The Top 25 General Counsels in Financial Services of 2024

Attorney Intel is pleased to announce The Top 25 General Counsels in Financial Services of 2024. In the evolving landscape of financial services, the role of General Counsels has remained instrumental, navigating complex legal frameworks while steering their organizations toward compliance, innovation, and sustainable growth. For every 1,750 employees in the financial sector, there is one General Counsel — which is more than double the average across other industries. Identifying the top 25 General Counsels in this dynamic sector was a pursuit in discerning excellence among hundreds of individuals who adeptly balance legal acumen with strategic foresight.

Among the many impressive individuals recognized on this list is Joseph Cohen. As Athene's Executive VP and GC, he oversees the legal department of a leading retirement services company with $320 billion of total assets and operations in the U.S., Bermuda, Canada, and Japan. At PayJoy, GC and CCO Denisse Becerra supports a top global fintech company that offers affordable smartphone access and credit to millions in emerging markets. And, as GC of NMI, Julie Lickstein oversees a global leader in embedded payments, powering more than $200 billion in payment volumes every year. 

These trailblazing General Counsels and their fellow honorees have distinguished themselves in the realm of financial services. From groundbreaking regulatory interpretations to navigating disruptive technologies, they embody an unwavering commitment to the ethical underpinnings of the financial world.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 25 General Counsels in Financial Services for 2024.

 

1. Kevin McCarthy
Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel, BNY Mellon

Kevin McCarthy is the General Counsel of BNY Mellon. For 240 years, the global financial services company has helped make money work for the world — managing, moving, and keeping it safe. As GC and a member of the company’s Executive Committee, McCarthy heads BNY Mellon’s global legal department while being responsible for public policy and government affairs, as well as the corporate secretarial function. 

McCarthy originally joined BNY Mellon as Deputy General Counsel and led the litigation, enforcement, and employment law functions. He was then appointed Senior Deputy General Counsel, before going on to assume his current role in 2014. Before this, he was GC of Cowen Group, Inc., and formerly a Partner at WilmerHale. 

McCarthy previously worked at Credit Suisse First Boston in a variety of roles, and began his legal career as An associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. He received his JD from Albany Law School of Union University, and a BA from Siena College. 

 

2. Michael O'Connor
General Counsel, MassMutual

Michael O'Connor is the General Counsel of MassMutual, a leading mutual life insurance company dedicated to benefitting its members and participating policy owners. Founded in 1851, MassMutual has been guided by one consistent purpose: helping people secure their future and protect the ones they love. 

Since joining the team in 2016, O’Connor has led strategic planning and corporate development for MassMutual Financial Advisors, oversaw MassMutual’s defined benefit business, and provided operational support to the company’s pension risk transfer business. 

Prior to joining MassMutual, O’Connor held leadership roles with The Hartford and ING. He began his professional career in M&A and business-process reengineering. O’Connor received his master’s degree from Wesleyan University, and his bachelor’s degree from Bates College.

 

3. Lucas Moskowitz
General Counsel, Robinhood

Lucas Moskowitz is General Counsel at Robinhood Markets, Inc. where he oversees the legal and government affairs divisions. On a mission to democratize finance for all, Robinhood’s U.S. customers are empowered to invest with no account minimums through Robinhood Financial LLC, a registered broker-dealer (member SIPC); buy and sell crypto through Robinhood Crypto, LLC; and spend and earn rewards through Robinhood’s debit and credit cards.

Before his current role, Moskowitz served as Robhinhood’s Deputy General Counsel and Head of Government Affairs. Previously, he held several roles with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including as the agency’s Chief of Staff under Chairman Jay Clayton, and as a Senior Counsel in the Division of Enforcement. 

Moskowitz also has served as Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Banking Committee and Counsel for the House Financial Services Committee. He was most recently a Partner in the Securities Department at WilmerHale. He received his JD from Georgetown University, and a BA in politics from Princeton University.

 

4. Christine Nixon
General Counsel, Corebridge Financial

Christine Nixon has served as General Counsel of Corebridge Financial, Inc. since 2010. At Corebridge, she and her team make it possible for more people to take action in their financial lives. With more than $390 billion in assets under management and administration, it’s currently one of the largest providers of retirement solutions and insurance products in the U.S.

