John J. Tollefsen

 John J. Tollefsen

International Business Lawyer and Litigator


John is an international lawyer with multiple post graduate degrees from both U.S. and European schools including two master of laws degrees. He is a certified Fraud Examiner and Certified Controls Specialist. John graduated from the University of Washington business school with an emphasis on accounting and finance in 1971. In 1974, he completed his Doctor of Jurisprudence at Willamette University School of Law in Salem, Oregon.  Since then he has completed 5 degrees including two LLMs. He has two degrees from European Schools. Since 1974, he has had extensive business law experience in transactional work as well as litigation in state, federal and bankruptcy courts. –

International Transactional practice

For the first 20 years after 1974, John concentrated on business and real estate finance, transactional work, and related business litigation. He represented over 1,000 business startups and completed many private and public securities offerings. He is experienced in most forms of business documentation from organizational to merger and acquisition. His focus was securities law and helping entrepreneurs finance their businesses.

John J Tollefsen international business lawyerInternational Litigation practice

Although John works on most types of complex business and real estate cases including securities fraud litigation, he has developed a passion for victims of financial fraud. John became a Certified Fraud Examiner in 2005 and assisted clients combating fraud. John has pursued financial fraud perpetrators in state and federal courts (including bankruptcy and appellate courts). John has won numerous large judgments and settlements for his clients. Although, he does some work on the defense side, including selected criminal matters, he attempts to only accept cases in which the defendant has due regard for victims and potential victims of any illegal conduct. Now with two international LLM degrees he focuses more on international disputes and transactions.

Contact John J. Tollefsen

John can be reached at (206) 624-5300, extension 604.John J. Tollefsen is AV rated with Martindale-Hubbell

John attempts to respond without charge to all short email questions. Please do not send any confidential information unless you have formally established an attorney client relationship with our firm.

Email John J. TollefsenJohn J. Tollefsen is a Certified Controls SpecialistJohn J. Tollefsen is a Certified Fraud Examiner John J. Tollefsen is “AV” rated by Martindale-Hubbell and is rated “10” by He was named one of the top litigators in Seattle for 2010 by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. For many years he has been selected for inclusion in Marquis’ Who’s Who in American Law and Who’s Who in the World. He was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Board of Regents of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners after nomination by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of Certified Fraud Examiners in 2011. John Received the Client’s Choice badge from in 2012 for 8 client 5 star ratings. John J. Tollefsen was named a Seattle-Metro-top lawyer in 2010 Avvo - Rate your Lawyer. Get Free Legal Advice.

Licenses and Certifications

Attorney at Law, State of California Attorney at Law, State of Oregon Attorney at Law, State of New York Attorney at Law, State of Texas Attorney at Law, State of Washington Certified Fraud Examiner Certified Controls Specialist

State Court Admissions



New York



Washington D.C.


Federal Court Admissions

Central District of California District of Oregon Western District of Washington Eastern District of Washington Southern District of New York Eastern District of New York District of Colorado Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals United States Supreme Court



Legal Education

Doctor of Jurisprudence – 1974 – Willamette University, Salem, OregonJohn J Tollefsen was awared a JD degree by WIllamette University

Certified Fraud Examiner – 2005

Certified Controls Specialist – 2009

John J Tollefsen studied at Eotvos-Lorand

Master of Laws (Legum Magister) – U.S. and Global Business Law from Suffolk University Law School, John J. Tollefsen received an LLM from Suffolk Law SchoolBoston, Massachusetts. The classroom instruction was at Eötvös Loránd University (Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem) in Budapest, Hungary (established 1635). John received a Certificate in July 2011 and was awarded the LL.M. in January of 2013.

Master of Laws (Legum Magister) – Transnational Commercial Practice from Łazarski University of Warsaw, Poland. Mr. Tollefsen was awarded the LL.M in April of 2013.John J. Tollefsen was awarded an LLM from Lazarski University

Professional Education

Bachelor of Arts – 1971 – Business Administration (quantitative methods, economics, and business finance), University of WashingtonJohn J. Tollefsen graduated from the UW business school Master of Theology – 2008 – Christian Philosophy, Trinity Seminary, Newburg, Indiana Diploma in Christian Apologetics and Fellow of the Academy – 2007 -International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism & Human Rights, Strasbourg, France. Dissertation: Defending the New Testament Text, An Evidential Apologetic Response to Textual Criticism Master of Christian Leadership – 2000 – Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon

Professional Memberships

Oregon Bar Association Washington Bar Association New York Bar Association International Bar Association Association of Certified Fraud Examiners American Bar Association, International Law, Litigation and Business Law Sections Institute for Internal Controls

Current Professional Activities

Member of Arbitration Committee, Anti-Corruption Committee and Insolvency, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights Section of the International Bar Association Member of Securities Litigation Subcommittee, Section of Litigation, and other committees of the American Bar Association

Selected Publications and Presentations

John has been published by various sources over the years. He is a regular contributor to The Fraud Examiner, published by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. The Examiner was named the best newsletter by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in 2010.

