MetLife’s General Counsel Ricardo Anzaldua, who has been a leading advocate for greater diversity in the legal profession and who waged a legal battle to remove the insurer’s designation as ‘too big to fail,’ will be stepping down on June 30.
He will continue as a special legal advisor to MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian and plans to retire from the company at the end of the year, according to an announcement Thursday.
Senior vice president and chief counsel Stephen W. Gauster will serve as interim GC while Metlife conducts an internal and external search for Anzaldua’s replacement, Kandarian said.
“It just kind of feels like the right time to do it,”Anzaldua told Big Law Business Thursday. “We’ve come to a point now in some of the big issues that I’ve bean dealing with where a lot has been accomplished.”
MetLife was one of four non-banks to be named a systemically important financial institution, or SIFI, colloquially known as ‘too big to fail.’ The designation process, which began in 2013, created some higher regulatory requirements from the Financial Stability Oversight Council, and MetLife sued to remove the designation, which Anzaldua said consumed a large chunk of his time.
“There was a massive amount of information requested by the federal government,” he said.
Anzaldua also blamed regulators for making his work difficult: “We were constantly chasing after an elusive goal and they refused to articulate exactly what the basis was going to be for designation as a SIFI,” he said.
The company won its court challenge of the designation last year in a district court in Washington, D.C., but the case was appealed by the U.S. under the Obama Administration. Though the battle is not entirely over, Anzaldua said the litigation is“languishing” as the Trump Administration undertakes a review of the SIFI designation.
Within the legal profession, he also led the charge to increase diversity both on MetLife’s legal team and in the broader legal industry.
In April, he asked in-house legal chiefs to push law firms to increase diversity. At a summit hosted by MetLife in its Midtown Manhattan headquarters, Anzaldua challenged law firms to create plans to retain and promote diverse talent within the next year or risk losing MetLife’s business.
Though he will be retiring this year, Anzaldua has no plans to quit working. He will remain on the boards of nonprofits Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), LatinoJustice, Breaking Ground, and the Greater Hartford Legal Aid Foundation, where he currently serves as president. He will also continue to provide pro bono general counsel services to the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, a nonprofit dedicated to economic development and empowerment in rural areas around the world.
He said he also hopes to snag a seat on a for-profit board of directors.
In the meantime, Tri-State Area dwellers might be able to catch him taking a breather during a fly fishing trip in the Connecticut River or on the Long Island Sound.“Saltwater fly fishing is really unusual, but I really like it,” he said.
Anzaldua came to MetLife after spending five years as senior vice president and associate general counsel of The Hartford Financial Services Group. He cut his teeth at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, which he joined after graduating from Harvard Law in 1990 and where he made partner in 1999.