Mike Silva (RAFFI ALEXANDER)
Michael Silva, a longtime in-house lawyer at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has joined DLA Piper as a partner in the firm’s government affairs practice and chair of its financial services regulatory subgroup in New York.
Silva most recently served as chief regulatory officer and compliance leader at General Electric Capital Corp., where he spent three years after leaving the New York Fed in late 2013. Silva, who left GE Capital last summer as the auto giant’s financial services arm was broken up, now heads to DLA Piper with the specific goal of expanding and growing the firm’s financial regulatory capacity.
“What was very different about DLA [Piper] is that even though they are a very large firm, they actually have a pretty small financial services regulatory practice and they offered me a chance to lead it and grow it,” Silva said. “That kind of opportunity doesn’t come around all that often.”
At DLA Piper, Silva will go by the more informal “Mike” since the firm already has another Michael Silva, an international tax partner who joined its Miami office in 2011. The firm’s newest Silva said he anticipates adding one or two regulatory lawyers to his group in the coming months, but also plans to bring on nonlawyer examiners from federal agencies and compliance officers to help distinguish his team from other firms operating in the market.
“So much of the regulatory work and assistance that firms need these days isn’t just pure legal work, it’s advisory work with respect to the day-to-day nuts and bolts of complying with the Federal Reserve supervisory expectations,” Silva said. “In that sense, we’re not necessarily going to be competing with other law firms, we’re going to be competing with consulting firms.”
After more than six years in the U.S. Navy, which included a stop at the “Top Gun” or Navy Fighter Weapons School, Silva began his 21-year career at the New York Fed in 1992. He spent a decade as the New York Fed’s international lawyer and negotiated high-profile government deals with China, Iran and Russia. During the Iraq War, Silva served as the Federal Reserve’s adviser to Baghdad and the Central Bank of Iraq.
In 2006, Silva was named chief of staff to former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner during his time as president of the New York Fed, a position that saw Silva play a key role in coordinating the federal government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis.
“Mike is widely recognized for his successful ability to advise at the highest levels. He will be a valuable asset to our financial services and government clients in navigating a complex and ever-changing regulatory climate,” DLA Piper’s New York managing partner Richard Hans said in a statement. Hans, a former classmate of Silva’s at the U.S. Naval Academy, played an instrumental role in recruiting him to the firm, Silva said.
While at the New York Fed, Silva was named as a defendant in a wrongful termination suit filed in 2013 by attorney and former bank examiner Carmen Segarra, who alleged that she was fired after refusing to alter the findings of her examinations of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
In anticipation of her termination, Segarra secretly recorded conversations with several New York Fed officials, including Silva. Ultimately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld in 2015 a federal district court’s dismissal of Segarra’s claims, finding them “speculative, meritless and frankly quite silly.”
Silva took a sanguine approach to being named in Segarra’s suit.
“I think [Segarra] had some very good points, but they basically amounted to a policy disagreement, not a failure to enforce the law,” Silva said.
Silva added that he plans on using what he’s learned from the Segarra case to help guide clients in understanding the potential dangers that come with positions of leadership in the financial services industry.
“I think the thing that was similar to my experience—and what banks are vulnerable to every day—is they need to understand that everything’s under a microscope,” Silva said. “Any little thing these days can suddenly go viral on you in a way you didn’t expect. You always need to be on your best game.”
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