ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:
Jose L. Berra: Prior to attending The University of Chicago Law School, José was a
C.P.A. at Ernst & Young. Following his graduation, José returned home to practice
tax law in New York City, initially with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and then Paul, Weiss,
Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. At Morgan Lewis, José developed a close personal and
professional relationship with Steve Breitstone, who heads the Meltzer Lippe Tax
Group, that has spanned over two decades. As a tax lawyer, José structured and
negotiated sophisticated domestic and cross border corporate and partnership
transactions, including, to name a few, mergers and acquisitions, special allocation
partnerships, financings and leases. He also engaged in related controversy work
before the Internal Revenue Service.
After several years of practice, the opportunity arose for José to join the United
States Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy where he could focus on the bigger
picture. While at the U.S. Treasury Department, José worked closely with members
of the staffs of the Congressional tax-writing committees, namely the Joint
Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means
Committee. He also worked extensively with senior officials in the Internal Revenue
Service's National Office, including the Commissioner and Chief Counsel.
José's responsibilities at the Treasury Department encompassed a broad range of
matters. He worked on legislation, regulations and published guidance pertaining to
partnership taxation, the taxation of real estate, qualified settlement funds, and the
taxpayer bill of rights, among others. Some of the significant proposed and final
regulations on which he worked included the § 704(c) regulations, the so-called
fractions rule regulations, the FIRREA regulations and the qualified settlement fund
regulations under § 468B(g). At the Treasury Department, José also worked with the
Eastern European Tax Advisory Program (which was created when the iron curtain
fell), counseling members of parliament and senior finance ministry officials in
several countries in their development of laws governing domestic and foreign
taxation. In that role, he traveled to the Ukraine and to Estonia to advise on tax
policy and to assist in the drafting of tax legislation and tax regulations.
Upon leaving the Treasury Department, José decided to pursue a business career
and thereby continue to focus on the big picture. In a business capacity at three
major financial services companies, José worked on sophisticated financial
transactions in the United States, South America and Europe, including cross-border
transactions, asset-based financings, and fixed income and equity transactions which
in some cases utilized financial derivatives.
After several years in a large corporate environment, José decided to indulge his
entrepreneurial streak and was a principal in a number of ventures involving,
financial services, like-kind exchanges and Argentine real estate. When his old
colleague and friend, Steve Breitstone, approached José about joining Meltzer Lippe,
José took advantage of the opportunity to practice law creatively in an environment
where he could combine his interest in the big picture with his technical tax side,
while at the same time pursuing some of his entrepreneurial interests. At Meltzer
Lippe, José represents clients in many areas but his principal focus has been
sophisticated real estate and partnership transactions, general business advice,
sophisticated financial modeling and analysis and select litigation. Jose Berra can
be contacted at (516) 747-0300 ext 251.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS - continued:
Stephen M. Breitstone heads the Tax Law Group at Meltzer Lippe, which
represents clients in Europe, Israel, South America, Australia, and elsewhere. He
does sophisticated tax and estate planning for several large New York real estate
families, Wall Street investment bankers, hedge fund managers, corporate
executives, and others. He has pioneered many novel and sophisticated tax planning
techniques, many of which have come into widespread use.
Steve began his practice in the realm of large New York City law firms, after
graduating from law school in 1982. While beginning to practice as a tax lawyer,
Steve also studied for his LL.M in Taxation at New York University School of Law and
taught courses as an adjunct professor in taxation at Cardozo Law School. During
that period, his clientele was comprised mainly of large domestic and international
institutions and public corporations. After practicing for some years in the large
public corporate arena, Steve decided to reorient his practice to representing a more
entrepreneurial clientele. He began to represent high net worth individual clients
with real estate holdings and closely-held businesses. During the early 1990's
Steve’s practice evolved with the changing economic climate. When he first joined
Meltzer Lippe, the Firm’s practice involved many high profile real estate work-outs
and restructurings – representative of the economic climate at the time. Steve
played an integral role as tax advisor in these transactions. As the economy began
to recover, he became increasingly involved in structuring and negotiating real estate
transactions and joint ventures. With the ensuing rise of the bull stock market and
rapidly accelerating merger and acquisition activity, Steve played a key role as tax
advisor in connection with Meltzer Lippe’s prominent corporate practice in structuring
merger and acquisition transactions often involving technology companies.