John frequently writes on legal topics for the firm’s website.

Sample recent legal articles by John:

Binding and Non-Binding Instruments in Intergovernmental Relations: A diplomat’s guide to understand the concepts of treaty, memorandum of understanding, …  More

Understanding the Role of SIPC in Protecting Investors from Fraud (11/13)

The Importance of Being Earnest: An Environmental Whistleblower’s Guide to Protection Under SOx § 806 and Dodd-Frank (12/12).

How the UK Bribery Act can apply to US Businesses (9/12)

Fraudulent Transfers in Washington State (6/12)

Civil Actions under RICO (4/12)

Four Theories of Recovery for Misrepresentations Causing Pecuniary Harm (2/12)

Overview of U.S. Securities Laws (8/11)

Criminal Profiteering: Washington State’s “Baby” RICO Act (2/11)

“General Solicitation” under Federal Securities Laws (8/10)

Overview of Qui Tam Law (6/10)

More Detail on John J Tollefsen


Legal and Business Experience

Education and Affiliations

Work History Speaking and Training

Curriculum Vitae – JJT-CV

Collapse of building for insurance purposes

QUEEN ANNE PARK HOMEOWNERS  ASSOCIATION, a Washington non-profit corporation,  v.   STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY  COMPANY, a foreign insurance company, June 18 2015 Copy of Case 2015-Queen-Anne-Park-v-State-Farm The Washington Supreme Court held that collapse means substantial impairment of structural integrity. The dissent argued collapse means “collapse”. Part or all of the building fell down. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the court to decide this question: What does “collapse” mean under Washington law in an insurance policy that insures “accidental direct physical loss involving collapse,” subject to the policy’s terms, conditions, exclusions, and other provisions, but does not define “collapse,” except to state that “collapse does not include settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion?” The insured building was found to have “hidden decay” that  had substantially impaired the walls’ ability to resist lateral loads according to the owner’s inspector. Hidden decay that caused a collapse was expressly covered by the policy. “Construction of an insurance policy is a question of law for the courts, the policy is construed as a whole, and the policy ‘should be given a fair, reasonable, and sensible construction as would be given to the contract by the average person purchasing insurance.”‘1Queen City Farms, Inc. v. Cent. Nat’l Ins. Co. of Omaha, 126 Wn.2d 50, 65, 882 P.2d 703 (1994) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Grange Ins. Co. v. Brosseau, 113 Wn.2d 91, 95,776 P.2d 123 (1989) ). The court held that “collapse” is ambiguous because it is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation. In this case there were two conflicting rules of interpretation: 1) plain meaning versus 2) favor the insured if...

Waiver Under Washington’s Deed of Trust Act Permitted Where Technical Violations Did Not Harm Plaintiff

Merry v Nationstar –Wn App 324745-III   Background to Deed of Trust In 2007, Sharon Weirich borrowed $205,440 from Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. and executed a Deed of Trust on her real property as security. The deed identified Countrywide as the lender, Landsafe Title of Washington as the Trustee, and the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as “a separate corporation that is acting solely as a nominee for Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns.” In Bain v. Metropolitan Mortgage Group, 175 Wn.2d 83, 93, 285 P.3d 34 (2012), the Supreme Court of Washington held that the MERS registry’s business practices in creating and transferring beneficial interests with regard to mortgages conflict with the requirements of Washington’s Deed of Trust Act. Beginning in 2011 MERS made a number of assignments and changes in ownership of the note, beneficiary, and trustee using the business practices found to conflict with the Deed of Trust Act.  Following these changes, in October 2012, Northwest Trustee Services, Inc. served Mrs. Weirich with a notice of default on behalf of Bank of America. The same month Ms. Weirich executed a deed of trust to Thomas Merry. This deed of trust secured payment of a $68,000 promissory note. Ms. Weirich also executed a power of attorney and an assignment of legal claims to Mr. Merry. In December 2012, Ms. Weirich received a notice of trustee’s sale informing her that her property would be sold on April 19, 2013 to satisfy her promissory note she originally gave to Countrywide. However, property was not sold on April 19, 2013 and no sale was rescheduled within the 120-day window...

