Wenchi Hu (Courtesy photo)
A week after leaving the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Wenchi Hu is heading to Latham & Watkins, where on Monday she will resume her private practice career as a partner in the firm’s corporate and financial institutions group in New York.
Hu served as an associate director in the SEC’s division of trading and markets, where since August 2015 she has been head of the regulator’s office of clearance and settlement supervision. The role saw Hu oversee clearing agencies, until the announcement of her departure on Jan. 30, 2017.
“I felt that this was the right time for me to go back to the private sector and to take a more active role in engaging myself with business people directly and to participate in so many interesting market developments,” Hu said in an interview with The American Lawyer on Friday.
Hu’s legal career began in 1999 when she joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton as an associate. In 2004, she left the firm to become managing director and senior counsel at Dutch multinational financial services firm Rabobank Nederland, a role she held for the next seven years.
In 2011, Hu left Rabobank’s New York office to become senior special counsel in the SEC’s office of derivatives policy, where she worked on the proposed rulemaking of the application of Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act in cross-border contexts. The following year saw Hu head to the SEC’s office of clearance and settlement, where she was an assistant director for security-based swap clearing supervision. In late 2015 she became an associate director for clearing agency risk and supervision.
“It has been really rewarding and special experience for my career,” Hu said of her five years at the SEC. During her time at the regulator, Hu saw first hand the growth of financial technology, or fintech, within the financial services industry, as well as the expanded use automated processes like electronic trading. Such changes helped provide the impetus for her jump from the public sector back to Big Law, Hu said.
“[After] observing and working on the matters presented to us [at the SEC], it seemed like a good time for me to directly participate in these developments,” Hu said of her decision to leave the regulator amid the change in presidential administrations. (President Donald Trump has picked Sullivan & Cromwell capital markets partner Jay Clayton to lead the SEC.)
At Latham, Hu hopes to counsel clients on structuring their businesses and advise them in a new regulatory environment. Hu’s recruitment by Latham is a part of the firm’s effort to build a global platform for its financial institutions group.
“Back when the financial crisis erupted, it became quite clear to us that the global financial market will move in the direction of much more integrated regulation and that regulation is likely to result in very fundamental changes to the industry and the market,” said Witold Balaban, global co-chair of Latham’s financial institutions group, in an interview Friday. “We moved to assemble an all-star team across various regulatory areas in the U.S., U.K. and continental Europe and do so in an integrated fashion.”
Balaban joined Latham in 2008 from Davis Polk & Wardwell. Last year, Latham’s London office added partners Nicola Higgs and Rob Moulton from Ashurst. Higgs was a regulatory partner at the British firm, while Moulton was its global co-head of financial regulation. (Sibling publication Legal Week also noted last week Latham’s addition of London litigator Martin Davies from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.)
News broke Friday of President Trump’s impeding review of regulatory provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, but Balaban doesn’t expect this to completely alter global financial regulatory landscape.
“I don’t think anyone doubts that the fundamental architecture will remain in place and what we’ll be dealing with are sort of changes and tweaks in particular areas, products and agencies,” Balaban said. “If you’re operating in financial markets, you have to deal with overlapping regulations that are coming from various regulatory agencies within the U.S., as well as from the U.K. and European bodies.”
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