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Morrison & Foerster adds CFPB alum, fintech pro from Reed Smith

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The logo of law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP is seen at their office in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

  • Maria Earley is eighth new D.C. partner to join MoFo this year
  • Fintech hires continue as market matures

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July 26 (Reuters) - Morrison & Foerster, continuing a trend of law firms bulking up their financial services and financial technology groups, has expanded its Washington, D.C., office with partner Maria Earley from Reed Smith.

Earley is the eighth partner to join San Francisco-founded Morrison & Foerster in Washington this year, the firm said in announcing her hire on Monday. Those recruits include Greg Smith and Ann Lilienthal, who left DLA Piper earlier this month to set up Morrison & Foerster's new agency finance team.

Earley, a financial services regulatory lawyer, previously worked as an enforcement attorney in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the agency launched in 2011. She joined Sidley Austin as counsel in her return to private practice in 2014 and then jumped to Reed Smith in 2016.

She said part of what drew her to Morrison & Foerster was the chance to once again work with Crystal Kaldjob, who co-leads the firm's fintech practice. The pair have previously worked together at other firms, Earley said, noting their practices complement each other.

Kaldjob took over as a head of Morrison & Foerster's fintech group after the former co-chairs, Obrea Poindexter and Sean Ruff, left the firm for Cooley in January. The duo's departure was part of a flurry of high-level fintech moves that month, with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough snagging Polsinelli's fintech head to chair its own practice, and Milbank's practice lead joining White & Case.

The lateral hires don't appear to be stopping – Norton Rose Fulbright last month tapped another former Reed Smith partner, Stephen Aschettino, as its new U.S. fintech head. Aschettino previously led Reed Smith's payments technology team.

Earley said the movement in the fintech space comes as the industry is maturing and the "intersection between traditional financial institutions and fintech is becoming much more complex." She said she anticipates renewed enforcement activity and regulatory scrutiny in the financial markets, including fintech, under the Biden administration.

Her practice includes counseling financial services and fintech companies on product development, regulatory enforcement and compliance, licensing, litigation and other matters, the firm said.

Kaldjob said Earley's background in litigation, regulatory enforcement and compliance will benefit fintech clients with the expected uptick in activity coming out of the CFPB, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, states and other banking agencies.

"Maria is definitely someone who we'll be relying on to provide that for fintech clients, and also our traditional financial services clients," she said.

A Reed Smith spokesperson said the firm thanks Earley for her contributions and wishes her well.

Read more:

Norton Rose Fulbright taps Reed Smith partner as U.S. fintech leader

Polsinelli fintech leader, in-house vet jumps to Nelson Mullins

Cooley snags fintech leaders from MoFo, building on 'massive' East Coast growth

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com

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