Michael Thorne is an associate in Willkie’s Litigation Department. His practice covers a range of criminal, regulatory and civil matters with particular focus on compliance and enforcement, internal investigations and white-collar defense. 

Michael is recognised by The Legal 500 UK (2022) as a “Rising Star” for Regulatory Investigations and Corporate Crime (advice to corporates) with clients describing him as a “stand-out solicitor” who is “very knowledgeable and practical” and is “noted for his expertise in international financial and trade sanctions and modern slavery work.” He is also part of the Willkie team that won both the “Most Impressive Investigations Practice of the Year” and “Most Important Court Case of the Year” awards at the GIR Awards in 2020.

His experience includes:

  • advising clients on compliance issues relating to money-laundering, bribery and corruption, financial and trade sanctions, fraud, modern slavery and business and human rights
  • conducting corporate investigations covering multiple jurisdictions in Europe, North America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa
  • representing clients in investigations and enforcement actions by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, Financial Conduct Authority, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and other law enforcement and regulatory agencies
  • advising clients on developing and benchmarking compliance programs, conducting pre-merger and third-party due diligence, and providing day-to-day counselling and training on compliance with UK and other anti-corruption and sanctions laws
  • successfully defending clients in civil fraud claims in relation to allegations of bribery & corruption in the UK courts

In 2015 Michael completed a secondment to the firm’s Washington D.C. office, where he acted for clients in a number of investigations by the U.S. Government. Prior to that Michael was also seconded to the Abu Dhabi offices of another firm, where he worked on matters across the Gulf region.

Michael is actively involved in Willkie’s Pro Bono initiatives. As well as participating in other programmes, he initiated and established Willkie’s participation in the Imperial College/Bloomberg Cleantech Accelerator Programme. The Cleantech Accelerator Programme provides dedicated teams of pro-bono lawyers to select start-ups looking to develop and implement solutions focused on climate action and protecting the environment. The programme was shortlisted by LawWorks UK for the 2021 “Most Effective Pro Bono Partnership” award.

Michael is also a member of Advocates for International Development (A4iD) and the Young Fraud Lawyers’ Association. 

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  • Successfully defending a major UK PLC from prosecution for fraud by the UK Serious Fraud Office.
  • Responding to and investigating allegations of breaches of U.S. sanctions targeting North Korea leading to a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and a settlement agreement with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control.
  • Advising a major multinational organisation on the risk assessment, design, development and implementation of a global compliance programme covering anti-bribery, sanctions, tax-evasion, modern-slavery and related policies, procedures and controls.
  • Defending a UK bank in contentious regulatory proceedings brought by the FCA in the Regulatory Decision Committee.
  • Successfully obtaining summary judgment in favour of a financial services client accused of civil fraud relating to bribery and corruption on limitation and other grounds.
  • Investigating and resolving whistleblower allegations relating to the conduct of a private equity portfolio company client.
  • Conducting a major internal investigation in relation to allegations of bribery and corruption by a global manufacturing company at its operations in the Czech Republic.