State Supreme Court Finds Washington’s Anti-SLAPP Statute Violates Right to Jury Trial

On May 28, 2015, in Davis v Cox, the Washington State Supreme Court invalidated the Washington Anti-SLAPP statute, RCW 4.24.525. In a unanimous decision, the Court found that section (4)(b) of statute unconstitutionally violates the right to a jury trial. The Court further held that, because every other section in RCW 4.24.525 is dependent upon section (4)(b), the provision is nonseverable and the statute is invalid as a whole. The Washington Anti-SLAPP statute was adopted to address and dissuade “lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances”. A defendant may file a special motion to strike any “action involving public participation and petition”. If the action is found to involve “public participation and petition”, the responding party must “establish by clear and convincing evidence a probability of prevailing on the claim”. If the moving party prevails, the statute contains a provision for a mandatory $10,000 civil penalty and attorney fees for instituting a lawsuit in violation of the statute. The focus of the Court’s decision was the standard of proof placed upon the party responding to a special motion to strike. The responding party must “establish by clear and convincing evidence a probability of prevailing on the claim”. The Court held that the statutory language requires a trial judge to make factual findings and adjudicate the claim. Article I, Section 21 of the Washington State Constitution states, “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate”. The Court noted that, “At its core, the right of trial by jury guarantees litigants the right to...

Liability for Opinions – Omnicare

Putting Omnicare v Laborers District Counsel in Historical Perspective Omnicare, Inc., et al. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund et al. Argued November 3, 2014—Decided March 24, 2015 Copy of Decision: 1503-Omnicare Overview The author is a Certified Fraud Examiner and is critical of the common law involving fraud and deceit. Too often the common law allows the taking of money from victims through hyper-technical defenses and faulty logic. Most of this comes from the lack of sympathy the judges have shown for the fraud victim through the history of the development of the law of misrepresentation. One example is the liability for opinions expressed in contrast to facts expressed. The general common law allows the person who takes money through a false expression of opinion to keep the money if speaker believed her opinion. Omnicare, in the context of a registration statement, moves the law in a positive direction by creating liability for a factual omission imbedded in the opinion that would be necessary to correct a false impression. Even though the Supreme Court did not delve in the history of the law, the 2015 Omnicare decision moved the court in a positive direction. The law on opinion testimony as fraudulent may be traced to the 1889 House of Lords decision of Derry v. Peek.1Derry v. Peek, (1889) L.R. 14 App. Cas. 337 (House of Lords) which limited liability for misrepresentation to fact patterns involving scienter. Derry excluded from the definition of “scienter” misrepresentation made with an honest belief that the fact represented was true. Although Derry was seemingly accepted be most United States courts and was adopted by the...

Fraud on the Market

Although the Oregon securities law statute does not on its face require proof of scienter (intent to manipulate, deceive or defraud), the Oregon Court of Appeals read the requirement into the statute if the theory for relief is fraud on the market. Copy of the decision: 150211-Oregon-v-Marsh-&-McLennan In 2003 the legislature amended the Oregon securities law to provide a good faith defense from securities law violations for secondary violators (one who materially aids or is a control person) and to eliminate the defense for sellers and all those in a fraud on the market case. The court reasoned the legislature did not provide a good a good faith defense for those who material aid (or control the issuer) in a fraud on the market case because it assumed that federal securities law applied. That meant the participants are liable because of their culpable intent to defraud and a good faith defense would not make sense. Even though ORS 59.137 does not require scienter by its terms, that is what it means. In a fraud on the market case, Oregon law is the same as federal law under SEC Rule 10b-5. Whatever one thinks of the Oregon Court of Appeals “correcting” the words of the statute, there is a troubling use of language in the case. The court distinguishes fraud on the market from “direct, face-to-face securities transactions”. This is not a valid description of the distinction. Either type of securities transaction can occur in face-to-face situations. Telephones have been available in Oregon for over 100 years and private issuer transactions are often sold over the phone without any face-to-face meeting.  One of the...

