Steven C. Nelson

Steven C. Nelson



Beginning with his service in the Office of the Legal Adviser of the US State Department, Steve has focused throughout his career on the complex legal issues involved in international trade and investment. 

Although concentrated primarily in cross-border, multi-country M&A transactions, his practice has included extensive work on joint ventures, notably in emerging countries, as well as both litigation and arbitration of disputes involving multiple jurisdictions.

Education & Admissions

Yale Law School (J.D., 1969)

Yale University (B.A, 1966), magna cum laude
Honors with Exceptional Distinction in Economics


  • United States: Admitted to practice before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Minnesota, and the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Hong Kong: Admitted to practice as a Solicitor in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, People's Republic of China


  • French and German


Representative Experience


  • When the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation decided to conduct an auction sale of two Korean investment trust companies it had acquired in the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, it wanted the agreements to comply with international legal standards and relied upon Steve’s broad experience to ensure that result. The sale was completed uneventfully.
  • Steve led a Dorsey team advising a supplier of optical and magnetic data storage media products in the successful acquisition of a multinational group that owned the famous “Verbatim” trademarks and brand.
  • Advising a Hong Kong-based toy manufacturer in the reverse takeover of a publicly-traded US toy-distribution company, Steve developed an innovative, tax-efficient strategy that included reincorporating the target as a Hong Kong company while preserving its NASDAQ listing.
  • Steve led a Dorsey team advising a large Norwegian marine coatings company in the successful restructuring and reincorporation in Hong Kong of its joint venture with a large PRC state-owned shipping company.
  • When a major US healthcare company asked for Dorsey’s help in the formation of a managed-care business in South Africa with one of the largest global mining companies and its insurance affiliate, Steve led the negotiations and devised a novel structure using English partnership law to optimize the venture.
  • Steve represented a US manufacturer of specialty chemicals in the acquisition from a major French petroleum company of a global packaging coatings business with operations in Europe, Africa, North and South America and the Asia-Pacific Region. The acquisition was particularly complicated in that it was designed to be completed on a phased basis over 5 years, which it ultimately was.
  • With Steve’s assistance, one of the largest US suppliers of services to the banking industry successfully negotiated agreements with a large Indian software developer for the formation of a joint venture under Netherlands law to develop software and solutions for bank automation.


  • Steve led a team representing a major manufacturer of mainframe computers and peripherals in an arbitration of expropriation, denial of justice and contract claims against the Islamic Republic of Iran, ultimately resulting in an 8-figure settlement.
  • When a large state-owned enterprise of the PRC became embroiled in a multimillion-dollar arbitration under the auspices of the London Metals Exchange as a result of the actions of a “rogue trader", Steve led the preparation of the legal defense, which ultimately was unsuccessful due to testimonial failures at hearing.
  • Steve was called upon to advise a major US multinational company in connection with its defense against 9-figure claims in two 13-year arbitrations in Paris and Geneva involving an Algerian state-owned enterprise and a large French shipbuilding company. He then led a team that represented the company in its defense in California proceedings to enforce the ensuing award, in the course of which the claims were settled to the complete satisfaction of the client.
  • A Dorsey team led by Steve advised and represented a Singapore-based fund management company in parallel litigation in the courts of Singapore, the Cayman Islands and New York arising out of a dispute between directors of one of the funds under its management, which was ultimately settled on a basis favorable to the client.
  • Steve successfully defended a Hong Kong-listed Bermuda company in an “ad hoc” arbitration under Bermuda law, including ancillary litigation in the Supreme Court of Bermuda, against multi-million dollar contract claims brought by an aspirant to the position of chief executive officer of the client.
  • Dorsey was engaged to advise a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary of a Cayman Islands company that became embroiled in US bankruptcy proceedings against its controlling shareholder. Steve led the team, including Dorsey’s bankruptcy specialists, in a defense that included intervention in the bankruptcy proceedings as well as proceedings in the Cayman Islands.
  • A Dorsey team led by Steve has represented a NYSE-listed company in two arbitrations in which it has asserted breach of contract and other claims under Hong Kong and PRC law against a PRC-based company arising out of the failure of a multimillion-dollar joint venture in China. The results thus far have been highly satisfactory to the client.
  • Steve has led a team representing a Hong Kong company in Hong Kong court proceedings against the State Bank of India in connection with a cyber-fraud involving a $10 million+ letter of credit issued by a Swiss bank.

