As an attorney, there's not a lot Karen Shaer, 53, hasn't done. Before becoming senior executive vice president and general counsel for the Garden City Group Inc., she launched a business, handled the bankruptcy for American Family Publishers, and investigated murder trials for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan.
She was recruited by GCG and subsequently promoted to general counsel. During the past two years, Shaer has worked on claims administration for the BP oil spill, as well as some of the nation's most high-profile bankruptcies, including General Motors, Borders and American Airlines.
How did you develop a bankruptcy business for GCG?
By speaking to people, reading up about it, seeing who was filing cases, trying to find out who were the decision-makers in hiring our kind of services in that arena.
To do really good work. But of course the Catch-22 is you have to get the work in the first place to show you can do really good work. So to do that you find people who know you and who know that you are smart and capable and trustworthy. Personal relationships I had developed over the years helped.
What types of cases are you seeing the most of now?
It's a mix. Bankruptcy goes through some cycles. Obviously it hit a big peak in 2008 and 2009 when there were some huge bankruptcies.
Tell me about the GM case.
I think by everyone's account it was a very successful Chapter 11 reorganization of one of the biggest companies in our country . . . things moved at lightning speed, and for us it was one of our proudest moments because when you move that fast, to do it accurately is quite a feat. How did you get involved with BP?
We were contacted by Ken Feinberg of the Feinberg Rozen firm, who knew us because we were working with him on another case. His firm had been tasked by Obama to oversee the Gulf Coast Claims Facility [the $20-billion fund established by BP to settle claims]. The Garden City Group was selected to be one of his key vendors. It was interesting, challenging and rewarding to answer claimants' questions and get money into their hands.
How did working at the U.S. Attorney's Office differ from private practice?
In private practice it's pretty common for you to be at the whim of a client needing something . . . at all hours. Sometimes decisions are made in a boardroom at two in the morning. When you're a prosecutor, in a pretrial phase you have a lot of control over your time and investigation in certain areas. And you don't have to travel; most people have to come to you.
Name: Karen B. Shaer, senior executive vice president and general counsel, The Garden City Group Inc. in Lake Success
What it does: GCG specializes in class-action settlement administration, bankruptcy case management and legal notice programs.
Employees: 1,300; 316 on Long Island
Revenue: $230 million