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Former SEC Lawyer Betting on Increased Enforcement

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What You Need to Know

  • Dan Michael is former chief of complex financial instruments at the SEC.
  • He will be a partner in New York but spend a lot of time in Washington.
  • Hedge funds and private equity are facing significant regulatory challenges, Michael said.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s already robust government enforcement and white-collar group added another strong player to the mix Monday, onboarding a former chief of complex financial instruments for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division.

Daniel Michael, who was at the SEC under the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations, will be a partner in New York and will also spend significant time in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. Skadden anticipates continued and increased need for advice around ever-evolving financial regulatory and enforcement matters. 

After over a decade in government, Michael felt the time was right to move into the private sector and Skadden was the right place to do so. 

“Throughout the interview process, I definitely got the sense that the interest in this space kind of came from the top and is something that the firm is pretty committed to building,” Michael said. “And they are ensuring that the counsel and services they offer are up to date and that they can work through the latest regulatory developments and challenges. I saw that as a commitment to the space in general.” 

At the SEC since 2010, Michael was elevated to chief of complex financial instruments for the division of enforcement in 2017. In that role, he oversaw a national team of attorneys responsible for bringing action against a variety of financial institutions, including hedge funds, issuers, credit rating agencies, fintech companies and more. 

At Skadden, he will counsel financial services firms, their boards and executives on a broad range of regulatory matters that fall under SEC jurisdiction.

“Dan’s deep experience, exceptional skills, innovative approach and up-to-date insights into the SEC’s priorities will further enhance our offerings in the financial services sector, as well as in many other areas touched by the SEC,” David Meister, head of the firm’s New York government enforcement and white-collar crime group, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome him to the firm.”

Having been at the forefront of these investigations at the SEC, Michael said he is uniquely positioned to give up-to-date counsel on novel situations.

“Today seems to be a really remarkable time in the market,” Michael said. “There is a good deal of change market participants are facing due to new regulations, evolving markets and technology, or some combination of those.”

“The upshot is that market participants are facing a regulatory landscape that is under-defined,” he added. “Working at the SEC, it was a great opportunity to focus on identifying risks in real time and many first-in-kind cases.”

Michael said his initial time at Skadden will be a mix of advising existing firm clients as well as building his own book of business. 

“There is just a really broad and really strong global platform here, and at the outset I’ll be interested in just making sure the firm’s existing clients have the support and counsel they need, but at the same time I will be looking to expand that platform in whatever way I can.”

And that expansion is likely as the increased availability of complex financial instruments to retail investors, as well as new financial products that weren’t around even five years ago, create a lot of work on behalf of market players looking to stay on the right side of the SEC,  Michael said.

“There is just a lot more at stake when investors are being offered things that they may not fully understand,” he said. “The instances seem to be increasing in prominence every year. Across the landscape in financial services, hedge funds and private equity, to name a few, there are a significant amount of regulatory challenges facing them as they are dealing with new products and new regulations that create more opportunities for missteps. I don’t see that pace slowing down.”

Prior to joining the SEC in 2010, Michael was a clerk for U.S. District Judge Richard Berman of the Southern District of New York and started his legal career as an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.