Joseph EsmontBaker & Hostetler LLP, Cleveland, OH
JOE is a partner with BakerHostetler, which he joined straight out of law school in 2008, two weeks before Lehman Brothers collapsed. His practice includes both plaintiff- and defense-side litigation, restructuring and transactional work. He is particularly experienced in the energy and utilities industries, in cases of mass torts and fraud, and in the impact of bankruptcy on environmental obligations. Among his representations, he represented the Official Committee of Tort Claimants for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in the sixth-largest bankruptcy case filed in the U.S., in connection with a $60 billion restructuring that resulted in a settlement valued at $13.5 billion on behalf of victims of California wildfires.
Joe’s early bankruptcy career was dominated by fraud cases and bankruptcy-related litigation, especially the Fair Finance Ponzi scheme, where he served as the lead investigator for the chapter 7 trustee in investigating a $200M+ scam, including serving as a liaison with state and federal agencies and developing two major lawsuits. Around 2014, his career transitioned to include a significant amount of debtor-side chapter 11 practice, especially in the oil and gas and utilities spheres, where he developed expertise in handling environmental administrative claims. He’s also had significant roles representing debtors in the Black Elk Energy, Limetree Bay Services, Dakota Plains Holdings and Entrust Energy bankruptcies, among others.
In his younger years, Joe was best known for reading the encyclopedia for fun and as a county wrestling champion. He is listed in Lawdragon 500 Leading U.S. Bankruptcy and Restructuring Lawyers for 2023, and he chaired the Turnaround Management Association’s Global Nextgen Committee in 2020, on which he served for five years. He also served on TMA Global’s special Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee in 2020 and has served on the Global Awards Committee since 2021. For seven years, he volunteered for TMA Northern Ohio’s/Cleveland Bar Association’s 3Rs program, which provides career-planning and legal rights education to Cleveland-area high school students. In addition, he has served on ABI’s Young & New Members Committee since 2020 on both the committee’s newsletter and programming, and he is a member of the NCBJ Nextgen Class of 2017. He is a contributor to Lexis Practical Guidance (2022) and the Collier Bankruptcy Practice Guide (2018-present), and he serves as an editorial board member of Commercial Bankruptcy Litigation. He also has planned conferences in Chicago and Toronto with hundreds of attendees and developed community service events, including practicing English fluency with refugees resettled in Chicago and serving meals at a women’s shelter.
“[Joe] is willing to go toe-to-toe with an adversary when needed, but he is also a consensus-builder who will roll up his sleeves and put in the difficult work to get to a collective solution.”