Michelle W. Cohen unfailing dedication to her clients is illustrated by this fact: her very first client – whom she represented over 25 years ago, as a first-year associate – remains an active client today. Throughout her career, she has established similarly strong, lasting client relationships by committing herself to understanding each client’s business goals, minimizing legal risk and delivering exceptional service.
At Ifrah Law, Michelle’s practice focuses on helping clients establish powerful and enduring relationships with their customers and prospects while remaining compliant with state and federal law governing privacy and advertising laws and regulations.
As Practice Group leader for the Firm’s Data Privacy & Cyber Security group, Michelle helps clients create compliant digital policies and practices for their online terms and conditions, sweepstakes and contests, social media, and customer communications through the use of various media, including telemarketing, texts and emails, and social media. She also handles state-level data regulations, including breach notifications, and assists clients with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance and notifications.
Michelle has extensive experience defending individual and class actions in the consumer protection context, including dozens of Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) cases, beginning from when the TCPA was first implemented. Her litigation experience helps clients avoid enforcement actions and minimize civil litigation by proactively implementing policies and procedures that demonstrate good faith compliance efforts. Her counsel is critical when those clients face enforcement proceedings by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), or state agencies. She draws on deep legal knowledge and a strong footing in the privacy community to resolve these issues expediently.
Some of Michelle’s representative matters include:
- Swiftly resolved a potential class action suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 when discovery established that the superior compliance protocols Michelle instituted on her client’s behalf fit within the “fax broadcaster defense” that protects fax broadcasters from TCPA liability.
- Represented a financial services company in numerous matters involving alleged violations of the TCPA in connection with debt servicing calls, and consistently negotiated satisfactory resolutions through arbitration and litigation.
- Obtained a highly unusual rescission of an FCC citation in an FCC TCPA enforcement matter.
- Led a full-scale review of a global client’s customer communications to ensure federal and state compliance, with a special focus on the TCPA and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR); educated company leaders on TCPA requirements, wrote call center guidelines and controls, and helped the client launch a company-wide training program, well in advance of TCPA rule changes.
- Developed successful online promotions programs including a celebrity endorsement sweepstakes campaign for which she crafted sweepstakes rules and reviewed promotional materials to ensure compliance with state and federal sweepstakes laws, as well as social networks’ policies and requirements.
- Represented the seller in the acquisition of an affiliate marketing company by a publicly traded company in a deal valued at approximately $6.5 million.
- Resolved through settlement an FTC case against a corporate officer which involved personal privacy issues under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
- Defended an affiliate marketer in a lawsuit alleging unauthorized use of a celebrity’s image.
- As leader of Ifrah Law’s special GDPR Services, Michelle guides companies that collect, store, or utilize the personal data of European residents on compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In her role as Firm Personnel Partner and VP of Legal Affairs for a national non-profit, Michelle’s matters have also included:
- Handling internal investigations involving allegations of workplace harassment, violations of company codes of conduct, and invocations of whistleblower protections.
- Drafting codes of ethics and behavior, in addition to counseling companies of all sizes on how to maintain harassment-free workplaces for all of their employees.
- Creating employment and consulting agreements, as well as separation agreements.
- Overseeing corporate governance and compliance matters, including adherence to by-laws and legal mandates prescribed by court orders.
Awards + Recognition
- National Law Journal Elite Boutique Trailblazers 2020
- The National Law Journal-The D.C. Area’s Top Rated Lawyers- 2022
- Corporate Counsel and ALM – Washington DC’s Women Leaders in the Law 2013, 2019-2022
- Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP-U.S.), International Association of Privacy Professionals (2008-present)
- Top Author, JD Supra Readers’ Choice Award 2017
- National Law Journal, Top Rated Lawyer 2017-2021
- Cablefax Top Rated Lawyer 2017-2018
- National Law Journal, Top Rated Litigator 2016
- Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating (2008-present)
Professional + Community
- Vice President, Legal – Executive Committee, National Woman’s Party at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument
- Board of Directors and Member, Governance Committee, Aspire! Afterschool Learning (non-profit focused on language and literacy for low-income elementary school children)
- Member, International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) – Publications Advisory Board
- Member, Emory Law Alumni Board
- Editorial Board Member, Digital Business Lawyer (formerly E-Commerce Law & Policy)
- Editorial Board Member, Payments & FinTech Lawyer (formerly E-finance & Payments Law & Policy)
- Women in Cable and Telecommunications Past Board Member Washington, D.C. – Baltimore Chapter
- Federal Communications Bar Association
- District of Columbia Bar
- New York State Bar Association
- Women’s Bar Association of DC
- Volunteer, Special Olympics
- Brandeis University Alumni Admissions Council
- Pro Bono Volunteer through the District of Columbia Bar
- Former Board member for the Law Firms Division of the United Way, National Capitol Area
Does GDPR Apply To You?
