Matthew C. McDermott

Matt McDermott focuses on civil and criminal trials and appeals. He has represented companies and their management in a broad expanse of industries, including financial services, biotechnology, health care, agriculture, energy, real estate, and manufacturing. He handles a wide variety of litigation matters, including complex contract disputes, white-collar criminal defense, shareholder litigation, banking and lending litigation, estate and trust litigation, and professional liability and licensure actions. He regularly appears before state and federal courts and administrative tribunals.

Mr. McDermott has been recognized in multiple litigation practice areas by numerous professional publications. The attorney rating service The Best Lawyers in America named him the 2020 "Lawyer of the Year" in Bet-the-Company Litigation in Des Moines, the second time he has received a “Lawyer of the Year” honor. The Best Lawyers in America has recognized him in four litigation categories, including Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Banking & Finance Litigation, and Bankruptcy Litigation. He is also recognized by Chambers & Partners USA as a top commercial litigator, which described him as “highly regarded by clients” and “a skilled litigator and a great communicator.”

Representative Work

  • Representing the State of Iowa (following recusal by the Iowa Attorney General) as lead counsel in two high-profile lawsuits filed by major public employee unions contesting the constitutionality of significant changes to Iowa’s public employee collective bargaining statute. After the district court granted summary judgment to the State in both lawsuits, Mr. McDermott successfully argued the appeal before the Iowa Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the statute.
  • Representing a large health insurer as lead counsel in litigation protesting the award of a contract to a competing bidder in the largest procurement in the history of the State of Iowa through which private insurers began management of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program. Following a five-day administrative trial, the Iowa Department of Human Services ruled in favor of the firm's client, finding the Department had improperly awarded a contract to the competing bidder. The ruling was affirmed on appeal.
  • Representing as lead counsel a minority shareholder in the first instance of a minority shareholder prevailing in a shareholder oppression action in Iowa since the Iowa Supreme Court put in place the “reasonable expectations” standard in 2013. The matter went to trial before the Iowa Specialty Business Court. The Court entered judgment in favor of the firm’s client in an amount (including pre- and post-judgment interest and attorney fees) in excess of $1.4 million. 
  • Representing as lead counsel a technology company in an eight-day federal civil jury trial involving crossing claims of breach of contract and fraudulent representation. The jury awarded the opposing party $0 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages notwithstanding the party's request for $1.6 million. 
  • Representing as lead counsel an Iowa State Representative in an election contest in the Iowa House of Representatives in January 2019. This was the first election contest in the Iowa Legislature in more than a quarter-century. The Iowa House of Representatives upheld the initial results of the election in favor of the firm’s client.
  • Representing a business owner in a federal white-collar criminal prosecution charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and nine counts of mail fraud. Mr. McDermott as lead counsel negotiated a plea agreement through which the business owner pleaded guilty to a technical violation of selling unregistered securities, with a dismissal of all other charges.
  • Representing as lead counsel a bank in a complicated action brought by a large group of condominium owners following the bank’s foreclosure, management, and later sale of a large condominium development. Mr. McDermott successfully argued a motion for summary judgment in the bank’s favor dismissing the lawsuit, and successfully argued the appeal before the Iowa Court of Appeals. Certain of the plaintiffs’ claims were separately tried in arbitration in which Mr. McDermott served as lead counsel. The arbitrator ruled in the bank’s favor and dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety.
  • Representing a prominent biotechnology and soybean genetics company in litigation in federal court against a major biotechnology company concerning alleged breach of a materials transfer agreement.
  • Representing Iowa’s largest student loan lender as lead counsel in litigation in bankruptcy court against a former borrower involving novel bankruptcy law claims. Following the trial, and immediately prior to re-start of the trial for the court’s consideration of new evidence, the case settled with the borrower dismissing all claims.
  • Representing a bank in a high-profile and complicated trial and appeal involving disputed rights to a multi-million dollar commercial property following the suicide of a large real estate developer. Following trial, the district court ruled in favor of the firm's client. The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling.
  • Representing an attorney in defense of an ethics complaint before the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board and hearing before the Grievance Commission concerning allegations of making a false statement to the court, failing to communicate with a client, and failing to comply with fee and trust account requirements.
  • Representing a large accounting firm as lead counsel in litigation in federal court involving ERISA claims and the accounting firm’s handling of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
  • Representing an organized consortium of Iowa businesses, trade associations, and individuals seeking approval of a construction permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa in litigation before the Iowa Utilities Board. The Board ultimately approved the construction permit, and on appeal the Iowa District Court and Iowa Supreme Court affirmed.
  • Representing a bank in a complicated breach of contract action involving several interrelated participation loans. The matter was settled after the oral argument on Mr. McDermott’s motion for summary judgment.
  • Representing a creator and distributor of high-end sports instructional videos in a copyright infringement action. The matter was settled after Mr. McDermott’s client filed a motion for summary judgment.
  • Representing a bank in defense of claims associated with discovery of a large embezzlement scheme perpetrated by a former customer’s bookkeeper causing alleged damages of nearly $600,000. During the jury trial, Mr. McDermott successfully argued a motion for directed verdict in the bank’s favor on all claims.
  • Representing a large accounting and investment services firm in a multi-faceted negligence and breach of contract action concerning advice in the period preceding the 2008 stock market crash. The matter was settled after Mr. McDermott successfully resisted a motion to amend the petition by the plaintiff.
  • Representing a bank as lead trial counsel in a complicated action brought by a competing bank concerning disputed rights to real estate collateral following the collapse of a major real estate development company. Following trial, the district court ruled in favor of the firm's client holding that bank’s rights in the real estate prevailed over the plaintiff’s.

