Steve Hessler’s practice involves representing debtors, creditors, and investors in large and complex corporate Chapter 11 cases, out-of-court restructurings, and acquisitions. Steve has counseled clients across a broad range of industries including energy, gaming, hospitality and real estate, telecommunications, financial institutions, and manufacturing.
Steve was recognized in the 2015–2020 editions of Chambers USA, with sources in the 2020 edition noting he “is an incredibly bright strategic thinker who can tell you how a case is going to be resolved before it even starts.” IFLR1000: The Guide to the World's Leading Financial Law Firms, recently selected Steve as a 2016 leading lawyer in Restructuring and Insolvency. The Legal 500: The Clients Guide to the U.S. Legal Profession listed Steve as a 2016 “Key Lawyer” in the area of Restructuring. In 2015, Law360 named Steve one of ten Bankruptcy “MVPs.” Steve was also selected by Turnarounds & Workouts as one of 2015’s “Outstanding Restructuring Lawyers,” and also as one of 2013’s “Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyers.”
Steve is a frequent lecturer and author on various restructuring related topics. He also teaches a restructuring class each fall at the University of Pennsylvania to Law School and Wharton students. He also co-founded the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Restructuring Studies, a multidisciplinary initiative intended to address topical restructuring issues and influence the public policy debate in a manner that has practical application for investors, practitioners, academics, and regulators. He also served as the Chairman of the Advisory Board on Administrative Claims, Critical Vendors, and Other Pressures on Liquidity for the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11 from 2012–2015.
In 2014, 2015, and 2017, Steve testified before the House Judiciary Committee, and in 2018 testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on proposed amendments to the Bankruptcy Code to provide for more effective administration of a Chapter 11 filing by a major financial corporation. Relatedly, Steve has published multiple articles in legal and mainstream publications, and organized or participated in multiples seminars on these topics.
“Financial Company Bankruptcies: Experts Had Mixed Views on Companies’ Controls for Mitigating Obstacles,” U.S. Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Requester (November 2018).
Contributing Editor, Norton Journal of Bankruptcy Law & Practice
“Judge Kethledge – Integrity & Originalism,” National Review Online (July 7, 2018).
“Bridge to Nowhere: Gaps in Treasury G-Sib Bankruptcy Plan,” (April 10, 2018).
“How Not to Clean Up a Bank Failure,” American Banker (September 20, 2017).
“A Better Idea for Bankrupt Big Banks,” The Wall Street Journal (April 24, 2017).
“The Trump Administration & Bankruptcy Reform – What to (Possibly) Expect,” Reorg Research (February 8, 2017).
“Penn Restructuring Institute & Government Participation in Resolution Processes: An Introduction,” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law (2016).
“Pension Challenges in Bankruptcy and Restructuring Processes,” Financier Worldwide (August 2016).
“Testimony before House Judiciary Committee on Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act,” Harvard Law School Bankruptcy Roundtable. (September 15, 2015).
“Subchapter V - The Next Major Chapter 11 Reform?,” Reorg Research (October 9, 2014).
“In Memoriam: Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland,” Law360 (February 19, 2014). Co-authored with James H.M. Sprayregen, Edward O. Sassower and Aaron R. Slavutin.
Bloomberg on Bankruptcy (co-author of multiple treatise chapters addressing Chapter 9) (forthcoming 2013).
"Central Falls: A New Era for Chapter 9?" Daily Bankruptcy Review (August 9, 2011). Co-authored with Jonathan S. Henes.
"Too Much Discretion Exacerbates 'Too Big To Fail,'" Who's Who Legal (July 2011). Co-authored with James H.M. Sprayregen.
"Deja Vu, All Over Again," New York Law Journal (June 27, 2011). Co-authored with Jonathan S. Henes.
"Too Much Discretion To Succeed: Why A Modified Bankruptcy Code Is Preferable To Title II Of The Dodd-Frank Act," (May 31, 2011) (submitted in response to Federal Reserve request for information relating to Dodd-Frank Act Section 216 study regarding the resolution of financial companies under the Bankruptcy Code). Co-authored with James H.M. Sprayregen.
"The State Bankruptcy Debate," The Daily Deal (February 8, 2011). Co-authored with Jonathan S. Henes.
"Orderly Liquidation Authority Under the Dodd-Frank Act: The United States Congress's Misdirected Attempt to Ban Wall Street Bailouts," INSOL World (Third Quarter 2010). Co-authored with James H.M. Sprayregen.
"Failing to Be Too Big to Fail," The Daily Deal (May 21, 2010). Co-authored with James H.M. Sprayregen.
"It's Time to Lengthen Strides in Tort Reform," Investor's Business Daily (August 31, 2004). Co-authored with Jay P. Lefkowitz.
"The Story of Benjamin Cardozo, Learned Hand & the Southern District of New York," 47 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 191 (2003).
"Asymmetry, Fairness & Criminal Trials," 99 Mich. L. Rev. 1560 (2001).
"Establishing Inevitability Without Active Pursuit: Defining the Inevitable Discovery Exception to the Fourth Amendment Exclusionary Rule," 99 Mich. L. Rev. 238 (2001).
