Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

The former co-chief of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s asset management unit is moving to private practice for the first time in his career, joining Dechert in Washington, D.C., after 18 years with the regulator.

Anthony Kelly joined the SEC as a securities compliance examiner in 2000 and stayed with the agency on completing law school as a night student at Georgetown University Law Center. He rose through the ranks and spent the last two and a half years in the leadership role in the SEC Enforcement Division’s largest specialized unit.

“It’s the right time professionally and personally,” Kelly said of the move.

As the co-chief of the asset management unit, he oversaw investigations across a range of asset management entities, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, private equity funds and hedge funds.

“We really looked at anything that could rear up in the asset management industry,” he said. 

The agency announced his departure last Monday.

“Anthony has shown himself to be a consummate leader and mentor within the division,” SEC Enforcement Division co-director Stephanie Avakian said in a statement. “Through his thoughtfulness and fairness on matters within the fund industry, he exemplifies the best of the Division. We will truly miss him.”

Kelly said that after leaving public service, he wanted to land at a law firm with an established asset management practice. That’s a logical outlook for a veteran government attorney without his own book of business.

That’s the nice thing about Dechert. It already has in place a strong asset management practice,” he said. “First and foremost, I’m looking forward to serving the existing client base, but I’m eager to expand that and build it out farther.”

He also pointed to the regulatory attorneys the firm has in the asset management practice.

If you want to have a strong SEC enforcement practice in the asset management space, it’s incredibly important to have strong regulatory lawyers too to help consult on some of the thornier issues that can come up in the asset management industry, and who have practical experience on how the regulations are playing out,” he said. 

The firm’s more general strength in white-collar defense and litigation was also appealing, Kelly added.

“Anthony has a long history at the SEC and his institutional knowledge of government practices will be an important asset for our clients as they face their toughest challenges on a national and international level,” David Kelley, co-leader of Dechert’s white-collar and securities litigation practice, said in a statement.

Kelley himself came on board at Dechert in early 2017 at the start of a litigation growth spurt that’s also included international trade partners F. Amanda DeBusk and Melissa Duffy in Washington, former U.S. federal prosecutor Roger Burlingame in London, New York white-collar lawyer Benjamin Rosenberg, London litigator Dorothy Cory-Wright and a team of product liability litigators from Quinn Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.