Business Liability for Foreseeable Harm

McKown v Simon Property Group, Supreme Court of Washington, March 5, 2015 Decision:  050405-McKnown-v-Simon-Properties After 40 years of practicing U.S. law, I have grown to appreciate the gift we received from our colonizing parent, the common law. The civil law systems suffer from the same rigidity that all statutes impose: one size fits all. The legislature drafts a statute as a solution to a perceived problem not understanding how it might be unjust in a different fact situation. The common law can smooth out these injustices by providing court-made law which reacts to the facts and needs of justice in a particular case. The negatives of the common law system that has decisions made by juries include unpredictability and indefensible awards. The common law has invented tools to minimize the negatives. One of those tools is “foreseeability”. It allows a court to claim that no one could have foreseen the harm so the defendant is not liable. Foreseeability is often the only legal barrier protecting a business from liability. Unfortunately it has proven to be a two-edged sword. The limits of foreseeably was highlighted in McKown v Simon Property Group. On Sunday, November 20, 2005, Dominick S. Maldonado walked into the Tacoma Mall and opened fire on shoppers and mall employees, injuring seven people. Maldonado wore a dark trench coat concealing a MAK-90 rifle and an Intratec Tec-9 pistol, and carried a guitar case filled with ammunition. McKown, an employee at one of the retail stores, tried to stop Maldonado, but was shot and wounded. Simon Property Group owned the Tacoma Mall. Under Washington Law, the Tacoma Mall is liable to McKown...

Failure to Reconvey: Quiet Title Without a Quiet Title Action

What do you do when a seller fails to reconvey the title to property following payment of the loan, then dies? Failure to reconvey puts a cloud on the title that must be quieted. Quiet title actions can be drawn out and expensive. Is there a way to obtain a quiet title without the quiet title action? This article explores four possible tools for obtaining a quiet title outside a traditional quiet title action.

Personal Jurisdiction over Foreign Manufacturers

State v LG Electronics, Wash app, div 1, January 12, 2015:150112 State-v-LG-Electronics There has been ongoing debate in the courts over how much contact foreign manufacturers must have with a state for the state court to assert personal jurisdiction over foreign manufacturers and make the foreign manufactures defend in the state’s courts. The state’s power is constrained by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The foundational case is International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), in which the United States Supreme Court] held that a state may authorize its courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-at-state defendant if the defendant has “certain minimum contacts with [the state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” The courts have subsequently developed two concepts of personal jurisdiction: (1) General Jurisdiction and (2) Specific Jurisdiction. General jurisdiction “permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant where the defendant’s ‘continuous corporate operations within a state (are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit against it on causes of action arising from dealings entirely distinct from those activities.'” Daimler AG v Bauman, 134 S. Ct. at 754-55 (2014). Specific jurisdiction, which since International Shoe “has become the centerpiece of modern jurisdictional theory,” requires that suit arise out of or relate to the defendant’s contacts with the forum. Daimler, 134 S. ct. at 754-55. Specific Jurisdiction requires proof of three elements (1) minimum contacts; (2) action “arises” from minimum contacts; and (3) asserting jurisdiction does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. In State v LG...

Why Organize Early?

Although many company founders are reluctant to take the plunge into creating a corporate entity, often putting this step off for as long as possible, there are some good reasons to consider forming as soon as possible. Holding Period Stock Value The IRS will look at the time between forming and value given for stock at that time, and the company’s value at any financing or liquidity event. Hypothetically, if founders gave $.01 of value for their shares at formation, and they receive a funding round that values the company at $.50/share a week later, they need to be able to convince the IRS in an audit that they created enough value in the company in that one week to warrant the 50x increase in the value of the company. In a situation like this, your company is more than likely to arouse the suspicion that you sold yourselves shares at below market value. The General Partnership Many states, including Washington, have ratified some version of the Uniform Partnership Act (UPA). Washington’s is codified as chapter 25.05 of the Revised Code of Washington. Although the preferred form of entity for most startups is a C corporation, a founder should also be attentive to the provisions of the UPA or its equivalent in his or her state. The reason for this is that many of these acts contain provisions similar to the following from RCW 25.05.055:   (1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (2) of this section, the association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit forms a partnership, whether or not...

USCIS Issues Fliers About Executive Actions on Immigration

USCIS Issues Fliers About Executive Actions on Immigration Immigration services has just released the first official rules for the President’s new immigration programs. (en Español as well!) They are providing the first concrete rules of what the President proposed last November. Among the highlights: DACA applicants can now be any age, instead of being limited to those born after June 15, 1981. So if you’re 34 or older, you can now apply for DACA as well. Our first solid rules governing who can apply for DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of American citizens and legal permanent residents), such as their children having to be born before November 20, 2014 and that the parents need to have continuously resided here in the states since January 1, 2010. An expansion of the Provisional Waiver for Unlawful Presence program to people related to lawful permanent residents (Previously, the program only applied to people related to US citizens). A promise to work on the work Visa system to clarify and provide guidance for businesses and applicants. It’s all very exciting news. I can’t wait to learn more about these programs as they start to come online. (Remember: the expanded DACA doesn’t open up for applicants until late- February and DAPA won’t open until late May). In the mean time, talk with a lawyer about what you can do to get ready to...