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SEC’s First-Ever Chief Risk Officer Heads to Holland & Knight

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What You Need to Know

  • The law firm is strengthening its broker-dealer and investment adviser legal advisory practice.

Gabriel Benincasa, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s first-ever chief risk officer has left the financial watchdog to take up a partnership at Holland & Knight.

Benincasa joins the Am Law 100 firm’s Northeast corporate, M&A and securities practice group, and will split his time between the New York and Washington, D.C., offices.

The SEC’s chief risk officer role was created by then-chairman Jay Clayton in 2019 as a way for the watchdog to strengthen its risk management and cybersecurity efforts. In the role, located within the Office of the Chief Operating Officer, Benincasa coordinated the agency’s identification, monitoring, and mitigation of risks facing the commission as an organization.

Benincasa is a trained accountant, lawyer, and risk and compliance specialist who has held senior-level positions at CIT Group, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and other financial services companies. Directly before joining the SEC, he operated a consulting practice advising companies on legal, compliance and risk issues.

In a statement announcing Benincasa’s arrival, practice co-head Amy Leder said Benincasa’s SEC experience, combined with his “extensive knowledge of broker-dealer and investment adviser regulations and a variety of financial products” will be of great benefit to the firm’s clients.

Benincasa is also a seasoned transactional lawyer, with experience in M&A, IPOs, insolvency, secondary trading, as well as anti-money laundering, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, and Volcker compliance.

He was drawn to practicing law at a law firm—instead of reigniting his consulting business or returning in-house at a financial institution—because he felt it was the “right time” to develop a securities practice focused on the broker-dealer, investment adviser and digital asset spaces.

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“Broker-dealers and investment advisers are facing increasing regulatory reporting and compliance demands, as well as an increased focus on enforcement,” Benincasa said.

At Holland & Knight, Benincasa aims to build a practice that assists broker-dealers and investment advisers with their legal compliance and risk issues, as well as advising digital asset companies on compliance with regulatory requirements.

Benincasa will also help clients formulate and comply with their environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and reporting requirements, an area the SEC has recently said would be a regulatory and enforcement focus for the watchdog.

“Oftentimes investment companies talk about being compliant with ESG guidance and principles—and I believe these firms [are] genuinely complying with their ESG principles,” he said. “But to satisfy the SEC, in its increasing focus on this area, companies will need to show and document fulsome compliance.”

Benincasa said he chose Holland & Knight to practice law because of its reputation in transactional, regulatory and SEC enforcement matters, as well as its culture of collaboration and servicing clients across multiple practice areas.

“Holland & Knight is really committed to strengthening its broker-dealer and investment adviser legal advisory practice, so I was thrilled with this opportunity,” he said.

Pictured: Gabriel Benincasa of Holland & Knight. Courtesy photo.