News & Resources


Hong Kong High Court Stays Litigation in Favor of Arbitration
Hong Kong Email Wire Fraud Epidemic - How to retrieve funds and prevent wire fraud
Hong Kong and Overseas Businesses Defrauded of over HK$1.8 billion (US$231m) in 2016
Hong Kong - The Gold Standard of International Arbitration in Asia
International investment law claims—going up in smoke?
Guide to Protecting Against Email Wire Fraud Scams and Recovering Funds Wired to Hong Kong
Restructuring investments to gain the protection of a BIT
Philip Morris Asia Limited (Hong Kong) v. The Commonwealth of Australia: Permanent Court of Arbitration Tribunal Publishes Redacted Version of Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility
China Drafts First Nationwide Labor Contract Law
Globalization and the Legal Profession in the Asia-Pacific Region
Silence is Golden: Making Tax Efficient Investments in Japan
Dispute Resolution in Asia-Pacific: eUpdate Series
Anti-Fraud & Cybersecurity in Asia-Pacific: eUpdate Series

News & Press Mentions

Dorsey Partner Steve Nelson Recalls Flying on Delta 747s
51 Dorsey Lawyers in Minneapolis Selected for Inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2018 and 2018 Lawyers of the Year
Dorsey Advises Powerlong Real Estate Holdings Limited with Issuance of High Yield Bonds
Dorsey Partner Steve Nelson Comments on Philip Morris Arbitration
Veteran Dorsey International Lawyer Steven C. Nelson Returns to Minneapolis
Dorsey & Whitney's Hong Kong Leader Returns to Minneapolis After 16 Years
45 Dorsey Lawyers in Minneapolis and Fargo Selected for Inclusion in "The Best Lawyers in America®" 2016 and "Best Lawyers of the Year"
Local Counsel Key for Asian Market Access

Select Presentations

  • “Exit Provisions in Strategic Alliance Agreements,” Negotiating and Drafting Strategic Alliance Agreements, American Conference Institute: New York, November 1996.
  • “Alternatives to Direct Investment in India: Licensing and Distribution,” Doing Business in the New India, American Conference Institute: New York,  December 1995.
  • “Strategic Issues in the Litigation of an International Commercial Dispute,” Litigating and Arbitrating International Commercial Disputes, American Conference Institute:  New York, May 1993.
  • “Administration of the Agreement:  Settlement of Investment Disputes,” Business Implications and Legal Rules for the World’s Largest Common Market: NAFTA, American Conference Institute:  Washington, D.C., December, 1992.
  • “Drafting the Joint Venture Documents:  Key Provisions,” Negotiating and Drafting Transnational Joint Ventures, American Conference Institute:  New York, November 1992.
  • “Dispute Settlement,” Negotiating and Drafting International Commercial Contracts, American Conference Institute:  New York, November 1992.
  • “Negotiating and Drafting Agency, Distribution and Franchise Agreements,” Negotiating and Structuring International Commercial Transactions, ABA National Institute: Chicago, November 1990.
  • “Practicing Law in the Common Market:  The Impact of 1992 on the Legal Profession,” 1992 in Europe:  A Practical and Legal Guide to Doing Business in the Single European Market, ABA National Institute:  New York, June 1990.
  • “International Sales,” Counseling the U.S. Multinational:  Issues and Problems for the 1990’s, ABA National Institute:  New York, January 1989.
  • “Alternative to Litigation of International Disputes,” Resolution of International Commercial Disputes, ABA National Institute:  Miami, November 1987.
  • “Planning for Resolution of Disputes in International Technology Transactions,” Symposium on International Technology Transfer, Federal Bar Association & ABA Section of Public Contracts Law:  Boston, March 1984.

Industries & Practices

International Arbitration & Litigation
  • Asia-Pacific
  • China
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Construction & Design
  • Food, Beverage & Agribusiness
  • Health Care
  • India
  • International Arbitration & Litigation
  • International Trade
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Mining & Natural Resources

Professional & Civic

Professional Achievements

  • American Bar Association (Chair, Section of International Law and Practice, 1988-1989; Member, Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice, 1998-2000)
  • Union Internationale des Avocats (First Vice-President, 1989-1993)
  • International Bar Association (Council Member representing the American Bar Association, 1996-2000; Chairman, Bar Issues Commission, Committee on International Trade in Legal Services, 2000-present)
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Member, NATO Board of Appeals, Brussels, 1980-2003)
  • University of Minnesota Law Center (Adjunct Professor, International Law, 1980-1985)


  • Listed as a Best Lawyer in America©, 2013-2018
Steven C. Nelson