In addition to his professional practice, Mr. McDermott is a former member of the Iowa State Bar Association’s Board of Governors and chairs its Judicial Administration Committee. He is past-president of the Iowa State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, and received its highest honor, the “Award of Merit,” in 2013. He received the Polk County Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2009, and previously served on the board of the HOLA Center (Hispanic Outreach and Legal Assistance) where he also volunteered at the Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Latino Outreach Clinic. Mr. McDermott previously worked in homeless legal clinics through the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, California. He recently served as chair of the Polk County Homeless Continuum of Care Board, a body tasked with developing the overarching strategies and funding allocations to solve homelessness in central Iowa. He is also past-president of the board of directors at Central Iowa Shelter & Services, the largest homeless shelter in Iowa.

He currently serves on the United Way of Central Iowa’s Chair’s Cabinet, and previously chaired its Tocqueville Society, which raised $6 million in the 2015 campaign. In 2017, the United Way of Central Iowa awarded him its Individual Volunteer of the Year Award. He is a longtime volunteer for Iowa Legal Aid, and currently serves as President of the Iowa Legal Aid Board of Directors. Mr. McDermott was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad and confirmed by the Iowa Senate to serve on the board of directors for the Iowa Lottery Authority, serving as its president in 2015.

Mr. McDermott received his B.A. with distinction and with honors from the University of Iowa. He earned his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where he served as editor of the California Law Review. During law school, Mr. McDermott was an instructor in the political science department at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Honors and Accomplishments

Chambers and Partners USA

Recognition as a leading lawyer in Litigation—General and Commercial, 2012–present

Super Lawyers recognized in Business Litigation, Criminal Defense: White Collar, Professional Liability: Defense

The Best Lawyers in America

Recognition in four litigation categories (Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Banking & Finance Litigation, and Bankruptcy Litigation); 2020 "Lawyer of the Year" Bet-the-Company Litigation; 2015 "Lawyer of the Year" Litigation--Banking & Finance. 

Community & Professional Activities

Iowa State Bar Association

Board of Governors, 2006–09

Chair, Judicial Administration Committee, 2010–present

President, Young Lawyers Division, 2008–09

Recipient, YLD Award of Merit (highest honor bestowed by YLD), 2013

Member, Fair and Impartial Courts Committee, 2011–12

Chair, Task Force on Supreme Court Ethics Opinions, 2007–12

President-Elect, Young Lawyers Division, 2007–08

Secretary, Young Lawyers Division, 2006–07

Administrative Committee, 2008–09

Public Relations Committee, 2007–08

Disaster Task Force, 2008–09

Special Task Force on Public Image, 2005–07

Executive Council Representative, YLD, 2004–06

Law-Related Education Committee, YLD, 2004–07

Chair, Long Range Planning Committee, YLD, 2008

Litigation Section

Criminal Law Section

Iowa State Bar Foundation

Fellow, 2011–present

American Bar Association

National Assembly Delegate, Young Lawyers Division, 2006–09

Litigation section

Polk County Bar Association

Chair, Bench & Bar Committee, 2009–10, 2012–13

Executive Committee, Young Lawyers Division, 2004–09

Iowa Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Member, 2005–12

Iowa Lottery Authority

Member, Board of Directors, 2012–16

President, Board of Directors, 2015–16

Central Iowa Shelter & Services (formerly Churches United Homeless Shelter)

Board of Directors, 2005–13

President, Board of Directors, 2006–07

Chair, Building Committee, 2006–12

United Way of Central Iowa

Chair's Cabinet, 2014–present

Chair, Tocqueville Society Campaign Committee, 2015 

Tocqueville Society Advisory Committee, 2010–present 

Campaign Cabinet, Legal Segment Co-Chair, 2010–11, 2012–14

Tocqueville Society, 2010–present

Education Leadership Initiative, 2006–present

Campaign Awards Selection Committee, 2008

Iowa Legal Aid

Board of Directors, 2013–present

President, Board of Directors, 2019–present

Executive Committee, Board of Directors, 2015–present

Committee Chair, Personnel Committee, 2017–19

Committee Chair, Development, Finance, & Audit Committee, 2015–17

Executive Director Search Committee, 2017

Central Iowa Advisory Council, 2011–13

Equal Justice After Hours planning committee, 2008–10

Intake volunteer

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Iowa

Mentor, 2004–09

Bowl for Kids’ Sake planning committee, 2004–07

Polk County Volunteer Lawyers Project

Latino Outreach Clinic volunteer, 2004–11

Attorney volunteer (Outstanding Volunteer Award, 2009)