Partner Michelle Cohen moderated this webinar panel featuring founder Jeff Ifrah. The webinar covered past, present, and future M&A activity in online gaming.Read more
"The Rise of Legalized Sports Gambling", NYU Sports Law Colloquium
This panel will touch on some of the novel considerations arising from the legalization of sports gambling, such as tax rates, foul play, and legal impacts.Read more
"Dos and Don’ts of Advertising and iGaming Webinar", iDEA | Geocomply Power Lunch Summit
This expert panel explores one of the central challenges of successful iGaming and betting in the US: the imperative of advertising for customer acquisition.Read more
"Maryland Educational Summit – Sports Betting 101", Live! Casino and Hotel Maryland
An introduction to the sports betting ecosystem from a diverse group of industry professionals who explain the micro and macro impact in legal States.Read more
OneTrust DataGuidanceRead more
Lecture, The George Washington University School of LawRead more
Comprehensive eBook from Ifrah Law, available as a complimentary downloadRead more
International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) 2019 Spring ConferenceRead more
Advocates of an open internet applaud the decision and have labelled it a win for service providers and internet users alike.Read more
Zero Day Con at the Carnegie Institution For Science - Washington, DCRead more
Digital Business LawyerRead more
Digital Business Lawyer (Vol. 20; Issue 5 - May 2018)Read more
Leading Internet Case LawRead more
Money For Lunch Radio ProgramRead more
Cyber Security PractitionerRead more
"Committee on Lotteries: Seeking Growth Opportunities, Converging with Casinos"
National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, 2016 Summer Conference, Boston, MA
E-Commerce Law and PolicyRead more
American Bar AssociationRead more
"The Telephone Consumer Protection Act: Avoiding Multi-Million Dollar Litigation", Clear Law Institute
Webinar - Clear Law InstituteRead more
iGaming Business North AmericaRead more
"The Golan v. Veritas Entertainment, LLC Ruling: Ensuring Your Firm’s Telemarketing Strategies Compliant"
The Knowledge GroupRead more
IAPP: Practical Privacy Series 2015 - Washington D.C.Read more
"Technology and IP Forum: Back to School Marketing Primer – Marketing Through Technology, What is Allowed and What Isn’t?", Association of Corporate Counsel, National Capital Region
E-Commerce Law & PolicyRead more
"Committee on Casinos: Update on Internet Sweepstakes Café Enforcement Issues", National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, 2015 Summer Conference, Atlantic City, NJ
E-Commerce Law and PolicyRead more
"Lotteries and Social Media", National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, 2015 Winter Conference, Las Vegas, NV
E-Finance & Payments Law & PolicyRead more
"What’s Legal in Text Marketing!", Hybrid Telephony Summit 2014, Chicago, IL
"Managing Litigation in the Small Law Department Environment", WMACCA Small Law Department Initiative, McLean, VA
E-Commerce Law & PolicyRead more
"The Wild World of Witnesses: When Good Witnesses Go Bad", WMACCA Litigation Forum, McLean, VA
"U.S. Banking Regulators to Review Laws", E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy
"Zealous Counsel or Unethical Social Media Maven – How Far Can a Lawyer Go?", WMACCA E-Newsletter
"Net Neutrality – Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission", E-Commerce Law Reports
"Oral Arguments Heard in the FCC’s ‘Open Internet’ Dispute", E-Commerce Law Reports
"Data Security: FTC v. Wyndham Corporation", E-Commerce Law Reports
"Don’t Litigate, Mediate: Here’s How", WMACCA Litigation Forum, McLean, VA
"Smart House, Smart Car, Smartphones. The FTC Examines the ‘Internet of Things", E-Commerce Law Reports
"FATCA: the end of hiding US accounts in foreign banks?", E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy
"FTC issues privacy focused mobile payments report", E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy
"Trash Talk? Viral Leaks? What to do When Employees and the Public Take to the Internet Town Square", WMACCA Technology and IP Forum, McLean, VA
"Editor’s Insight – Mobile Marketing and Privacy", E-Commerce Law & Policy
"The FTC reports to the US Congress on Dodd-Frank", E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy
"Visa/MasterCard Antitrust Litigation", E-Commerce Law Reports
"The Federal Trade Commission, Plaintiff v Spokeo, Inc.", E-Commerce Law Reports
Michelle W. Cohen, Michelle Cohen, Presenter, "The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: The Financial Industry’s New Watchdog", LeadsCon East Conference Presentation, New York City, New York
"Best Offense Is a Good Defense", Inside Supply Management
Ifrah Law Represents Seller in Multi-Million Dollar Acquisition of Affiliate Marketing Company by Publicly Traded International iGaming Corporation
In the second acquisition this year negotiated by Ifrah Law in the iGaming space, an international gaming company has purchased the firm’s affiliate marketing client in a deal valued at approximately $6.5 million. The buyer praised the deal as confirming its position as the number one player in iGaming lead generation in the U.S.