After 2000 when the bull real estate market began to re-emerge, Steve established
himself as one of the foremost experts on Section 1031 exchanges. In recent years,
Steve has consummated more than $1 billion in 1031 exchanges – in many instances
by developing creative structures such as “cash out” 1031 exchanges and tenancies
in common exchanges.
In recent years, Steve has lectured at the NYU Institute on Federal Taxation, the
American Bar Association Tax Section and numerous other organizations on topics
such as drafting partnership and LLC operating agreements, Foreign Investment in
U.S. Real Estate and Income Tax and Estate Planning for leveraged real estate.
Steve is on the Board of Advisors at NYU’s Institute on Federal Taxation. Steve also
testified at Congressional hearings about proposed estate tax repeal. Steve
Breitstone can be contacted at (516) 747-0300 ext 241.
Renee Bunnell-Schwartz is the founder of the Google Group Madoff Survivors. Renee
and her husband are among the many Madoff investors whose lives have been deeply
impacted by this shocking event. The survivor group is a private (you must be a victim)
on-line discussion group of several hundred victims, who have formed to provide
support and facilitate discussion and collective, cohesive action in support victims.
Renee’s efforts along with those of the Survivor Group as a whole have been
instrumental in identifying, shaping and supporting legislative efforts. To join the google
group Madoff Survivors, visit http://groups.google.com/group/madoffsurvivors
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS - continued:
Helen Davis Chaitman is a nationally recognized litigator with a diverse trial practice in
the areas of lender liability, bankruptcy, bank fraud, RICO, professional malpractice,
trusts and estates, and white collar defense. In 1995, Ms. Chaitman was named one of the
nation’s top ten litigators by the National Law Journal for a jury verdict she obtained in
an accountants’ malpractice case. Ms. Chaitman is the author of The Law of Lender
Liability (Warren, Gorham & Lamont 1990) which is periodically updated and, since
1987, has authored the monthly newsletter, The Lender Liability Law Report. In early
2009, Ms. Chaitman spearheaded the firm’s pro bono representation of investors in
Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. She has been an outspoken advocate for
the victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and for the government failures which caused
massive losses to innocent investors.
Ms. Chaitman practices regularly in New York and New Jersey and has been admitted to
practice pro haec vice in numerous jurisdictions throughout the United States.
Helen Chaitman can be contacted at (908) 303-4568.
Michael Gershon, CPA, is the tax director for Konigsberg Wolf & Co., P.C. For
almost 15 years, he has been actively involved in providing tax compliance, planning
and advisory services to both domestic and foreign corporations, partnerships and
During his tenure with the firm, Mr. Gershon has focused his efforts in the areas of
corporate and individual tax planning, mergers and acquisitions and wealth transfer
planning. His client roster includes privately held companies and high net worth
individuals operating in the real estate, manufacturing, distribution, textile and
apparel, and service industries. He specializes in providing tax planning to
entrepreneurs and their companies whose business revenue base is between five and
100 million dollars.
Mr. Gershon is a Certified Public Accountant. He is a member of the American
Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Society of Certified
Mr. Gershon received his B.S. degree in computer science from Northwestern
University (1987), an M.S. in taxation and an M.B.A. in public accounting from
Fordham University (1995). Michael Gershon can be contacted at (212) 685-
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS - continued:
Ilene Kent is a seasoned trademark licensing professional, who has worked for
some of the leading licensing agencies and with some of the best known American
brands over the past 20 years. Her trademark licensing skills are further enhanced
by her experience in brand management and as a consultant for manufacturers
seeking licensed brands.
