Ronald S. Safer manages complex, high-stakes cases with a focus in white collar crime and civil litigation.
Ron has successfully represented companies and individuals in matters such as accounting fraud, tax fraud, anti-kickback violations, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), environmental violations, and securities fraud. He represents clients before the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and numerous state agencies.
When Ron takes a case, he pores over the facts and analyzes the complex concepts involved until he can shape them into clear, effective arguments. His impressive track record demonstrates his ability to command a courtroom while maintaining an unflinching commitment to his clients. Above all else, he genuinely cares about his work. “My clients’ problems become my problems,” he says.
His vast federal and state trial experience, paired with his unwavering work ethic and approachable demeanor, allows Ron to bring extraordinary value to his clients.
In 1989, Ron joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago and rose to Chief of the Criminal Division, successfully prosecuting more than one hundred defendants during his tenure. He prosecuted cases ranging from complex financial frauds and public corruption to sophisticated continuing criminal enterprises. He conducted dozens of jury trials and argued many significant cases to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 1999, Ron returned to private practice with a Chicago-based national law firm. He served as managing partner from 2005-2015.
Hon. Thomas A. Flannery, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (1983–1984)
Ron has represented corporations and individuals before numerous state and federal courts and agencies in a range of matters.
- Obtaining a jury verdict in favor of a major national bank, in a matter alleging the bank had tortiously interfered with an investment company’s agreement to buy a futures commission merchant. The plaintiff claimed damages exceeding $200 million. The jury returned a defense verdict and awarded the bank more than $1.1 million on a counterclaim that sought $1 million.
- Representing a property owner in a jury trial arising from contribution claims with respect to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake, but the jury ruled in favor of Ron’s client.
- Representing a public company in arbitration where Ron’s client was accused of breach of a distributorship contract and fraud. The plaintiff claimed damages of tens of millions of dollars. The arbitrators found for Ron’s client and awarded nothing to the plaintiff.
- Obtaining a verdict in favor of a major financial institution in a claim that it discriminated against a high-level employee.
- Obtaining a jury verdict in favor of the City of Chicago in a claim that it discriminated against a city employee.
- Obtaining an eight-figure settlement for a major retail chain in civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and indemnity agreement claims litigation involving a manufacturer of its products.
- Obtaining a nationwide injunction against the United States Attorney General and his attempt to condition receipt of grant funds on violating its Welcoming City Ordinance.
As an accomplished defense lawyer, Ron is able to help clients fight the odds against them in criminal prosecutions. He helps corporations and individuals alike avoid criminal prosecution.
- Convincing the U.S. Department of Justice not to file criminal charges against a trading company investigated for alleged market manipulation.
- Convincing the government not to charge a multinational company alleged to have bribed officials to obtain contracts.
- Convincing the government not to charge the CFO of a public company in alleged accounting fraud.
- Convincing the government not to charge a paving company in fraud investigation.
- Representing Mark S. Kipnis, a co-defendant in the highly publicized United States v. Conrad Black, et. al. case. Mr. Kipnis was the only defendant in this case who did not spend a single day in prison.
- Representing P. Nicholas Hurtgen, a former Senior Managing Director of Bear Stearns & Co., indicted for allegedly aiding and abetting a scheme to extort Edward Hospital. All seven counts against Mr. Hurtgen were eventually dismissed.
Ron’s experience as a federal prosecutor, coupled with his accomplishments in his former firm’s White Collar Crime and Corporate Compliance Group, position him as a skilled and effective leader of internal investigations for his clients.
- The Audit Committee of the Board of Directors of a publicly held company in investigating alleged violations of the corporation’s travel and entertainment policy by a senior corporate officer.
- A multinational corporation in assessing whether foreign employees had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
- A publicly held corporation in investigating whether the corporation illegally manipulated futures markets.
- A public school system in assessing whether the school principal acted inappropriately.
Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1983, magna cum laude
University of Pennsylvania, B.A., Economics, 1979, Wharton School, History Faculty of Arts and Sciences, cum laude
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Trial Bar)
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow
Center on Wrongful Convictions, Executive Committee
Honors & Awards
Ranked by Chambers as a Band 1 Lawyer in Litigation, White Collar Crime and Government Investigations. Sought out for his expertise in handling and conducting high-stakes cases, with a strong focus on issues such as tax and securities fraud and FCPA violations. Interviewees say he “can do everything at a high level.” They label him “one of the best attorneys in the city.” One source states: “He’s the guy I would hire if I was in trouble.”
Chambers & Partners (2006-2009, 2011-2017)
Justice John Paul Stevens Award 2017
Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation
2017 Chicago Criminal Defense: White-Collar “Lawyer of the Year”
The Best Lawyers in America
Best Lawyers® (Bet-The-Company Litigation, 2017-2018; Criminal Defense: White-Collar, 2009-2018)
Illinois Leading Lawyer
Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2003-2018)
Top 10 White Collar Criminal Defense
Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2014-2018)
Top 250 Business Lawyers in Illinois
Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2015-2018)
Top 100 Business Lawyers in Illinois
Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2009-2018)
Illinois Super Lawyers
Thomson Reuters (2005-2018)
Top 100 Illinois Super Lawyers
Thomson Reuters (2008-2011, 2014-2017)
Client Service AllStar
BTI Consulting Group (2014-2015)
Who’s Who Legal
Business Crime Defense Law Business Research (2013-2015)
Volunteer of the Year
Uhlich Children's Advantage Network (2014)
Euromoney's Benchmark Litigation (2009-2013)
Who's Who in Chicago Business 2012
Law, Crain's Chicago Business
Honored by the Center on Wrongful Convictions
For His Dedication to the Julie Rea Harper Case
Who's Who Legal Illinois
Law Business Research Limited (2007-2008)
Peer Reviewed AV® Preeminent™
Martindale-Hubbell (Since 1997)
Ron has lectured for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on various subjects, including the use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), complex financial frauds and numerous areas of trial practice.
Pro Bono Activities
After working at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for ten years, Ron returned to private practice with the goal of making pro bono service an even more essential feature of his firm. He has participated in the exoneration of individuals who had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, including:
- Eddie Bolden was convicted of a double homicide despite being innocent of those crimes. Ron obtained relief from the Court of Appeals and the trial court in reversing Mr. Bolden’s convictions.
- Christopher Coleman had been incarcerated for almost 20 years for crimes he did not commit. After Chris received a new trial, Ron led a team that persuaded the State to dismiss the charges. Ron also led the team that obtained a Certificate of Innocence for Chris in a contested hearing.
- Charles Johnson was convicted of a double murder he did not commit. Ron was part of a team that convinced the State Charles was innocent and to drop its prosecution of him.
- Jonathan Barr was exonerated by DNA evidence of a murder for which he spent nearly 20 years behind bars. Ron represented Mr. Barr against a charge that he committed another offense while awaiting trial for that wrongful conviction. A Cook County court granted the State’s nolle prosequi motion and dismissed all criminal charges pending against Mr. Barr.
- Kristine Bunch, a mother wrongfully convicted in 1996 of murdering her 3-year-old son, who died when their mobile home burned in an accidental, electrical fire. In 2012, Ron convinced the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse her conviction. Ms. Bunch was released on bond, and the State decided not to re-try her.
- Bennie Starks, a man sentenced to 60 years in prison for criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery despite dubious evidence. Mr. Starks was eventually freed after proper analysis of DNA evidence, and he is now free from further prosecution thanks to two separate Appellate Court victories briefed and argued by Ron.
- Julie Rae Harper, a mother wrongfully indicted in 2000 for the murder of her 10-year-old son. Ron represented Ms. Rae Harper in her 2006 retrial, in which the jury found her not guilty.
Civic and Charitable Memberships
The Commercial Club of Chicago
UCAN, President’s Board