Stout Managing Director Jeff Mordaunt discusses his expertise in commercial litigation, trends in post-M&A disputes, his involvement with professional organizations, and more.

April 14, 2020

For over the last 25 years, Jeff Mordaunt has showcased his expertise among transaction disputes, forensic services, and many other types of litigation-related issues. We recently caught up with Jeff to discuss his experience working on such matters, where he foresees the sector going in the next decade, and his favorite music.

Jeff Mordaunt Expert Profile

Role at Stout

Managing Director: Disputes, Compliance & Investigations
National Head of Transaction Disputes
Oversees Commercial Litigation & Forensic Services practices in Ohio and Texas 

Education

 

M.B.A., Banking and Finance Case Western Reserve University
B.B.A., Accounting, Management and Business Pre-Law, Ohio University

Areas of Expertise

 

Commercial Litigation & Forensic Services
Transactional/Post M&A Disputes
Business Insurance Claims Consulting 

Focus Industries

 

Healthcare & Life Sciences
Consumer, Retail, Food & Beverage
Diversified Industrials
Business Services
Technology, Media & Telecommunications

Venues Testified In

 

Federal courts
Numerous state courts
American Arbitration Association, JAMS
Other private arbitration

Professional Memberships

 

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants:
Board Member, Federal Bar Association, Northern District of Ohio
Healthcare Finance Management Association
Health Care Special Advisory Group (past member)
OSCPA’s Litigation Support Services Committee, Cleveland Chapter (past member)

 
1. What types of clients do you work with?

Relative to commercial litigation, my clients typically consist of attorneys involved in various matters, both pre-litigation and in litigation. I also assist companies and their boards directly in fraud and forensic investigations.

Regarding transaction disputes, I have a variety of roles – I serve anywhere from consultant to financial expert, as well as an accounting neutral to decide certain types of disputes.

2. What types of commercial litigation matters do you spend most of your time with?

I spend most of my time involved in theft of trade secret, breach of restrictive covenants/non-competes, business insurance claims, such as business interruption and other types of policies, and general commercial litigation, such as breach of contract and business torts. That said, I do have experience in many other types of litigation, including health care disputes, shareholder disputes intellectual property (IP) disputes, food recall claims, defamation, and employment disputes. I also have significant experience in conducting forensic investigations on behalf of the boards of corporate clients.

3. What makes you particularly qualified as a commercial damages expert?

My experience in computing and rebutting damages in commercial litigation, as well as conducting forensic investigations, spans more than 25 years. I worked at two of the Big 4 accounting firms in this area prior to joining Stout and have testified numerous times. I believe the best value-add to our clients, however, is assisting attorneys in areas related to, but outside of, the actual calculation of damages. For instance, assisting with the preparation of document requests, fact witness depositions, and clients’ other areas of need truly gives me the opportunity to demonstrate our firm’s breadth of knowledge and skill sets in a very relevant way to a particular matter. I also believe the ability to jump in and navigate the complexities of a matter (i.e., your quick-start ability) is key in this profession, as you are sometimes getting up to speed on facts and industries very rapidly. The ability to handle, process, and digest large amounts of varied data is also extremely relevant. Finally, determining a way to present complex financial theories and calculations in a way that a jury or trier of fact can digest and understand, as well as keeping their attention, has been a central to my success.

4. What led you to focus your career in complex litigation?

In all reality, it was pure luck. I had been working in healthcare consulting and was constantly on the road. I was looking for a change, consisting of less travel but still providing consultative services. I was hired at PwC in its dispute, forensic, and bankruptcy group and fell in love with the work, which is akin to a problem-solving exercise. I love puzzles and digging into information and data, so this type challenge suits me very well. It has also provided me the ability to work with brilliant attorneys in a fast-paced, exciting, and ever-changing business, as each matter is unique. I’ve been doing it ever since.

5. You have a lot of experience specifically in the post-M&A disputes space. How did that focus come about? Have you noticed any trends in this field?

I’ve always worked on post-M&A or transaction disputes between buyers and sellers throughout my career. These consist primarily of working capital, earnout, and reps and warranties disputes, as well as reps and warranties insurance (RWI) claims. Starting about 10 years ago, I made it a true focus area of mine and currently serve as Stout’s head of the Transaction Disputes practice nationally. We’ve built a substantive dedicated team focused on these types of matters that has become a leader in the space given our technical ability and specialized knowledge.

For working capital disputes, earnout disputes, and breach of representations and warranties matters, I will serve as a consultant or financial expert to the buyer or seller. I also will serve as the accounting neutral to decide working capital and earnout matters.

