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Michael S. McElwee Partner

Michael Mike McElwee Commercial and Bankruptcy Law
Grand Rapids
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Michelle Erffmeyer, 616/336-6723

Commercial & Bankruptcy Experience

Mike has a multi-state practice focused on debt restructuring and complex commercial litigation. He serves many businesses, but specializes in automotive, agriculture and telecommunications. He also regularly represents health care research facilities, ambulance agencies, and other health care clients. Mike served as a law clerk to the late Honorable David E. Nims, a United States Bankruptcy Judge. Prior to joining Varnum, Mike was an FBI agent working in foreign counter-intelligence.

Representative Matters

Debt Restructuring and Insolvency Cases

  • Represented a telecommunications company in a Chapter 11 reorganization proceeding.
  • Represented the Bankruptcy Trustee in a $105 Million “Ponzi Scheme” case.
  • Represented dairy turnaround management business in numerous dairy farm receiverships and dairy crisis situations in several states.
  • Represented a nation-wide trucking company in litigation against the Liquidation Trustee, Gainey Transportation Services, Inc.
  • Represented a fruit processing company in an out-of-court debt restructuring (Turnaround Managers Association restructuring engagement of the year for 2011).


  • Currently represents Tier 1 automotive supplier to Ford Motor Company in access and accommodation negotiations with sub-suppliers.
  • Represented the purchasers in two recent section 363 sales transactions: one in the Plastech, Inc. bankruptcy case and the one in Noble, Inc. bankruptcy case.


  • Represented the Bankruptcy Trustee in fraudulent transfer (leveraged buyout) litigation in the Fuel Systems, Inc. bankruptcy case.
  • Represented a telecommunications company in an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court involving dedicated transmission facility payment obligations.
  • Represented the prevailing party in a bankruptcy related appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (In re Hechinger Investment Company of Delaware, Inc. (Hechinger v. Universal Forest Products, Inc.), 489 F.3d 568 (3rd Cir. 2010).
  • Represented an ambulance company in litigation against the Michigan Department of Community Health over licensing regulations and agency responsiveness.


  • Wayne State University Law School
    Detroit, Michigan
    J.D., 1983
  • Thomas Aquinas College
    Santa Paula, California
    1975 -1977
  • Grand Valley State University
    Allendale, Michigan
    B.A., 1979

Bar Admissions

  • United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
  • United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • Michigan Supreme Court
  • All Michigan Lower Courts

Professional Affiliations

  • State Bar of Michigan
  • Grand Rapids Bar Association

Community Involvement

  • National Association of Diocesan Lawyers
  • Opera Grand Rapids, past board member
  • Turnaround Managers Association Chapter, Grand Rapids Chapter, past Director

Mike is a frequent commentator on local radio and television, National Public Radio, and other venues.


  • Best Lawyers in America® since 2010
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