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Financial Detective Steve Lee Helps Notch $2.75 Billion Win for Discover Financial Services

Work of forensic investigator leads to third largest antitrust suit settlement in U.S. history

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 17, 2009 — In a world where financial scams, schemes, meltdowns and fraudsters dominate the headlines, Steve Lee ( knows when a business deal, transaction or activity simply doesn't pass the smell test. As a forensic investigator, Lee helped lay the groundwork for Discover Financial Services' landmark $2.75 billion antitrust settlement against credit card giants Visa and MasterCard in October 2008.

His firm, Steve Lee & Associates (SL&A) is among the foremost companies involved in worldwide high-stakes litigation and forensic accounting work. More like an economic swat team, this cadre of highly skilled professionals solve complex commercial matters in such areas as corporate and fraud investigations, loan workouts, insolvency and reorganization, electronic discovery, computer security, competitive intelligence, class action defense, transaction advisory services and theft of intellectual property. Headquartered in LA, with offices in NY, Chicago and London, SL&A has operated in more than 50 countries across the globe.

The Discover case turned on whether Visa and MasterCard had essentially blackballed their smaller rival from doing business with the big boys of banking – like Citibank and Bank of America. After Discover received a favorable ruling on restraint of trade, Lee and his team ideated and analyzed damages as a result of inequities in the marketplace. They also undermined the defendant's experts. To do all this, Lee re-created the financial landscape as if Discover had been able to freely compete alongside Visa and MasterCard. Rather than face a losing trial, at the 11th hour the credit card behemoths backed down, resulting in the third largest antitrust settlement in U.S. history.

"We worked principally with Jeff Shinder, Managing Partner of Constantine Cannon's New York office. They were litigation counsel to Discover," Lee says. "Jeff and his colleagues were brilliant and they understood how to use our work as a lethal and effective weapon in high stakes litigation."

Often times more CSI than CPA, Lee and his team frequently conduct covert operations and clever detective work that may include stings to recover ill-gotten assets. They follow the money and the people trying to steal or launder it. "Our success depends on having smart, creative people, sophisticated technology and perhaps most important," says Lee, "a highly developed sense of professional skepticism."

As the recent Madoff case attests, today's biggest heists don't involve gun-toting, ski mask-wearing desperados. Lee has delved into the shady business dealings of a real estate developer engaged in a scheme to defraud lenders out of hundreds of millions in financing. He has tracked down perpetrators of a Grand Canyon-size hole in the network security of a Fortune-50 financial services company that, if left unchecked, had the potential to ricochet throughout the entire economy. His firm has penetrated the thought-to-be-impenetrable data system of a gaming-industry giant, going so far as being able to leave a business card taped to the inside of a mission-critical computer in his client's network operations center.

The current economic morass comes as no surprise to Lee. "In the boom times, we saw lots of merger and acquisition due diligence work for banks, funds and Fortune 500 companies that was little more than a paper exercise to cover the buyer's tracks in doing transactions they had already decided to do," he says. "That policy was costly. The thrust at the time was to get the deal done and don't worry about the consequences. I fear that when this recession ends, it will be that way again."

News contact:

Cindy Rakowitz
(818) 783-3307

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