Ernesto Lanza is joining the SEC's muni securities office

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Ernesto Lanza will be moving on to work in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Municipal Securities in a move sources said is symptomatic of a growing municipal focus from the SEC.

Lanza will be a staff attorney in a senior position, sources told The Bond Buyer. Lanza has a long history in the municipal market and previously held high-level positions at the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

“The industry is going to be happy that he’s there,” a market participant said. “We’re all familiar with him and we know him from when he worked at the MSRB.”

Lanza will be leaving the law firm of Clark Hill law firm where he has been since 2016 as senior counsel. There he focused on public finance matters related to securities law, disclosure, trading and market structure issues. His clients included broker-dealers, investors, municipal advisors and state and local governments among others.

Lanza also previously worked as the deputy executive director at the MSRB where he led a number of policy initiatives such as the launch of its EMMA system. Before that, he was the MSRB’s chief legal officer and general counsel. He developed the broker-dealer regulatory framework for the 529 college savings plan market and interpreted the MSRB’s pay-to-play rule on political contributions, that served as a prototype for the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Lanza earned his degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and his undergraduate degree cum laude from Harvard University.

OMS is also hiring two others to join the office, sources said. One will replace Hillary Phelps who recently left her position as senior counsel in the muni office to become a partner at Chapman and Cutler LLP.

The office is growing, which says a lot about the SEC’s focus, a market participant said.

“It says a lot about Chair Clayton’s willingness to focus on the muni market,” the industry participant said. "The office of municipal securities has typically been quite small, but now they’re really staffing up." added.

At one point in 2013, the Office of Municipal Securities had shrunk to only two members when then muni chief John Cross and attorney Mary Simpkins were all that remained after a series of departures.

The SEC asked for funding for 10 full-time OMS staff in its fiscal year 2020 request.

“The fact that the SEC is building up their office of muni securities just leads me to believe that they value the market,” an market participant said.

Having more staff and filling the vacant spots will give the office more capacity to receive and respond to stakeholder input, and it’s something they’ve done a great job at, a government affairs source.

SEC Chair Jay Clayton has also honed in his focus on retail investors. With staff to address issues that arise involving retail investors is important, the participant said it gives OMS a central focus on the municipal bond market and ability to respond and get stakeholder input.

A market participant noted that Lanza would be more freely accessible at the SEC, and participants won’t have to pay to gain access to his wealth of knowledge.

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Career moves SEC enforcement Securities law MSRB SEC Washington DC