Steve Hilfinger is a partner and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. He is co-chair of the firm’s Manufacturing Industry Team and chair of the Detroit office’s Business Law Department. He has nearly 30 years of mergers and acquisition and finance experience, including representing private and public companies (including many automotive suppliers and other manufacturers), senior and mezzanine lenders, venture capital funds, and private equity funds.
Steve focuses his practice in corporate law matters, including mergers and acquisitions, restructurings, private equity and venture capital transactions, debt and equity finance transactions, business formation and corporate governance including for both profit and non-profit companies, general corporate and contract counseling, and government and public affairs matters. He is a registered lobbyist in the State of Michigan.
Steve recently served as chief regulatory officer for the State of Michigan and chief operating officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, under Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. As chief regulatory officer, he served as director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and its Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR), and helped streamline Michigan’s business and regulatory environment in those roles. He is one of the leaders of Foley’s Government Solutions practice, focused on helping clients in Michigan’s state capital of Lansing.
Experience in State Government
In his role as director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Steve was responsible for the supervision of banks, insurance companies, utilities and certain healthcare companies, and a number of regulatory functions, including the oversight of corporations, securities, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, occupational safety and health and a number of licensing functions. In addition, he led the Office of Regulatory Reinvention for the State of Michigan, which has to date, been responsible for repealing more than 2,000 administrative rules and implementing more than 125 recommendations to streamline Michigan state government. As LARA director, Steve served on the advisory board to the State’s $60 billion complex of pension funds.
Economic Development Experience
In his most recent role prior to rejoining the firm, Steve was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the economic development arm of the State of Michigan that created and manages the Pure Michigan brand. During its 2013 and 2014 fiscal years, the MEDC facilitated the creation of more than 52,000 direct jobs and leveraged private investments totaling $9.2 billion, substantially exceeding targets. Steve led MEDC delegations to both China and Mexico during his tenure.
Steve co-founded the Automotive Industry team at Foley, focused on representing automotive suppliers with their full range of legal needs. In that role, he has handled corporate, mergers and acquisition and finance mandates for a number of tier 1 and tier 2 automotive suppliers. Steve served as legal counsel to the CEO Council and China Strategy Council of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA), and as a member of the board of advisors of the Detroit Chinese Business Association, and currently serves as a member of the steering committee of MichAuto, a statewide organization focused on growing the automotive and mobility industries in Michigan.
Steve has been Peer Review Rated as AV® PreeminentTM, the highest performance rating in Martindale-Hubbell’s peer review rating system. From 2015-2017, he has been recommended by The Legal 500 for his work in mergers and acquisitions. He has also been selected by his peers for inclusion in the 2011 edition of The Best Lawyers in America® in the area of corporate law. Steve was honored by Chambers USA from 2008-2010 and 2016-2019 as a leading business law attorney in Michigan, and was selected for inclusion in the 2006-2010 Michigan Super Lawyers® lists for his work in mergers and acquisitions. He was also named to DBusiness magazine's 2011 list of Top Lawyers in the areas of business and corporate law. In 2015, he was honored with a “Leader in the Law” designation from Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
Steve is co-chair of the firm’s Manufacturing Industry Team and chair of the Detroit office Business Law Department, where he helps direct a team of more than a dozen M&A professionals. He helped found the Detroit office of the firm in 2000, and its Automotive Industry Team in 2002, which he co-chaired for several years. Steve also served two terms as managing partner of the Detroit office, from 2002-2006 and 2009-2011, before assuming his role with the State of Michigan.
Affiliations and Board Memberships
Steve has served on the boards of directors of the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, the Michigan Emergency Loan Management Board, the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority, the Michigan Governor’s Talent Investment Board, the Investment Advisory Committee to the Michigan State Treasury overseeing the State’s pension funds, and NextEnergy Center; on the steering committee of MichAuto, a statewide organization focused on growing the automotive and mobility industries in Michigan; and on the advisory board of Grow Michigan Fund, LLC, a $60 million fund established to finance Michigan middle market companies.
Steve has lectured as an instructor for the American Counsel of Corporate Attorneys (on corporate, mergers and acquisitions and economic development and government affair topics), the National Directors Institute (on “The Board’s Role in M&A” and on “The Board’s Role in Talent Development and Site Selection”), and the Wayne State University Commercial Law Clinic, a course that he helped co-found. Steve has also taught courses for the Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, including “Drafting Asset Purchase Agreements and Related Documents” and “Formation and Initial Operation of Business Enterprises-Financing Issues.” He has participated in numerous programs focused on Connected and Autonomous Vehicle technologies in Detroit, Palo Alto, Boston and New York, including co-chairing the Thomson Reuters “Concordant Crossroads” program in New York in October 2018.
Steve graduated, magna cum laude, with a J.D. degree from Northwestern University in 1987, where he was selected for the Order of the Coif and served as editor-in-chief of the Northwestern University Law Review in 1986-87. He obtained his B.B.A. degree, (concentration in accounting) with high distinction, from the University of Michigan in 1984, where he received Phi Beta Kappa honors. He was awarded the William A. Paton Award for achieving the highest score on the May 1984 Michigan CPA examination.
Among his community activities, Steve is active in the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce through its MichAuto program, has been actively involved in the redevelopment and financing of the former Detroit Tigers stadium facility as the new headquarters and programming site for the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL), and held several leadership roles within First United Methodist Church in Birmingham. He also has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Birmingham Country Club, as a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors, was selected for Leadership Detroit XIX, and was active in the Detroit Compact and Improving Detroit Through Entrepreneurial Advancement (IDEA) programs serving Detroit Public School students.
Admissions and Professional Memberships
Steve is admitted to practice law in Michigan and Illinois and is a fellow of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association and a member of the Business Law, Administrative Law and International Law Sections of the State Bar of Michigan.