Stephen H. Locher

Steve Locher is a shareholder at Belin McCormick and former federal prosecutor who specializes in complex litigation, appeals, banking law, and government investigations/litigation.

Steve has handled dozens of jury and non-jury trials (mostly as first-chair) and approximately 75 appeals.  He has achieved successful outcomes for his clients in a wide range of situations, including the following recent major victories in the Iowa Supreme Court, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Minnesota Court of Appeals, and Iowa Court of Appeals:

-Lead trial and appellate counsel (including handling oral argument) for the defendant in data security class action in which exposure was at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Carufel, et al v. Minnesota Dep't of Pub. Safety et al., No. A18-0476, 2018 WL 6596287 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 17, 2018) (affirming dismissal of case).

-Co-trial and appellate counsel (including handling oral argument for the defendant in complex professional malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty case involving hundreds of millions of dollars in alleged damages. Ommen v. Milliman, Inc., et al., 941 N.W.2d 310 (Iowa 2020) (compelling arbitration and concluding plaintiffs could not avoid contract containing arbitration and limitation of liability provisions).

-Lead appellate counsel (including handling oral argument) for the plaintiff in personal injury case involving multimillion-dollar verdict in favor of Steve's client. Klingenberg v. Vulcan Ladder USA, LLC, 936 F.3d 824 (8th Cir. 2019) (affirming verdict).

-Lead trial and appellate counsel (including handling oral argument) for the defendant in case involving tens of millions of dollars in alleged damages related to the handling of an insurance claim; following two appeals and one re-trial; the liability of Steve's client ended up 98% lower than it had been before his involvement. Thorton v. Am. Interstate Co., 940 N.W.2d 1 (Iowa 2020) (reversing most aspects of compensatory damage award and substantially reducing punitive damage award); Thornton v. Am. Interstate Ins. Co., 897 N.W.2d 445 (Iowa 2017) (reversing large verdict and remanding for new trial).

-Lead appellate counsel in real estate dispute involving enforceability of right of first refusal. W. Lakes Properties, L.C. v Greenspon Prop. Mgmt., Inc., 908 N.W.2d 883 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017) (affirming entry of summary judgment in favor of Steve's client).

Although Steve welcomes any litigation-related challenge, his work has generally fallen into the following categories:

Government Investigations/Litigation. Building on his prior experience as an Assistant United States Attorney, Steve regularly represents businesses and individuals who are under investigation or have been charged or sued by the government, including:

  • Representing health care providers, financial institutions/firms, and other companies and individuals in False Claims Act investigations and cases;
  • Representing directors and officers of banks and other companies in matters involving allegations of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, regulatory violations, or other similar misconduct; 
  • Representing companies and individuals in tax, environmental, insurance, and bank-related cases, investigations, and regulatory matters;
  • Representing targets and subjects of criminal investigations and (if charges are filed) criminal defendants, especially in environmental and white-collar matters.

Steve understands that the most successful resolution of a government investigation is convincing the government not to take action at all, and he has successfully obtained this result for his clients on many occasions. Other times, when formal government action is unavoidable, he has successfully negotiated resolutions for clients that have limited the penalties to only a fraction of the total exposure. Finally, on some occasions, resolution is simply not possible and Steve becomes a zealous and effective advocate in the courtroom.

Complex Civil Litigation. Steve has handled cases in more areas of civil law than he can count, some involving routine legal and factual issues that happen to have arisen in a high-stakes environment, and other involving unique circumstances for which little precedent exists. He has been on the plaintiff's side of numerous large judgments and settlements, as well as successfully defending cases in which exposure was as high as nine figures and Steve's clients likely would have gone out of business had the cases turned out differently.  He also has obtained (or successfully defended against) the award of temporary or permanent injunctive relief on dozens of occasions. Representative matters include:

  • Defending companies in class action cases involving data security, consumer billing practices, financial institution fees, the Americans with Disabilities Act, securities fraud, breach of contract, and tort claims;
  • Representing companies and individuals as plaintiffs and defendants in complicated breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, tax, tort, fraud, insurance bad faith, ERISA, professional negligence, environmental, personal injury, and RICO cases, as well as shareholder and corporate governance disputes and tortious interference with contract or inheritance cases;
  • Representing companies and individuals as plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving misappropriation of trade secrets, violations of covenants not to solicit or compete, fraud, or similar claims and circumstances.

Steve's extensive trial and appellate experience make him a good fit for most civil cases, and he is equally comfortable trying to negotiate a resolution outside the courtroom or presenting the matter to a judge or jury.

Appellate Litigation. Steve has handled approximately 75 civil and criminal appeals in state and federal appellate courts, more than 20 of which he personally argued, including arguments in the Iowa Supreme Court, Iowa Court of Appeals, Minnesota Court of Appeals, and United States Courts of Appeal for the Seventh and Eighth Circuits.  He serves as appellate counsel both in matters he handled at the trial court level and matters he takes over from someone else after trial court proceedings have ended. He has won far more appellate cases than he has lost.

Banking/Regulatory Matters. Over the course of his career, Steve has frequently represented financial institutions and related individuals in civil litigation, internal investigations, and regulatory matters. This experience led to him working regularly with other attorneys in bank-related mergers and acquisitions (which have extensive regulatory components) and, eventually, to serving as lead counsel in such mergers and acquisitions. Bank-related regulatory and transactional work is now an important part of Steve's practice, and he enjoys helping financial institutions grow (or, in some instances, wind down). He has negotiated some of the largest community-bank deals in the State of Iowa in recent years and interacts regularly with state and federal bank regulators. Steve brings the same philosophy to his bank-related work that he does to litigation: his job is to put his clients in the best position to succeed.

Background. Prior to joining Belin McCormick, Steve was a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District of Iowa, where he primarily prosecuted cases involving fraud perpetrated against financial institutions, businesses, and individuals. He also handled criminal tax offenses, violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), environmental cases, and a variety of other matters. Earlier in his career, he served as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable John R. Gibson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Kansas City, Missouri. He then worked for more than four years as a commercial litigator with a law firm in Chicago, where he represented individuals and business in a nationwide practice involving complex breach of contract, tax, antitrust and class action cases, among others.

Steve graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2000 with high honors and from Harvard Law School in 2003.  For two years during law school, he taught undergraduate economics at Harvard and was twice awarded with a Certificate of Distinction in teaching. He is a native of Mason City, Iowa, and now lives with his wife and four sons in Des Moines.