Cousins served as co-counsel in the successful emergences of two major companies from Chapter 11 — Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company in the world and second largest case in the U.S. in 2017, and Payless Shoe Source, the largest family shoe retail chain in the Western Hemisphere.
“In the current environment, companies are either sold to third parties, liquidated in Chapter 11 or otherwise don’t survive,” Cousins said. “Peabody and Payless were successfully reorganized, balance sheets were deleveraged and creditors received a significant distribution.”
Cousins said he was contacted “to serve on a team of talented professionals” based in part on results the team had achieved in other cases he’s helped work on, including the Apex/Clark Oil/Copper Mountain case in which they represented the creditors’ committee. The case was, at the time, the largest collection of privately held companies in the country to have filed Chapter 11, he said.
The team also played a central role in the TWA and American Airlines case representing Lambert-St. Louis Airport, the hub for the airlines, Cousins said.
While he’s had his hand in a fair share of major cases, Cousins said it’s difficult to pinpoint the proudest moment of his career. Up there, he said, is joining Armstrong and becoming the first African-American lawyer to serve as an associate, founder of a new department — bankruptcy — serving as a member of the executive committee and as a major “rainmaker” for more than 30 years.
“But, more than that, it has been a pleasure to start a department and then train and work with a cadre of top flight lawyers who do incredible work and who are amazing human beings,” he said. “At the center of all these major cases are these great lawyers with whom I have the privilege of working.”
Cousins’ colleagues speak highly of him as well, including Armstrong Managing Partner John Beulick.
“Steve has built his practice on a foundation of community service, dedication and credibility. His reputation as a bankruptcy attorney is outstanding and he consistently delivers meaningful results for our clients,” Beulick said. “Steve is a trusted and proven advisor to CEOs, high-level executives, civic leaders, and elected and appointed office holders. He understands what it means to provide excellent client service and that’s why many clients return to him for legal counsel and advice year after year.”
His extensive community service in the region is also admirable, Beulick said.
Cousins has been involved in over 30 civic boards, co-founded the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, and is the initial co-chair of the St Louis Internship Program, an inner city program now replicated in 34 cities and having over 4,000 alumni.
Additionally, he served for more than 22 years as a member and vice chair for the St. Louis Children’s Hospital board.
“I believe that one should simultaneously seek civic and professional excellence; that career and community uplift should exist in mutual play and support of one another,” Cousins said.