Never burn bridges; you never when someone from the past might be helpful to you in the future.
As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Max Dilendorf.
Max Dilendorf’s practice involves real estate and corporate transactions, commercial litigation, and digital security offerings.
Max has more than 15 years of combined experience as a transactional attorney, commercial litigator, business consultant, and entrepreneur. He is a trusted legal advisor to high growth businesses, startups, multinational families, investors, and foreign governments.
As part of the real estate practice, Max handles all phases of real estate transactions, including acquisitions, dispositions, development, and leasing of real estate in New York. He represents foreign individuals and family offices in connection with investments in US-based real estate, funds, and private equity. Over his career, Max successfully completed hundreds of real estate transactions in New York City. He is known as a highly skilled negotiator and aggressive litigator, handling a variety of general real estate litigation matters including contract disputes between buyers and sellers, commercial landlords and tenants, and commercial contract disputes arising out of COVID-19.
Max provides strategic, transactional, and regulatory advice to a wide range of both established and emerging participants in the FinTech space, and regularly represents token issuers, cryptocurrency exchanges, traditional and crypto investment funds, as well as family offices and managers wishing to cross-over to the blockchain sector.
He regularly assists international and domestic entrepreneurs, businesses, venture investors, and startups at all stages of raising capital in the US, and has been an invited speaker at government and private institutions such IBM, HSBC, Berkshire Hathaway, NYU, the Thailand Securities and Exchange Commission, the South East Asian Central Banks (SEACEN) Research Center.
Max was named to Super Lawyers’ New York Metro Area “Rising Star” in 2018, 2019, and 2020 in Real Estate and Technology Transactions sectors.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
My backstory started in 2017, when I spent a lot of time traveling to international conferences, where I spoke about tax planning and asset protection. One thing that struck me at these conferences was how practitioners and clients were more interested in learning about cryptocurrency than about tax services. Seeing this level of demand and having a genuine interest in crypto assets, I found myself spending more and more time working with clients in this industry.
One reason for the increased interest in crypto back then was the fact that the US has the best legal framework for governing these assets, through guidelines such as SEC regulations and the Howey Test, and this framework has been in place for the past 70 years. Other jurisdictions have not quite figured out how to govern these transactions, which explains why startups and foreign investors are looking to the US for guidance.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
At one of the tax planning conferences I attended four years ago, I met this young guy, a computer geek, who shared my interest in cryptocurrencies. We were talking about recent developments, the most important things to know, what possibilities exist for crypto, and so on. He was saying traditional banks are becoming dinosaurs and are on the way out, and I remember thinking it might take a long time for that to happen.
Now, four years later, we read in the news about Elon Musk investing 1.5 million dollars of Tesla’s funds into Bitcoin, and how many other publicly traded companies are now accepting digital currency as payments or moving cash into Bitcoin, I cannot help but reflect on this conversation and how he was right. It’s pretty incredible how the entire financial system is becoming decentralized, just as my friend had predicted. With decentralization, it’s even possible for a 16-year-old kid to create a “bank” and operate it on his phone. Pretty incredible how far we have come in a few short years. And to think I actually thought the guy from the conference was exaggerating.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
There have been so many recent projects that I have found interesting, but I have to say, a recent lawsuit against Coinbase involving the theft and subsequent money laundering of a clients’ funds has been the most exciting. Using forensic analysis, I was able to show the movement of digital assets from wallet to wallet, ultimately landing in a fraudulent pool of funds.
Other projects I am working on involve helping clients obtain money transmitter licenses (MTLs), as their companies implement ways to process crypto payments. Some other projects I am excited about include representing clients in EB-5 transactions related to crypto-assets, developing asset protection strategies for cryptocurrency trusts, and advising clients on structuring real estate transactions involving Bitcoin.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
The recent lawsuit against Coinbase involving the theft and subsequent money laundering of a clients’ funds mentioned above!
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I’ve always admired the founding fathers, particularly Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Starting from the moment of winning independence from Great Britain, these men fought together, and individually, to frame the U.S. Constitution and make the democracy we enjoy a possibility. My interest in them is about more than the founding the bedrocks of our nation. They were the true visionaries and revolutionaries of their time. Perhaps my fascination with them is what makes me so excited about this time in history when we’re seeing the transformation of everything. I believe the lessons learned from them are applicable to this present moment because we find ourselves in another period of renewal and reinvention.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
I would tell them to keep an open mind about what type of law they will practice. And to get really, really good at marketing and SEO.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
I would definitely make the process of obtaining a money transmitter license much simpler for startups. Right now, it is absolutely cost-prohibitive, not to mention time-consuming. I would streamline the process for companies to be able to obtain MTLs, which is so important as our entire financial system is changing. Modernization is needed because our current system is outdated.
Secondly, I would ensure that incidents such as what happens with Coinbase cannot continue to happen in the future, by implementing better protections for smaller retail investors. Money laundering is still a big problem in the crypto industry, and it must be more stringently regulated.
Lastly, I would adopt the tax code to accommodate digital assets. The U.S. tax code is outdated and not ready for tokenization or the secondary trading of digital assets. For example, if you tokenize real estate, there are a lot of questions with the existing code about how to trade those assets in the secondary market. Trading digital assets must be addressed.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Step by step, and brick by brick, I am helping clients every day and doing a great job in representing their interests.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
The crypto Industry drives me, the people I meet drive me. I enjoy watching my law practice grow, and I love working on amazing projects like the ones mentioned here, projects which will change the landscape in the financial industry, the tax code, immigration, payments, and the centralization of the banking system.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1. The devil is in the details. It is so important to get to small details right because they can change the outcome of a case.
2. Emotional intelligence is very important when you deal with clients, and it is something they do not teach you in law school.
3. Listening more than speaking — it is such an important skill. Let the other person finish, and really hear what they have to say before responding.
4. Empathy is essential, even though it is part of Emotional Intelligence, it is a critical skill that any successful attorney needs to develop.
5. Never burn bridges; you never when someone from the past might be helpful to you in the future.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
The new Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellin. I like what she’s doing with Fin Cen, how she is planning to regulate the crypto industry and her historic appointment as the first female Treasury Secretary. I would love to just sit down with her and pick her brain about what is happening in the industry and where she thinks it’s going. I would share my experiences working with crypto in the US and Asia and try to align our visions for the future.