Requiring an in depth knowledge of the iGaming industry in addition to applicable gaming laws, the deal demonstrates Ifrah Law’s preeminence in this rapidly growing space. The firm’s reputation continues to rise as the go-to advisor for building profitable businesses in the affiliate marketing and iGaming industries, which are becoming increasingly attractive to larger buyers.
Clients turn to Ifrah Law for its ability to create meaningful agreements, often in an accelerated time frame, which provide value to buyers while at the same time encouraging sellers to continue to innovate in this burgeoning industry.
As the legislative climate for iGaming improves across the U.S., Ifrah Law anticipates an increase in companies seeking to take advantage of the opportunities available in this profitable nexus between affiliate marketing and online gaming.
Partner and M & A Lead Michelle Cohen and Counsel Drew Barnholtz represented the Seller in this transaction.
Ongoing Defense of TCPA Claims against Financial Services Company
Ifrah Law represents a financial services company against in several matters involving claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) which allege violations in connection with debt servicing calls. We are currently litigating and arbitrating over 25 cases for this client in many jurisdictions across the United States.
The potential collective cost to the client is significant in TCPA cases, which allow for statutory damages of up to $500 per call, and $1500 per call if a violation is deemed willful.
Ifrah Law’s team has been consistently successful in negotiating satisfactory resolutions of many of these claims. We have also succeeded in attaining positive results for our client in arbitration proceedings. We have litigated or arbitrated these matters in states such as Florida, Maryland, Illinois, Virginia, New York, and the District of Columbia.
Swift Resolution of a Potential TCPA Class Action
A plaintiff alleged that Ifrah Law’s longtime client, a company that provides fax and voice broadcast services to Fortune 500 businesses, sent faxes to her cellular phone without consent and in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”). The plaintiff claimed that she represented a class of persons who had received these attempted faxes on their cellular phones and thus that she and the class were entitled to statutory damages under the consumer protection law which targets unsolicited communications.
During discovery it became apparent that our client had instituted superior compliance protocols, due to the ongoing counsel of Michelle Cohen, leader of our Data Protection and Cyber Security practice group. Michelle had worked with the client for years on ensuring that their business model fit within the “fax broadcaster defense,” which protects innocent fax broadcasters from TCPA liability. Michelle helped create this defense when the FCC first implemented the law. The matter settled swiftly for a nominal amount, due to the lack of substance behind the allegations.
The case is remarkable for its demonstration of Ifrah Law’s superior advice and counsel throughout a client relationship. On the compliance side, Ifrah Law helped our client to anticipate potential challenges under the TCPA and mitigate risk. When the company found itself embroiled in litigation, Ifrah Law was able to bring such a challenge to a quick resolution by demonstrating its compliance while guiding the client through the litigation process. The firm’s attorneys have been involved with the TCPA since its inception in 1991, and we typically work closely with company executives on their compliance protocols and privacy practices, developing a thorough understanding of the types of communications the company initiates and crafting operational and contractual protections to protect the company in the face of potential class actions, other litigation, and regulatory oversight.
Winning Big with a Celebrity Sweepstakes Endorsement
After developing a solid online promotions program over several years with Michelle Cohen advising on sweepstakes and contests, Michelle’s long-standing client, a digital wellness company, decided to energize its online efforts with a celebrity endorsement sweepstakes. The celebrity, a known health advocate and popular entertainer, partnered with our client to give away VIP ticket packages to his sold out shows in multiple cities.
Michelle crafted sweepstakes rules and reviewed promotional materials, including social media campaigns. The celebrity also used social media to organize in-person athletic meet-ups around the country, as part of his current touring schedule. This coast-to-coast campaign included sweepstakes at the on-site events. Michelle worked with our client on several aspects of its campaign, including social media messaging, drafting winner’s eligibility affidavits and ensuring compliance with state and federal sweepstakes laws, as well as social networks’ policies and requirements.
The result? Michelle’s client continues to develop exciting and clever online promotions that will engage their audience, while complying with applicable laws and regulations and maintaining positive relationships with key social networks.
Successfully Negotiating the Sale of Assets During a Government Investigation
When a company that is under investigation for money laundering decides to sell its assets, what was once a straightforward sales process becomes a complex negotiation. That is what happened with our client, a provider of diagnostic testing equipment.