For RWI matters, I most frequently serve as a consultant to the insurance carriers to vet claims put forth by the buyers in the transaction, though I do work for buyers, as well. Most of these matters reach resolution, but we have also testified at arbitration related to RWI claims. We were able to get into the RWI industry fairly early and are one of the top firms in the space having worked on more than 70 RWI claims to date.

6. How do you envision complex commercial litigation and/or post-M&A disputes changing in the next 5-10 years?

There is always evolution. I believe that complex commercial litigation will be fairly steady unless we experience another recession. There are always business disputes for one reason or another. Regarding transaction disputes, as long as the deal market is strong, there will always be a need for our services. Even if there is a recession, I would expect our transaction disputes work to potentially increase as I would expect an increase in earnout disputes, breach of representation and warranties matters, RWI claims, and even material adverse effect matters.

Technology will also continue to help us innovate to provide better value-added services to our clients. Stout’s Artificial Intelligence & Digital Transformation practice is an example of just this facet. Furthermore, the globalization of the needs for our services continues to increase, which leads to additional complexities, whether stemming from an IP dispute with a Chinese company to potentially conflicting accounting guidance (i.e., IFRS versus GAAP).

7. What was one of your more notable cases and why?

While I can’t name specific clients, I have worked on a number of the largest RWI claims ever filed in the United States, some with more than $100 million at issue. Often these matters not only consist of alleged breaches of financial representations, but other representations, as well, such as material customer, material supplier, sufficiency of assets, compliance with laws, and ordinary course representations. These are often very complex issues involving multiple parties and carriers. Our advice is impartial and independent, and we work with all parties to try to resolve these claims. This includes working directly with the opposing side and their experts, conducting site visits, and mediation. We truly excel in RWI matters and their often-unique circumstances. It’s a place where we can bring all our skill sets to bear – technical accounting, forensics, and valuation – and testimony if needed.

8. Who has helped you get to where you are today in your career?

There have been a number of people that have helped me succeed in my career. [Stout Co-Founders] Craige Stout and Jeff Risius took a chance on me nearly 17 years ago to build a dispute consulting practice when I was very young in my career. My team, including co-Managing Directors Steve Buffo and Kevin Pierce, is the foundation that has helped me succeed, as the team is more important than any one individual.

I also have had many others from whom I have extracted helpful tidbits and incorporated them into my philosophy. My wife in particular, as well as my sons Travis and Drew, have been very instrumental and supportive. My son Drew, who has autism, always demonstrates and reminds me that regardless of how challenging any one thing may be, we all have an untapped bundle of inner strength and future potential. Last, I also utilized a professional coach a number of years ago, which significantly helped me fine-tune my approach to business, both professionally and personally.

9. You are heavily involved in several professional memberships. How has your time with these organizations shaped and/or assisted you in your career?

The right organizations can help you significantly. You may meet competitors and develop a good working relationship with them, which can result in a cross-referral network. It’s also enabled for me to find a way to give back to certain professions. For instance, for the Federal Bar Association of the Northern District of Ohio, I am the only non-attorney member, and I also participate in certain committees. In addition, Stout sponsors law student memberships as a way to give back to the profession that keeps many of us employed. Finally, such memberships lead to networks of people that can help you professionally and personally. I’m on the board of New Avenues to Independence, which is a non-profit focused on assisting adults with disabilities in a variety of ways, from housing assistance to gainful employment. I was recruited by this organization by my professional network, as I was identified as someone who understood and believed in their mission on a personal level, yet could make challenging decisions.

10. What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

It’s been watching those who have worked with me develop in their careers. I have told every member of my team from the day they started that my main job and focus is to get them ready for whatever the future holds – whether that is another place of employment or becoming a long-term employee of Stout. Simply put, I am here to help them succeed in their careers and life. If I don’t do that, I truly don’t believe I’m doing my job. Plus, it creates a very collaborative environment in which everyone raises each other up, and in essence becomes a family.

11. What interests do you have outside of work?

I spend a fair amount of time outside of work with my family. I’ve been married for 25 years and have two teenage boys, so I try to maximize quality time with them. Recently this has included lots of college tours. I also like to golf, shoot pool, throw darts, attend sporting events, do puzzles, and enjoy fine scotch and tequila. I’m involved with various charitable endeavors that my wife and I support. I’m also currently writing a fictional book with whatever time I have leftover.

12. What song/artist/genre of music/playlist is your favorite to listen to while working?

Believe it or not, I’m a hard rock/metal guy. So you may find anything from Pantera and Gojira to Stone Temple Pilots and I Prevail in my playlist.



 


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