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Wilmington-based Attorneys Take On Cases With National, Global Impacts

By Lynda Van Kuren, posted Apr 7, 2023
Patrick Mincey (left) and Stephen Bell (right) have been representing a whistleblower client alleging securities violations that are being investigated as crimes tied to former President Donald Trump’s company. (Photo by Madeline Gray)
While some might need to live in a bigger city to practice law on the world stage, that isn’t the case for Wilmington-based attorneys Patrick Mincey and Stephen Bell. 
 
Partners with law firm Cranfill Sumner, they represent clients in high-profile, high-stakes finance and whistleblower cases on both the national and international levels. 
 
One only needs to look at the team’s current caseload to prove the point. 
 
Mincey and Bell are lead attorneys for whistleblower William Wilkerson in two investigations: One is Wilkerson’s complaint alleging securities violations against former President Donald Trump’s company Trump Media & Technology Group, and the second is Wilkerson’s disclosure to the U.S. attorney’s office that two loans totaling $8 million sent to Trump Media that appear to have Russian ties. Additionally, Mincey and Bell represent Mark Coffey, a whistleblower whose 2019 SEC complaint exposed allegations of an international $2 billion money laundering scheme. Phil Brewster of Brewster Law Firm LLC is also heading up the cases.
 
The legal team has also added numerous clients dealing with cryptocurrency-related cases to its roster.
 
“It’s truly about taking on cases that have the largest impact and the longest-lasting legacy,” Bell said. “We try to take cases that allow us to do good for ourselves and others, and a lot of the cases we’re dealing with now impact the country as a whole.”
 
Mincey and Bell took different paths to Cranfill Sumner, which has offices in Wilmington, Raleigh and Charlotte, as well as a satellite office in Shallotte. Mincey, who graduated from Mercer Law School, began his career as a criminal lawyer (a title he still prefers). For five years he was a staple in state and federal courtrooms across North Carolina, trying murder, assault, robbery and other such cases. 
 
Bell, on the other hand, started as a civil litigator. The Wake Forest University School of Law graduate handled commercial litigation, class-action suits, multidistrict litigation and other complex, high-dollar civil suits in Raleigh and Charleston, South Carolina. 
 
When Mincey joined Cranfill Sumner 10 years ago, he had the opportunity to focus his practice on financial crimes – a long-held goal. An added plus, Mincey was given carte blanche to build the firm’s White Collar, Government Investigations and Special Matters Group.
 
“It was the ideal sweet spot for me,” Mincey said. “The size of the firm, the nature of the practice group, and the opportunity to cross-pollinate my practice with the existing civil litigation groups. It was an opportunity to develop a litigation practice focusing on financial fraud and regulatory enforcement. It was an opportunity to build something from the ground up.”
 
Today, Cranfill Sumner’s White Collar, Government Investigations and Special Matters Group has eight attorneys whose work encompasses a vast array of issues including, among others, securities and financial fraud; insider trading; antitrust; taxes; public corruption; and export controls. The lawyers work in areas as diverse as manufacturing, health care, environment and agriculture. 
 
Bell, a relative newcomer to Cranfill Sumner, joined the firm in March 2020. His practice focuses on complex commercial litigation involving hundreds of millions of dollars; cryptocurrency, digital assets and fintech; and transactional and regulatory work.
 
Together, Mincey and Bell take on some challenging and significant cases in the finance world. 
 
“I always wanted to work on cases that are complicated, that are high-stakes and have the greatest consequences for the client,” Mincey said. “I thrive under pressure and on the big stage.”
 
High-profile, high-stakes cases require an in-depth knowledge of litigation and regulations, courtroom experience and media management. That skill set comes from working out of the limelight and putting in the eight to10 years doing the mundane work it takes to build a practice, Mincey said. 
 
“You can’t be prepared to understand clients’ needs if you haven’t lived in the trenches with clients in every kind of situation when the lights are not shining,” he said. “It’s easier to hone in and stay focused when the attention is not on you, when you have developed the discipline to remain focused on your client’s needs and not be distracted by the noise.”
 
The role of Cranfill Sumner in Mincey’s and Bell’s success is also significant, the attorneys said. Rather than being a detriment, working the mid-size firm gives Mincey and Bell advantages they wouldn’t have at larger firms, they said. One benefit is that the lawyers can be nimbler, according to Mincey. Another is that they never handle the same type of case, which means the lawyers are always sharpening their skills.
 
“Lawyers refer cases to us because of our exposure and breadth of experience representing different clients in different situations,” Mincey said. “Nothing is routine or boilerplate. That distinguishes us.”
 
With the resources Cranfill Sumner provides and the lack of restrictions that encumber lawyers at many larger firms, Mincey and Bell are in the enviable position of being able to choose their clients. 
 
“We get to only take the cases we really want to take, and we can be very discerning,”
Mincey said. 
 
Consequently, many of the team’s clients are whistleblowers.
 
“We’re passionate about the whistleblowers because the odds are so against them, at least in the clients we represent,” Mincey said. “The opportunity to stand alongside such a person at the defense table is a profound experience and a profound opportunity. Our clients are speaking to practices and issues that affect millions, tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of Americans.”
 
Mincey and Bell have also distinguished themselves as leaders in illicit financial kleptocracy (when those in power in government exploit natural resources or steal), investigation and enforcement, according to Mincey. They can trace the money and assess how money launderers operate through the American as well as global financial systems. 
 
“We have developed a practice and have gotten good at dealing with the world’s worst rogue nation money,” Mincey said. 
 
While the impact of the high-profile, high-stakes cases Mincey and Bell tackle have far-reaching consequences in the business world, they also make a significant difference for the law team and Cranfill Sumner.   
 
“These cases shed light on us personally and on the firm,” Bell said. “It shows our capability as a mid-size firm punching well above our weight in the types of cases we can handle.”
 
The ramifications of Mincey’s and Bell’s work also extend to the Wilmington community. The lawyers see no reason why the Port City, which boasts many other talented attorneys working on high-profile cases, should not be home to more lawyers with national and global reach. Mincey and Bell said they hope their influence will help make that happen.
 
“We are building something, and we want to build it with this town,” Mincey said. “We are experiencing extraordinary growth, and we want to be the legal leaders in that trajectory.”

Correction: This version adds the involvement of Mincey's and Bell's co-counsel, Phil Brewster.
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