Michael Watling is a partner in the Firm’s Government Enforcement and Internal Investigations Group. He represents financial institutions and executives in regulatory enforcement and white-collar matters. Michael is an experienced trial lawyer, having served as both a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Tax Division and as Senior Litigation Counsel in the Enforcement Department of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). In private practice Michael represents clients in both civil and criminal matters and in internal investigations involving a wide range of accounting, tax, and securities issues and regularly conducts due diligence on wealth management-related mergers and acquisitions. Michael has had significant success representing clients in litigation and during investigations, often resolving matters for clients without any enforcement action and achieving favorable verdicts and settlements once in litigation. Michael also provides compliance advice to a variety of financial services and fintech companies, particularly in areas concerning financial crimes and anti-money laundering compliance.
For over fifteen years Michael served as a prosecutor and financial regulator where he led dozens of complex white-collar investigations and served as lead trial counsel in many of his organizations’ most complex and programmatically important matters. During that time, Michael developed broad subject matter expertise in both securities and tax law, having handled diverse cases involving securities fraud, market manipulation, pump-and-dump schemes, tax evasion, tax shelter promoters, mortgage fraud, money laundering, programmatic supervision and AML failures, and a wide range of broker-dealer sales practice violations.
Michael also served as a Deputy Associate Counsel in the Office of the White House Counsel during the administration of President Barack Obama. While at the White House, Michael vetted presidential appointees and counseled the president and vice president on tax-related matters. Michael started his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in Queens County, New York.
- Negotiated a ninety percent reduction of multi-million dollar pre-trial settlement offer for broker-dealer in regulatory litigation involving FINRA’s corporate finance rules.
- Successfully defended Shopoff Securities, Inc. and its principals in a FINRA disciplinary proceeding, securing complete exoneration for entity and principals and complete dismissal of Complaint.
- Successfully defended registered representative in FINRA cause examination involving expense reporting concerns, resulting in termination of examination with no enforcement action.
- Negotiated settlement resolving multi-year investigation into broker-dealer supervision and reporting of registered representatives’ liens and judgments.
- Represented numerous public companies in fraud surveillance inquiries conducted by FINRA’s National Cause and Financial Crimes Detection Program.
- Conducted internal investigation for public company concerning potential insider trading preceding$20 billion merger announcement.
- Advised a state-chartered trust to establish KYC procedures and anti-money laundering program for new business line involving foreign counterparties.
- Represented fixed income trader in DOJ Antitrust Division investigation.
- Conducted tax- and financial crimes compliance-related due diligence for wealth management division of global financial institution.
- Represented multiple witnesses in federal criminal trial in connection with a forensic accounting investigation conducted by a global accounting firm.
- NYSBA Securities Regulation Committee Meeting (March 20, 2019)
- Return to Work Considerations for the Financial Services Industry Webinar (May 28, 2020)
- Six-time recipient of FINRA’s Premier Achievement Award
- Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division Honoree (2010)
- Two-time recipient of US Department of Justice Tax Division Special Commendation Award (2008, 2010)
- US Department of Justice Outstanding Attorney Award (2009)