The revolving door between Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission took a new spin with the nomination yesterday of partner Daniel Gallagher, Jr. to serve as one of five agency commissioners.
President Obama also nominated SEC commissioner Luis Aguilar to serve a second term.
Gallagher, who was tapped to fill a Republican seat being vacated by Kathleen Casey, has alternated between Wilmer and the SEC for most of his career.
He started out as a Wilmer associate, took an in-house job at Fiserv Securities Inc., then joined the SEC in 2006. He served first as a counsel to former SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins and later as a counsel to former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. He went on to become deputy director and co-acting director of the Division of Trading and Markets, where he was a point person for the SEC in responding to the financial crisis.
He also oversaw issues related to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, a rulemaking on credit rating agencies, and efforts to facilitate the central clearing of credit default swaps.
He “served this agency well during a very difficult time,” SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said in a statement when he departed in January 2010 to join Wilmer as a partner.
Other high-profile agency alums at Wilmer include securities practice chair William McLucas, who headed the Enforcement Division from 1990 until 1998. According to a recent study by the Project on Government Oversight, Wilmer tied with O’Melveny & Myers among law firms in recruiting the most agency veterans who subsequently appeared before the commission - six apiece – between 2006 and 2010.
Likewise, ex-Wilmer lawyers currently hold a number of key jobs within the SEC. General counsel Mark Cahn spent 20 years at Wilmer before joining the agency in March 2009, and Wilmer partner Anne Small was named a deputy general counsel two months ago. Enforcement Division chief counsel Joseph Brenner was a Wilmer partner until November.
And Meredith Cross, who is the head of the agency's Division of Corporate Finance, was a partner at Wilmer before joining the SEC in 2009.
Gallagher did not return a call seeking comment.
Michael Smallberg, who is an investigator at the Project for Government Oversight, said the revolving door between Wilmer and the SEC raises concerns. "It's not a question of [Gallaghers'] personal qualifications, but the public perception that the SEC could be biased toward this firm and the clients it represents."