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Donald S. Bernstein

Mr. Bernstein, who heads Davis Polk’s Insolvency and Restructuring Practice, is globally recognized as among the small group of leading insolvency lawyers in the world. He has received numerous honors, including being elected by his peers as the Chair of the National Bankruptcy Conference, the most prestigious professional organization in the field. Mr. Bernstein’s practice includes representing debtors, creditors, liquidators, receivers and acquirers in major corporate restructurings and insolvency proceedings, as well as advising financial institutions and other clients regarding credit risks involved in derivatives, securities transactions, and other domestic and international financial transactions.

Work Highlights

  • Companies in restructurings and reorganizations, including Ford Motor Company, U.S. Industries, LTV Steel, Lomas Financial, Liberte Investors, Allis-Chalmers and Johns-Manville
  • Agent banks, major lenders or official creditors’ committees in restructurings and bankruptcy proceedings, including those of Tribune Companies, Delphi, Syncora, Lehman Brothers, Refco, C-BASS, Centro Properties, Enron, Conseco, Adelphia, Bethlehem Steel, McLeodUSA, Dow Corning, Memorex Telex, R.H. Macy, Morrison-Knudsen, Drexel Burnham Lambert, Crown Paper, U.S. Office Products and Toshoku America
  • Liquidators or receivers in international insolvency proceedings, including those of L.J. Hooker and Princeton Economics/Cresvale International
  • Global financial institutions, such as JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, on credit exposures and global credit risk management


Mr. Bernstein is listed as a leading lawyer in numerous legal industry publications, including:

  • Band 1, USA: Bankruptcy/Restructuring – Chambers Global 2013-2014
  • Band 1, Nationwide: Bankruptcy/Restructuring – Chambers USA 2012-2014
  • Band 1, New York: Bankruptcy/Restructuring – Chambers USA 2012-2014
  • Bankruptcy – Super Lawyers 2013
  • Practical Law Company’s Cross-border Restructuring & Insolvency Handbook
  • Legal Media Group’s Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Lawyers – Best of the Best and Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Insolvency & Restructuring Lawyers
  • Law Business Research’s Who’s Who Legal – International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers and Who’s Who Legal – International Who’s Who of Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyers
  • American Lawyer Media’s Corporate Counsel: Annual Guide to the Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights Law

In addition, Mr. Bernstein’s distinguished practice has earned him the following distinctions:

  • Annual Turnaround Awards:
    • “Utilities Deal of the Year” (debt restructuring of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority), 2017
    • “Restructuring Deal of the Year (over $10 billion)” (debt restructuring of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority), 2017
  • Leading Lawyer – IFLR1000 2017
  • Leading Lawyer, Corporate Restructuring (including Bankruptcy) – Legal 500 U.S. 2014
  • Leading Bankruptcy Lawyer – Best Lawyers 2014
  • "Most Highly Regarded Individual" – Law Business Research's Who's Who Legal: Insolvency & Restructuring 2014
  • "Lawyer of the Year" for Bankruptcy and Creditor-Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law – Best Lawyers 2013 
  • "Lawyer of the Year" for Bankruptcy – Best Lawyers 2013
  • "Outstanding Restructuring Lawyer" – Turnaround & Workouts 
  • Leading Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyer – Euromoney’s Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyers 2010
  • “Dealmaker of the Year” (lead role in Ford's restructuring) – The American Lawyer, April 2010 
  • A Top 100 Lawyer, New York – Super Lawyers survey
  • "Lawyer of the Year" – Law Business Research's Who’s Who Legal Insolvency and Restructuring
  • One of “America’s Top 100 Restructuring Professionals” – K&A Restructuring Register Advisory Board 

Of Note

In 2015, Mr. Bernstein was awarded UJA-Federation's Judge Joseph M. Proskauer Award.

Current Public Service
  • Commissioner, ABI Commission on the Reform of Chapter 11
  • Chair, Advisory Committee, Program on Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University
  • Fellow and Former Director, American College of Bankruptcy
  • President and Founding Director, International Insolvency Institute
  • Member, Financial Stability Board, IMF Legal Advisory Panel 
  • Member, Editorial Board, Global Restructuring Review
  • Official U.S. Delegation to the Insolvency Working Group of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
Past Public Service
  • Chair, National Bankruptcy Conference
  • Treasurer and Member of the Executive Committee, New York City Bar Association
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
  • Chair, TriBar Opinion Committee
  • Chair, Committee on Bankruptcy and Reorganization, New York City Bar Association
  • Director, New York County Lawyers Association
  • Chair, Visiting Advisory Committee, University of Chicago Law School
Current Memberships
  • American Bar Association, including Business Bankruptcy Committee and the Committee on Legal Opinions
  • American College of Bankruptcy
  • American Bar Foundation
  • New York City Bar Association
  • New York County Lawyers Association
  • INSOL International
  • American Bankruptcy Institute
  • International Insolvency Institute

Professional History

  • Partner, 1986-present
  • Associate, 1978-1986

Articles and Books


  • 450 Lexington Avenue
    New York, NY
    P: +1 212 450 4092
    F: +1 212 701 5092

Bar Admissions

  • State of New York
  • U.S. District Court, E.D. New York
  • U.S. District Court, S.D. New York


  • A.B., Princeton University, 1975
    • cum laude
  • J.D., University of Chicago Law School, 1978