From playing an integral role in the growth of the National Hockey League’s licensing
program to breaking down and rebuilding the U.S. Postal Service trademark
program, Ilene has experience in all aspects of trademark licensing – from strategy
development to creative idea generation to sales prospecting and contract
negotiations leading to the closing of traditional and brand extension licensing deals
in virtually all product categories. She has also worked with some of the nation’s key
retailers to ensure placement of licensed goods.
Ilene’s tenacity and ability to work over, around, and through potential obstacles
allowed her to successfully negotiate one of the licensing industry’s largest licensing
deals between a U.S. government agency and a major U.S. financial institution.
Ilene received her Bachelor’s Degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster,
PA and her MBA from Boston University. She just recently obtained her paralegal
certification from Queens College and hopes to embark soon on a career in the legal
Most recently, she has served on the Steering Committee of the Madoff Survivors Group
(http://groups.google.com/group/madoffsurvivors) on the Google platform and managed
the public relations and media outreach for the Madoff Plea Hearing and Sentencing.
She is a passionate runner and has completed two NYC Marathon
John Oleske is a litigator in the New York City office of Herrick, Feinstein and an
integral member of the firm's team of attorneyshandling matters related to the
Bernard Madoff fraud. John is concentrating his Madoff-related efforts in clawback
advice and defense, our firm's action against the SEC on behalf of individual victims,
and SIPA/SIPC coverage issues.
Beyond his work on behalf of Madoff victims, John has handled numerous omplex
securities-fraud and ponzi-scheme litigations, including representation of victims of
the notorious fraud perpetrated by Canadian mastermind James Blair Down, which
involved the tracking and recovery of stolen assets hidden in more than a dozen
offshore jurisdictions. He also has extensive experience in a wide variety of
corporate and partnership disputes, debtor/creditor litigations, and actions against
government agencies at the local, state and federal levels.
John received his J.D. from New York University School of Law, after graduating cum
laude from Princeton University. He is admitted to practice in New York state courts
and in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. John
Oleske can be reached at (212) 592-5981.
Ron Stein, CFP – Creator of madoff-help.com
Having entered the financial profession in the mid-eighties, Ron incorporated Good
Harvest Financial Group in 1992, with the goal of creating a financial planning and
investment management firm that would be a departure from the commission-based
stock brokerage and sales-based businesses that dominate the financial field, and
based on the principals of sound financial planning and a highly personalized
Beginning as early as 1987, Ron also pioneered on Long Island the incorporation of
investors’ values and social concerns in their portfolios. Ron became a Certified
Financial Planner in 1989, and throughout the early and middle ‘90s, Ron was a
frequent lecturer and workshop leader on Personal Finance, Social and
Environmentally Responsible Investing and various environmental topics, a panelist
at numerous events, and speaker at several Long Island and New York radio and
television events. Since 1987, Ron has been a member of the Social Investment
Forum, the trade
association of professionals engaged in the practice of social and environmentally
responsible investment. Ron also brings extensive knowledge about insurance
related issues (Ron remains licensed in both life, accident, and property and
casualty), has often been at odds with insurance company sales approaches over the
years, and brings a high level of objective knowledge and awareness of this subject.
In the late ‘90’s, in response to environmental and land use concerns concerning
development in the NY Metropolitan region, Ron helped launch the “Smart Growth”
movement on Long Island, and founded a not-for-profit organization called – Vision
Long Island -- which has helped numerous communities across Long Island plan and
manage their development. In 2008, in light of the tremendous market turmoil, Ron
unveiled a low-risk portfolio methodology called Safety-Vest, for the benefit of risk-
averse investors who, until now, have had to rely on themselves to research banks
and other highly conservative vehicles. As a financial planner, consultant and
registered investment advisor, Ron is compensated strictly on a fee (non-
commission) basis. Ron Stein can be contacted at (631) 271-1231.