in turn perfect their tactics by developing ever increasingly sophisticated schemes, aided by the use of the newest technologies.
The close analysis of social media and technological footprints has become an intrinsic part of this area of practice and has allowed the identification of the fraudsters and tracing of the assets.
In a recent case of romance scam, we were able to secure a freezing order in a foreign jurisdiction in close collaboration with foreign counsel, using as part of the evidence a reverse image search that allowed us to identify an Instagram account pirated by the fraudsters and the pictures misused to implement the scam.
What do you enjoy most about working in asset recovery?
On a professional level, I find it hugely rewarding to interact with enthusiastic experts in jurisdictions all over the globe; working in international teams of talented lawyers is broadening my horizon even after two decades of practising in this area.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as an asset recovery lawyer?
Asset recovery requires legal know-how, stamina, agility, client focus, understanding of foreign legal systems and of foreign cultures, staying constantly up to date with the latest technological developments, in order to always be one step ahead of the fraudsters, and a lot of creativity and passion.