Polk County Homeless Continuum of Care Board

Board of Directors, 2012–19

Chair, Board of Directors, 2018–19

Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, 2014–18

Member, Executive Committee, 2014–19

Chair, Governance Committee, 2013–19

Member, Community Vision Working Group, 2018–19

Member, HUD Grant Committee, 2013–15 

Montessori Children’s House

Member, Board of Directors, 2013–18

HOLA Center (Hispanic Outreach and Legal Assistance)

Member, Board of Directors, 2006–11

Bull Moose Club

President, 2007

Vice-Chair of Programs, 2006

Secretary, 2005

Leadership Iowa

Class of 2005–06

Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Young Leaders Advisory Council, 2009–10

Des Moines Business Record “Forty Under 40” Award, 2008

Publications and Presentations

Matthew C. McDermott & Christopher J. Jessen, At-Will or Something More?: Reasonable Expectations of Continued Employment by Minority Shareholders Post-Baur v. Baur Farms, Inc., 67 Drake Law Review 713 (2019).

Presenter (with Tara van Brederode), Backstage Pass: Behind the Scenes of an Ethics Prosecution, Iowa State Bar Association Annual Meeting (June 2019)

Presenter, A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Change: Effective Opening Statements, Iowa State Bar Association webinar, December 2018

Panelist, Ethics Panel, Iowa State Bar Association Corporate Counsel & Trade Regulation Seminar, October 2018

Presenter, Legal Ethics: Ten Tips to Avoid Trouble, National Employment Lawyers Association (Iowa Chapter), January 2018

Presenter, Legal Ethics: Ten Tips to Avoid Trouble, Iowa State Bar Association webinar, December 2017

Presenter (with Stephen Locher), Federal Practice, Polk County Bar Association Fall CLE, November 2016

Presenter, The Ethics Complaint Process, Iowa State Bar Association webinar, December 2015

Presenter, Understanding the Ethics Complaint Process, Polk County Bar Association Fall CLE, November 2015

Panelist, Ethics Panel, Iowa State Bar Association Corporate Counsel & Trade Regulation Seminar, September 2015

Moderator, Serving a Modern Public . . . The Advent of Online Access and Digital Information, 2014 ISBA Bench-Bar Conference, May 2014

Presenter, Deciphering the U.S. Supreme Court's DoMA Decisions, Belin McCormick Employment Law Seminar, September 2013

Presenter, Ethics in Billing, National Employment Lawyers Association (Iowa Chapter), December 2013

Presenter, Contractual and Litigation Strategies In Dealing With Financially Troubled Companies, Iowa Association of Corporate Counsel Seminar, November 2012

Presenter, Effective Opening Statements, Lincoln Inn of Court, April 2012

Presenter, Understanding the Ethics Complaint Process in Iowa, Iowa Association of Corporate Counsel Seminar, October 2011

Presenter, Understanding the Ethics Complaint Process in Iowa, Lincoln Inn of Court, December 2010

Presenter, Understanding the Ethics Complaint Process in Iowa, Iowa State Bar Association YLD Summer Seminar, July 2010

Presenter, Cross-Examinations, Iowa State Bar Association "Bridge The Gap" CLE, May 2010

Presenter, Understanding the Ethics Complaint Process in Iowa, Polk County Bar Association General Practice CLE, November 2009

Presenter, Understanding the Ethics Complaint Process in Iowa, Iowa Association for Justice Annual Convention CLE, November 2009

Presenter (with Mark E. Weinhardt & Holly M. Logan), The Criminal Trial From Start to Finish, National Business Institute Seminar, October 2009

Presenter, Ethics: Avoiding The Danger Zones, Iowa State Bar Association YLD Summer Seminar, July 2009

Presenter, Legal Ethics, Federal Public Defender Spring Seminar, May 2009

Presenter (with Mark E. Weinhardt & Holly M. Logan), White Collar Crime, Criminal Justice Act Federal Criminal Law Seminar, November 2008

Presenter, Legal Ethics for Criminal Law Attorneys, Iowa State Bar Association Criminal Law Section Seminar, May 2008

Presenter, Judicial Ethics, Iowa Judicial Branch Civil Law Seminar for Judges, April 2008

Presenter, Legal Ethics, Lorman Education Services Seminar, November 2007

Presenter, Legal Ethics, Iowa Defense Counsel Association Annual Meeting & Seminar, September 2007

Presenter, Legal Ethics, Lorman Education Services Seminar, August 2006