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Robinhood Raids Goldman, Wells Fargo, Ameritrade for Legal Pros

Dec. 2, 2020, 10:56 AM

Robinhood Markets Inc., the stock trading startup, has snapped up talent from top financial firms as it battles legal, compliance, and regulatory actions.

The company has recruited Wells Fargo & Co.‘s Bethany Zorc to be associate general counsel for federal affairs, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.‘s Janet Broeckel to be head of litigation, and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.‘s John Markle to be deputy general counsel for regulatory and product.

The hirings come as Robinhood faces a federal probe into payments from high-speed traders and a putative class action in California over platform outages that have hit the company and other online brokers.

Robinhood’s latest round of recruits also included a pair of compliance chiefs in September, shortly before an internal investigation found that hackers had compromised 2,000 client accounts.

A subsequent analysis of dark web traffic by Bloomberg News found that the number of affected Robinhood accounts, some of which were lawyer-owned, could be up to 10,000, demonstrating the potential risks of online trading.

Online trading is a core business of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Robinhood, which was founded in 2013. The company’s business has boomed with day traders stuck at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bloomberg News reported last month that Robinhood was seeking external advisers for a potential initial public offering during the first quarter of 2021.

A Robinhood spokesman said the company didn’t have anything to add about its efforts to bolster its in-house legal team.

Zorc, Broeckel Join Team

Zorc, a veteran financial services lawyer who spent the past three years as head of public policy at Wells Fargo in Washington, confirmed via email Tuesday that she joined Robinhood a few weeks ago. She said she reports to deputy general counsel Lucas Moskowitz, an former chief of staff to outgoing Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton.

Moskowitz was hired by Robinhood in July, shortly after the company named board member Daniel Gallagher Jr., to replace Anne Hoge as its chief legal officer. Gallagher is a former SEC commissioner and colleague of Moskowitz’s at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in Washington.

Broeckel, a former Goldman managing director and associate general counsel for litigation and regulatory matters, didn’t respond to a request for comment about her new role at Robinhood. She said in a LinkedIn post that she was “excited to join the talented legal team” as head of litigation.

Broeckel spent the past 15 years at Goldman in New York, having previously been a litigation partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and an associate at Dechert. She also had a stint in the SEC’s enforcement division.

Markle Jumps From TD Ameritrade

Markle, TD Ameritrade’s former interim general counsel, joined Robinhood in November after more than 19 years in-house at his former employer.

He was elevated from deputy general counsel for operations at TD Ameritrade to interim legal chief in January, when longtime general counsel Ellen Koplow retired after the company was sold for $26 billion to Charles Schwab Corp.

That mega-merger among retail brokerages received U.S. antitrust approval in June and was completed in October. Markle in a LinkedIn post that month, expressed sadness at seeing many of his former co-workers leave TD Ameritrade as it combined with Charles Schwab.

“I’m looking forward to the possibility of catching lightning in a bottle, for a second time,” Markle wrote.

Markle didn’t respond to a request for comment about his decision to join Robinhood.

Other Additions

Markle joins several other notable hires by the company, which in June welcomed aboard Willkie Farr & Gallagher associate Noman Goheer as principal counsel for financial crime. Robinhood also added former Globacap Ltd. legal chief James Loat in London to be president and head of legal for its U.K. business.

Robinhood brought on veteran Franklin Templeton Cos. LLC lawyer Piret Loone as senior principal counsel in May, a month after it hired DLA Piper associate Rana Bahri as principal counsel for litigation and investigations and associate general counsel for employment Daniel Feldstein from DocuSign Inc.

Within the past year, Robinhood has sought to convince federal regulators it’s taking legal and compliance failures seriously. The company paid $100,000 to retain four outside lobbying firms in the third quarter of this year.

The Williams Group, Thorn Run Partners, Daly Consulting Group, and Blue Ridge Law & Policy are advising Robinhood on broker-dealer regulations, capital markets matters, and securities law and trading issues, according to U.S. Senate records.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.comJohn Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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