Photo of Gary  Zhao

Gary Zhao

Partner

Education

Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, J.D., 2002

University of Michigan, B.A., 1999

Admissions

Illinois

Gary is an accomplished litigator. He represents clients in high-stake and complex business litigation matters nationwide. A partner in SmithAmundsen LLC’s commercial litigation group, Gary has secured victories for his clients in cases involving breach of contract, intellectual property, false advertising, unfair competition, business fraud and other shareholder disputes. Gary also has significant experience defending clients who are subject to regulatory investigations undertaken by various state and federal government agencies, including, but not limited to, the US Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.

Gary grew up in China and is a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese. His understanding of the Chinese language and culture, coupled with his legal expertise, allows him to serve as outside general counsel to several publicly traded and privately held Chinese companies and their subsidiaries in America.

Gary serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). He is a past president of the Chinese American Bar Association and is the incoming President of the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago. He was previously a co-chair of SmithAmundsen’s diversity committee and, in that role, was tasked with furthering diversity initiatives for the firm to help ensure that all employees feel appreciated for the diverse perspectives they bring to the table.

Honors

  • Selected to the Illinois Super Lawyers "Rising Stars" list: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated
  • Recognized as "40 Illinois Attorney Under 40 to Watch" by the Law Bulletin in 2011
  • Selected as Asian American Bar Association Member of the Year, 2010
  • Selected to "Best Under 40" by Suburban Life Media: 2015
  • Selected to "Best Under 40" by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association: 2015
  • Awarded the Presidential Leadership Award by The Chinese American Bar Association: 2015
  • Received the Excellence in Law Award from the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA): 2015

Memberships & Involvement

  • Member: SmithAmundsen Diversity Committee
  • Past President: Chinese American Bar Association (CABA) of Greater Chicago 2012 - 2015
  • Fellow: American Bar Foundation, inducted 2014
  • Past Vice President and General Counsel: Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) Chicago, Pan- Asian Advocacy Organization
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA): Co-Chair, Litigation Committee, 2011-2016; At-Large Board of Governors, 2016-2018; Elected Treasurer, 2018-2019;
  • Asian American Bar Association, President Elect 2018, President 2019
  • Ambassador: American Bar Association’s Business Law Section 2010 to 2012 (now Business Law Fellows)

Experience

  • National coordinating counsel for a major food processing and packaging company in connection with FDA recall of a thickening agent.
  • Lead counsel in defense of a trademark and copyright infringement suit, obtained attorney’s fees for client after obtaining a summary judgment on all claims brought against the client by the plaintiff.
  • Lead counsel for a Chinese software company in defending a declaratory judgment action pending in the Northern District of Illinois.
  • Lead attorney in prosecuting a breach of a commercial lease agreement on behalf of a large real estate and financial services company against a large cable television operator, obtained significant recovery through settlement.
  • Lead attorney in defending a $38 million dollar false online advertising suit in the Northern District of Illinois, won a major forum non conveniens motion, obtained very favorable settlement for client.
  • Outside general corporate counsel for a U.S. subsidiary of a publicly held Chinese manufacturer of electrical equipment.
  •  Successfully defended copyright infringement, theft of property, misappropriation of confidential information, breach of contract, tortious interference, violation of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), Stored Communication Act, Civil Conspiracy claims arising from a failed merger between two businesses. Obtained favorable settlement for our client after counterclaiming the plaintiff for breach of contract, including the plaintiff’s payment of our attorney’s fees. The case was filed in the Southern District of Texas.

  •  Defend (ongoing) large chemical company against breach of licensing agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, promissory fraud, and tortious interference claims. Specifically dealt with claims that the defendant company did not use commercially reasonable efforts to develop an unproven/untested technology. Developed a defense that the licensed technology was untested and unproven, and the commercially reasonable efforts clause is not enforceable without objective criteria.

  • Successfully defended retailer of convection oven against Lanham Act, Trademark infringement, copyright infringement, tortious interference, and other false advertising claims brought by a competitor, resulting in summary judgment entered in favor of the retailer client on all counts in the Northern District of Illinois. Recovered fees for the client after Seventh Circuit mediation process.

  • Represent minority shareholder as a plaintiff in breach of fiduciary duty, wasting corporate assets, oppression claims against another minority shareholder who improperly transferred former company’s assets, including accounts receivable, clients, and licenses to operate to a newly formed company solely operated by the defendant shareholder.

  • Successfully defended Canadian Medical device seller against breach of implied and express warranty claims brought by a US Medical business, resulting in dismissal of all warranty claims based on mandatory arbitration clause found in terms/conditions section of a purchase order.

  • Defended former executive of large medical device manufacturer against breach of non-solicitation, non-compete confidentiality, and corporate opportunities provisions of a stock purchase agreement, including defending a preliminary injunction motion filed by the plaintiff manufacturer. After an evidentiary hearing, the court denied parts of the relief sought by plaintiff against our client, allowing the client to continue to operate his business.

  • Represented Chinese publicly traded companies against a breach of stock purchase agreement, including breach of exit option, right of first refusal, specific performance, indemnification provisions of the SPA, tortious interference, civil conspiracy claims. Successfully settled the matter after filing a motion to dismiss on all counts.

  • Successfully prosecuted several lawsuits on behalf of a large insurer client arising out of fraud committed by a former employee while conspiring with several of the client’s vendors. Our efforts resulted in recovery of nearly $1mil in money stolen, court costs and attorneys’ fees through settlement. In one case, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the client and against defendant vendor, finding the vendor was vicariously liable for its employees’ fraudulent actions.

  • Defend large home and beauty product manufacturer against breach of implied indemnity and implied warranty claims arising out of a sale of a defective product, current pending in Western District of North Carolina.

  • Successfully defended a promissory estoppel claim brought by the US government against a national insurer after a bench trial. Our defense was that the government’s attorney misinterpreted existing law and custom practice in relying  on the alleged promise. The court specifically found in a trial memorandum that the government’s reliance was not reasonable.

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