Ifrah Law and Michelle Cohen represented the company in its sale of radiology and cardiology diagnostic services equipment, which involved numerous challenges. Understandably, the buyer was concerned about the ongoing criminal investigation, and Michelle worked closely with them to address their concerns about representations and warranties and possible post-sale seizure from the government. Additionally, since there were bank liens on some of the assets, Michelle worked with the bank’s outside counsel to arrange a prompt payoff, obtain a satisfactory pay-off letter and secure a release of the liens in order to close the deal. Michelle also worked with the buyer to create a creditor payment plan that would payoff unsecured creditors and obtain releases from them in order to address the buyer’s concerns about unsecured creditors seeking relief from the buyer. Finally, she created an employee fund (funded by the buyer) to pay for uncompensated leave time.
These complicated issues were resolved in less than two weeks, as a result of Michelle’s skilled negotiations with all parties. The buyer was represented by Delaware’s largest law firm.
Successful Resolution of a TCPA Class Action
Michelle Cohen’s client, a publicly-traded enhanced messaging provider, was involved in a large-scale class action alleging violations of the TCPA’s unsolicited facsimile advertising rules. In addition to having provided the client with TCPA advice for over 15 years, Michelle represented them in enforcement matters before the FCC, including obtaining the rescission of an FCC citation, a highly unusual ruling from the FCC, finding that the client had a valid defense to the citation.
This TCPA case involved the alleged sending of 125,000 unsolicited faxes. The class was suing for triple damages of $1500 per violation – up to $180 million. Michelle and her team handled discovery, including depositions and motions. When the other parties decided to enter mediation, Michelle represented her client through the mediation, to the settlement agreement and ultimate dismissal of the case. Given the damages at stake, this case was successfully resolved for Michelle’s client, whose settlement contribution fell below the limits of their insurance policy.
Ensuring TCPA Compliance for a Global Provider of Customer Management Services
On behalf of our client, a leading provider of customer management services with call centers around the world, Ifrah Law led a full-scale review of its customer communications to ensure that they comply with federal and state requirements, including those of the TCPA and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). We addressed the many different types of calls that the company undertakes on behalf of its varied customer base – service calls, appointments, live sales calling and pre-recorded calls – to ensure that its call centers are using consistent protocols and controls in the United States, and that these protocols are in compliance with the TCPA and TSR. Our client trusted Ifrah Law with this extensive project due to our long history with managing TCPA matters – we have been involved with the TCPA since its inception in 1991 – and due to our prior work for the client, including successfully representing the client in two FCC inquiries.
We worked with the company’s Director of Privacy to develop a thorough understanding of the types of calls that the company makes for its customers, and the contractual protections that are in place and which could be revised to protect the company further. A critical aspect of this project was to educate leaders within the company that there are different TCPA requirements based on the type of call: technology used, person being called, whether the call is pre-recorded or live; mobile or business. We also wrote the call center guidelines and controls to ensure that all employees – from those being trained to the marketing team – had the same information regarding how to handle different types of customer call projects.
This large-scale process took a year to complete. Once the documentation was finalized, our client was ready to begin a company-wide training program on the guidelines, well in advance of TCPA rule changes.
Does your company or its affiliate advertisers use celebrities or influencers to market your services? Do you use customer reviews to promote your offerings? The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), energized by new Chairperson Lina Khan, just sent out notices to over 700 companies – including many household names (https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/attachments/penalty-offenses-concerning-endorsements/list-recipients-endorsement-notice.pdf) warning them about using fake reviews… Read More
Eleventh Circuit Assumes FTC’s Data Security Enforcement Authority, But Mandates Specificity for FTC Orders
On June 6, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a landmark ruling in LabMD v. Federal Trade Commission. While the Eleventh Circuit impliedly held that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has authority to take enforcement action against companies whose unfair practices lead to data security incidents that pose… Read More
The FTC is reported to be joining state and international regulators in examining Cambridge Analytica’s actions with data accessed from Facebook, including how the data analytics company obtained the information, what it did with the information, and whether Facebook complied with existing obligations, including a 2012 FTC consent decree. The situation underscores the importance of… Read More
No one likes being on the receiving end of an immunization shot, but many of us submit to a flu shot each fall or winter. David Latner, a patient of the Mount Sinai Health System’s West Park Medical facility, apparently found a single text from West Park reminding him about flu shots to be alarming… Read More
Over the past several years, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) took an expansive view of its rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”). The TCPA bars certain calls, texts and faxes without prior express consent and requires disclosures and opt-out procedures. While the FCC and state attorney generals may enforce the TCPA,… Read More