Michaels came to Wilkes in 1989 when his family moved from New York City, to Wilkes-Barre as his father became the rabbi at Temple Israel. He entered Wilkes at just 16. It wasn’t an easy transition for the newly transplanted teen, but he remembers political science professor Bruce Auerbach fondly, saying he would not allow him to coast in his classes. “He pushed me,” Michaels says.
Ken Klemow, Wilkes biology professor, offered motivating words when they were most needed. “He pumped me up a lot,” Michaels says. Klemow remembers his former student, saying, “He stood out to me as somebody who was very intelligent, was very diligent about his work and really wanted to excel.”
Michaels finished his Wilkes career by studying abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem – an early reflection of his international inclination – before entering law school. After he graduated from Wilkes with a political science degree, he earned both a master’s degree in international relations and his juris doctorate from Syracuse University. He also earned a Master of Laws degree in estate planning from the University of Miami.
His career accomplishments include playing an integral role in the U.S. Department of Justice initiative to combat offshore tax evasion in Switzerland and beyond. In the end, Baker McKenzie acted for 45 banks and the initiative won the American Lawyer’s 2015 Litigation Firm of the Year award.
“Every day I pinch myself because half the things I do, I never thought I would. There’s no two days in this career that are the same.”Marnin Michaels ’92
Michaels explains that his work as a wealth management lawyer requires him to understand both the needs of global families and those of financial institutions. He must understand tax, inheritance rules and trust rules in dozens of jurisdictions to represent clients who have assets and relatives in multiple countries. He also must understand regulatory issues impacting global financial institutions.
“Outside of the United States the tax systems are very different. You have to worry about wealth taxes and compulsory share rules, including Shari’s law,” Michaels says.
He has shared his expertise by authoring two books: “U.S. International Estate Planning” and “International Tax: Withholding,” both published by Thomson Reuters.
He has written extensively and been an advisor on several laws pertaining to international wealth management and banking including the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which requires international institutions to report foreign assets held by U.S. account holders, and the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) which sets a standard for exchanging information regarding bank accounts on a global level, between tax authorities. His book, “International Taxation: Reporting,” is viewed as the leading text on FATCA and CRS.
Jerry B. Chariton of the Wilkes-Barre law firm Chariton, Schwager and Malak includes estate planning among his specialties. He has known Michaels personally and professionally for decades. Chariton notes that many lawyers know Michaels through his writing. “His long list of publications is an indication of the extent to which he is influential within his circle,” Chariton says.
While his published works serve as references for lawyers, he also teaches at multiple universities including the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, the University of Freiburg in Germany, IDC International School in Israel, and Syracuse University College of Law. “Teaching keeps me sharp in a different way that day-to-day work doesn’t,” Michaels says. “It’s also a way to give back.”
He lives an international lifestyle he only dreamt of as a Wilkes student studying abroad. He married his wife Tetiana in 2019 and the pair honeymooned in Antarctica. His wife, an attorney for Credit Suisse, wrote about the trip for Vogue Ukraine. Marnin’s sister-in-law, Danielle Flock Michaels ’01, also is a Wilkes alumna.
“Every day I pinch myself because half the things I do, I never thought I would,” says Michaels. “There’s no two days in this career that are the same. That’s phenomenal and fascinating. On the other hand, it’s exhausting. I’m always working. I’m always on a plane. I’m always on someone else’s time zone.”