Ryan Blackney is a Partner and first-chair trial lawyer in the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. Ryan focuses on complex, bet-the-company commercial and bankruptcy litigation; commercial fraud; and fraudulent transfer litigation. Ryan assists creditors in high-end asset and debt recovery work, often involving wealthy debtors intent on hiding their assets. Ryan also has significant experience assisting companies sued in asbestos litigation. Outside of his trial work, Ryan is the work-allocation coordinator for associates at Freeborn.
Before joining Freeborn, Ryan was an Assistant State's Attorney for eight years. He was a Special Prosecutor for McHenry County, Illinois. As a Special Prosecutor, Ryan handled some of the most high-profile crimes in McHenry County from indictment to verdict.
Ryan is an experienced litigator, having tried over 200 cases—including personally handling 52 jury trials—and litigating over 100 evidentiary motions.
- In September 2020, Ryan handled a pro bono trial where he successfully prevented the deportation of a pro bono client to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- In 2019, Ryan was on a trial team on a breach of contract matter that resulted in a favorable settlement the first week of trial.
- In 2018, Ryan tried a two-week jury trial in the Northern District of Illinois, achieving a six-figure judgment for his client.
- In 2017, Ryan first-chaired a week-long trial before the Bankruptcy Court in the District of Kansas, obtaining a complete victory for his client.
Ryan brings his unique background in criminal prosecutions and his extensive courtroom experience to each case.
Ryan is a husband to Michelle, father of three, and spends his free time coaching his kids’ sports.
In September 2020, Ryan handled a trial where he prevented the deportation of his pro bono client. He and the team established that if the U.S. government returned the client to his country of origin he likely would be tortured, imprisoned, or executed. As a result, the immigration court ruled in the client's favor.
In 2021, Ryan served as counsel for a company wrongfully sued in a near seven-figure factoring fraud claim. Through strategic and targeted discovery, Ryan secured admissions to the fraud from a co-defendant and then secured summary judgment and dismissal with prejudice in his client’s favor.
In 2019–2020, was on the trial team for a corporation that achieved a favorable settlement during the first week of trial in a complex breach of lawsuit in which the plaintiff sought over $20 million in damages.
In August 2018, Ryan represented a 2,500-acre vineyard and winery in Paso Robles, California in breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, and unfair competition lawsuit against its former president in a two-week jury trial. After trial, the court ordered the debtor to disgorge over six figures in profits he obtained from his unlawful acts.
In April 2017, first-chaired a bankruptcy fraud trial in the District of Kansas for the client, an automotive performance company. The debtor personally guaranteed his company's six-figure debt to the client, but refused to pay or reveal his assets. After a contentious trial, the bankruptcy court found the debtor guilty of lying about his assets in his bankruptcy filings and illegally transferring assets to his son prior to the bankruptcy. The court also burst Kansas's near complete homestead exemption, resulting in a significant recovery for the client.
Represented a creditor in bankruptcy in pursuing a debtor that had fraudulently transferred a company to his wife to hide his assets pre-bankruptcy. The team investigated that debtor for bankruptcy fraud and their efforts ultimately led the debtor to voluntarily waive his discharge, and (unsuccessfully) seek dismissal of the bankruptcy action. The team was able to obtain derivative standing to pursue the fraudulent transfer claim on the trustee's behalf, resulting in a substantial recovery for the creditor.
Successfully defended Board Superintendent charged with multiple Class X felonies, resulting in misdemeanor sentence with no jail term.
Worked on complex litigation spanning state courts, bankruptcy courts, and appellate courts in fraudulent transfer litigation against former members of a law firm that breached their rent guarantees.
Served on team for a large corporation in a multiple plaintiff, multiple defendant child sexual abuse case.
Represented a Tier 1 domestic automotive supplier in a lawsuit against a Tier 2 foreign supplier related to a long-term international supply contracts with major foreign car manufacturer.
Honors & Awards
Honors & Awards
- The Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leader - Class of 2018
Throughout his career, Ryan has been involved with the following professional activities:
- Co-Chair, Commercial Fraud Committee, American Bankruptcy Institute
- Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Young Professional's Ambassador and President's Circle Donor
- McHenry County Bar Association
- American Bankruptcy Institute, Commercial Fraud Task Force ListServ Coordinator
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)
- International Bar Association (IBA)
- Moderator, “How to Find Hidden Assets, Here and There,” American Bankruptcy Institute Annual Spring Meeting, April 2019
- Co-presenter, Significant Issues in Fraudulent Transfer Actions: What You Need to Know in 2015 Webcast, The Knowledge Group, July 2015.
- Editor, Powerhouse Points, Freeborn's Quarterly Litigation Newsletter.
- Author, "The Supreme Court Finds No Violation of FDCPA where Creditor Files Proof of Claim Barred by Statute of Limitations," American Bankruptcy Institute Commercial Fraud Newsletter, June 2016
- Author, "Illinois Real Estate Tax Sales Are Not Designed To Achieve Fair Market Value and thus May Be Avoided as Fraudulent Transfers", Civil Litigation Flashpoints, published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, March 2016.
- Author, "Bankruptcy Court Finds that Debtors Cannot Pay Lawyers Simply to Avoid Creditors," Civil Litigation Flashpoints, published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, November 2015.
- Author, "Room to Breathe: The Ninth Circuit Decides that a Trustee’s Avoidance Powers Preempt State Law Statutes of Repose," American Bankruptcy Institute Commercial Fraud Newsletter, June 2015.
- Author, "Clawbacks Stop at the Shore: The Second Circuit Limits the Extraterritorial Application of a Bankruptcy Trustee’s Avoidance Powers," American Bankruptcy Institute Committees website, December 2014.
- Co-author, "Fraudulent Transfers and Reasonably Equivalent Value: Shifting the Burden of Production to Defendants," American Bankruptcy Institute's Committees website, May 2014.
- Author, "Seventh Circuit’s Message to Fraudsters Playing Shell Games: "You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging!," Civil Litigation Flashpoints, published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, April 2014.
- Author, "Taking the Confidence from the Con Man: An Associate’s Response to Fraud." Civil Litigation Flashpoints, published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, May 2012.