Moderator, Panel on Special Situations & Distressed, Wharton Private Equity & Venture Capital Virtual Conference, April 9, 2021
Panelist, “Planning Ahead: Legislative Responses to Lehman & WaMu,” Lehman & WaMu — Ten Years Later: Lesson Learned and Planning Ahead Conference, October 9, 2018, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Panelist, “New Hope For Indentures, Fraudulent Conveyance Strikes Back, and The Return Of CDS Triggers,” Barclays’ Distressed and Special Situations Conference, April 12, 2018, New York, New York
Moderator, “Distressed and Special Situations Panel,” Wharton Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference, March 16, 2018, New York, New York
Moderator, “Disconnect Between Fundamental Creditor Recovery Expectations & Actual Results in Restructuring,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review Symposium, October 21, 2017, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Keynote Interviewer, “Positioning for a Maturing Credit Cycle,” Wharton Restructuring and Distressed Investing Conference, February 24, 2017, New York, New York
Moderator, “Sourcing and Structuring Distressed Opportunities in a High Valuation Environment,” Wharton Private Equity & Venture Capital Conference, January 20, 2017, New York, New York
Participant, “Resolution of Systemically Important Financial Institutions Under the Bankruptcy Code,” Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, December 7, 2016, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Organizer, “The Rule of Law in Restructuring,” University of Pennsylvania Institute for Restructuring Studies Conference, October 28, 2016, New York, New York
Participant, “New York University Claim-Priority Roundtable,” September 30, 2016, New York, New York
Presenter, “Restructuring and Energy Market Overview,” Petroleum Equipment & Services Association Annual Meeting, September 23, 2016, Houston, Texas
Organizer, “Government Participation in Resolution Processes,” University of Pennsylvania Institute for Restructuring Studies Symposium, March 11, 2016, New York, New York
Panelist, “Case Study: Patriot Coal,” The 12th Annual Wharton Restructuring and Distressed Investing Conference, February 26, 2016, New York, New York
Presenter, “Bankruptcy Reform Judiciary Staff Briefing,” United States Senate Judiciary and Banking Committees, September 11, 2015, Washington, D.C.
Panelist, “To Stay or Not to Stay,” Columbia University Law School Workshop, May 18, 2015, New York, New York
Guest Lecturer, "Select Topics in DIP Financing," University of Chicago Law School, Advanced Topics in Corporate Reorganizations, April 16, 2015, Chicago, Illinois
Panelist, "Legal Considerations in Exchange Offers," Barclays' Distressed and Special Situations Conference, March 25, 2015, New York, New York
Panel Moderator, "Distressed Private Equity," 11th Annual Wharton Restructuring and Distressed Investing Conference, February 27, 2015, New York, New York
Presenter, "Subchapter V: H.R. 5421—Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act Of 2014," New York City Bar Association Committee On Bankruptcy & Corporate Reorganization, February 18, 2015, New York, New York
Panelist, "All the Courtroom's A Stage: Honing Courtroom Presentation Skills," 88th Annual Meeting of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, October 10, 2014, Chicago, Illinois
Panelist, "Best Practices in Distressed Private Equity Transactions," Beard Group's 20th Annual Distressed Investing Conference Schedule, December 2, 2013, New York, New York
Program Chair, "Legacy Liabilities in Bankruptcy: Addressing Collective Bargaining Agreements and Pension Obligations," May 16, 2013, New York City Bar
Steering Committee Member, "Cabining Contagion: Addressing SIFI Failure Through OLA and its Alternatives," October 24, 2012, New York University Law School
Advisory Board Member, "3rd Annual Mid-Level Professional Development Program," American Bankruptcy Institute, October 28, 2011, New York, New York
Invited Participant, "Financial Firm Bankruptcy Workshop," The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, July 25-26, 2011, Charlotte, North Carolina
Lecturer-in-Law, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Distressed Dealmaking: Chapter 11 and Out-of-Court Restructuring
- Wharton Teaching Excellence Award for academic year 2019 and 2020
Witness, Hearing on, “Big Bank Bankruptcy: 10 Years After Lehman Brothers,” United States House of Representatives; Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, November 13, 2018 (written and live testimony available here).
Witness, Hearing on H.R. 1667, “The Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2017,” United States House of Representatives; Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, March 23, 2017 (written and live testimony available here).
Witness, Hearing on H.R. 2947, “The Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2015,” United States House of Representatives; Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, July 9, 2015 (written and live testimony available here).
Witness, Hearing on H.R. 5421, “The Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2014,” United States House of Representatives; Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, July 15, 2014 (written and live testimony available here).
Memberships & Affiliations
Southern District of New York
Member, Local Bankruptcy Rules Committee for the Southern District of New York
Co-Founder, University of Pennsylvania Institute for Restructuring Studies
Member, International Insolvency Institute
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Futures and Options, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that places students from New York City high schools in paid and mentored internships at private sector and nonprofit firms
Admissions & Qualifications
- 2004District of Columbia
- 2008New York
- United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
- United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky
- University of Michigan Law SchoolJ.D.2001
Managing Editor, Michigan Law Review
First Place, Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition
- University of MichiganB.A., Political Science & Communications1995