Ronald S. Safer manages complex, high-stakes cases with a focus in white collar crime and civil litigation. He co-leads the White Collar Crime and Corporate Compliance Group.

Ron has successfully represented companies and individuals in matters such as accounting fraud, tax fraud, anti-kickback violations, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), environmental violations and securities fraud. He represents clients before the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and numerous state agencies.

When Ron takes a case, he pores over the facts and analyzes the complex concepts involved until he can shape them into clear, effective arguments. His impressive track record demonstrates his ability to command a courtroom while maintaining an unflinching commitment to his clients. Above all else, he genuinely cares about his work. “My clients’ problems become my problems,” he says.

His vast federal and state trial experience, paired with his unwavering work ethic and approachable demeanor, allows Ron to bring extraordinary value to his clients.

Previous Experience

In 1989, Ron joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago and rose to Chief of the Criminal Division, successfully prosecuting more than one hundred defendants during his tenure. He prosecuted cases ranging from complex financial frauds and public corruption to sophisticated continuing criminal enterprises. He conducted dozens of jury trials and argued many significant cases to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 1999, Ron rejoined Schiff Hardin. He served as managing partner from 2005-2015.

  • Experience

    Civil Litigation

    Ron has represented corporations and individuals before numerous state and federal courts and agencies in a range of matters. Notable achievements include:

    • Obtaining a jury verdict in favor of a major national bank, in a matter alleging the bank had tortiously interfered with an investment company’s agreement to buy a futures commission merchant. The plaintiff claimed damages exceeding $200 million. The jury returned a defense verdict and awarded the bank more than $1.1 million on a counterclaim that sought $1 million.
    • Representing a property owner in a jury trial arising from contribution claims with respect to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake, but the jury ruled in favor of Ron’s client.
    • Representing a public company in arbitration where Ron’s client was accused of breach of a distributorship contract and fraud. The plaintiff claimed damages of tens of millions of dollars. The arbitrators found for Ron’s client and awarded nothing to the plaintiff.
    • Obtaining a verdict in favor of a major financial institution in a claim that it discriminated against a high-level employee.
    • Obtaining a jury verdict in favor of the City of Chicago in a claim that it discriminated against a city employee.
    • Obtaining an eight-figure settlement for a major retail chain in civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and indemnity agreement claims litigation involving a manufacturer of its products.


    Criminal Defense

    As an accomplished defense lawyer, Ron is able to help clients fight the odds against them in criminal prosecutions. He helps corporations and individuals alike avoid criminal prosecution. Examples include:

    • Convincing the U.S. Department of Justice not to file criminal charges against a trading company investigated for alleged market manipulation.
    • Convincing the government not to charge a multinational company alleged to have bribed officials to obtain contracts.
    • Convincing the government not to charge the CFO of a public company in alleged accounting fraud.
    • Convincing the government not to charge a paving company in fraud investigation.
    • Representing Mark S. Kipnis, a co-defendant in the highly publicized United States v. Conrad Black, et. al. case. Mr. Kipnis was the only defendant in this case who did not spend a single day in prison.
    • Representing P. Nicholas Hurtgen, a former Senior Managing Director of Bear Stearns & Co., indicted for allegedly aiding and abetting a scheme to extort Edward Hospital. All seven counts against Mr. Hurtgen were eventually dismissed.


    Internal Investigations

    Ron’s experience as a federal prosecutor, coupled with his accomplishments in Schiff Hardin’s White Collar Crime and Corporate Compliance Group, position him as a skilled and effective leader of internal investigations for his clients. Illustrative representations include:

    • The Audit Committee of the Board of Directors of a publicly held company in investigating alleged violations of the corporation’s travel and entertainment policy by a senior corporate officer.
    • A multinational corporation in assessing whether foreign employees had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
    • A publicly held corporation in investigating whether the corporation illegally manipulated futures markets.
    • A public school system in assessing whether the school principal acted inappropriately.
  • Credentials


    • Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1983, magna cum laude
    • University of Pennsylvania, B.A., Economics, 1979, Wharton School, History - Faculty of Arts and Sciences, cum laude

    Bar Admissions

    • Illinois
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Trial Bar)
    • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois


        Hon. Thomas A. Flannery, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (1983–1984)

        Professional Memberships

        American College of Trial Lawyers



        Center on Wrongful Convictions

        Executive Committee

      • Insights

        Speeches & Presentations

        Ron has lectured for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on various subjects, including the use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), complex financial frauds and numerous areas of trial practice. He also continues to lecture for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concerning complex investigations.

      • Citizenship

        Pro Bono Activities

        After working at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for 10 years, Ron came back to Schiff Hardin with the goal of making pro bono practice an even more essential feature of the firm. He has participated in the exoneration of individuals who had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, including:

        • Jonathan Barr, a man recently exonerated by DNA evidence of a murder for which he spent nearly 20 years behind bars. Schiff represented Mr. Barr against a charge that he committed another offense while awaiting trial for that wrongful conviction. A Cook County court granted the State’s nolle prosequi motion and dismissed all criminal charges pending against Mr. Barr.
        • Kristine Bunch, a mother wrongfully convicted in 1996 of murdering her 3-year-old son, who died when their mobile home burned. In 2012, Ms. Bunch was released on bond, and Ron will represent her in her new trial.
        • Bennie Starks, a man sentenced to 60 years in prison for criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery despite dubious evidence. Mr. Starks was eventually freed after proper analysis of DNA evidence, and he is now free from further prosecution.
        • Julie Rae Harper, a mother wrongfully indicted in 2000 for the murder of her 10-year-old son. Ron represented Ms. Rae Harper in her 2006 retrial, in which the jury found her not guilty.

        Civic and Charitable Memberships

        The Commercial Club of Chicago



        President’s Board