In addition to her role at Corebridge, Nixon has served as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of AIG since 2010. Nixon joined AIG in 1999 when it acquired SunAmerica, Inc. She was appointed Vice President and Co-General Counsel in 2000, Deputy Chief Legal Counsel and Secretary in 2001, and General Counsel of AIG Retirement Services in 2006. 

Prior to joining AIG, Nixon served as Associate Counsel at SunAmerica. She was previously an Associate at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP. She has a JD from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA. 

 

5. Alexandra Lugo
General Counsel, AML RightSource

Alexandra Lugo oversees AML RightSource’s legal affairs and advises executive leadership on all aspects of corporate governance, compliance, and risk management. She has extensive experience advising company leadership, human resources teams, and board members on liability risks arising under federal, state, and local law.

Before joining AML RightSource, Lugo was a Senior Associate at Barclay Damon, LLP — one of the largest law firms in Western New York. Before this, she was an Associate at Nixon Peabody, LLP, an AmLaw 100 firm; and previously served as an Associate at Harter Secrest & Emery, LLP where she specialized in employee benefit programs, insurance, and privacy law, adding niche expertise to her growing legal practice.

Lugo’s other experiences include a judicial externship with the Honorable Richard C. Wesley at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She received her JD from the University at Buffalo School of Law.

 

6. Joseph Cohen
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Athene

Joseph Cohen is the Executive VP and GC of Athene, where he is responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations and developing effective legal strategies to protect the company’s interests. Athene is focused on providing financial security to individuals by offering an attractive suite of retirement income and savings products and also serves as a solutions provider to corporations. With $320 billion in total assets as of March 31, it is a leading retirement services company with operations in the U.S., Bermuda, Canada, and Japan. 

Cohen originally joined Athene as SVP and Group Deputy General Counsel in 2019. Prior to that, he spent over 20 years at MetLife in various legal and non-legal roles, including GC of its 20+ operations in EMEA, and SVP and Associate General Counsel. There he advised on and directed all aspects of corporate law encompassing, M&A, strategic distribution arrangements, reinsurance, capital markets transactions, and public company reporting. 

Cohen received his JD from Emory University School of Law and has a bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing from Cornell University. 

 

7. Tracy Cheney
General Counsel, Early Warning Services, LLC

Tracy Cheney is GC and Corporate Secretary for Early Warning Services, LLC. As the company’s first GC, Cheney played a key role in the formation and launch of the bank-owned company in 2006, helping to establish internal governance policies and compliance programs. Today, Early Warning is a financial services technology leader, empowering and protecting consumers, small businesses, and the U.S. financial services ecosystem for more than three decades.

In her role, Cheney leads and oversees all legal, regulatory, and corporate governance affairs for the company’s highly regulated payments and consumer reporting businesses and operations. She advises the management committee, senior management, and business teams on various legal and regulatory matters, including compliance with consumer financial laws, privacy, antitrust, intellectual property, government relations, and corporate governance.   

Before Early Warning, Cheney served for nine years as legal counsel for First Data Corporation. She has a JD from the University of Denver and a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Southern California. 

 

8. Amy Pugh
General Counsel, Green Dot

As GC of Green Dot, Amy Pugh oversees the company’s legal affairs and plays a critical role in the company’s strategic initiatives while mitigating risk and ensuring compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations across the board. She also provides critical insight and guidance on cybersecurity, information security, litigation, risk management, and other areas. Her contributions enable the company to give all people the power to bank seamlessly, affordably, and with confidence. 

Pugh joined Green Dot from Cross River Bank, where she served as Associate General Counsel and provided legal expertise in a variety of business areas. During her tenure, the company experienced rapid expansion, grew various business lines, and tripled its revenue and valuation. 

Before this, Pugh held legal counsel roles at Ubiquity Global Services, UniRush, and Fifth Third Bank. She has a JD from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University and a BA in history from the University of Kentucky.

 

9. Denisse Becerra
General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Payjoy

Denisse Becerra is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at PayJoy, a leading global fintech company that offers affordable smartphone access and credit to millions in emerging markets. Becerra has spearheaded the company’s legal and compliance strategy, leveraging over 30 years of expertise in international corporate law, financial services, compliance, and M&A. 

Becerra’s extensive experience, particularly in Latin America and other complex regulatory landscapes, has been instrumental in advancing PayJoy’s mission and strategic initiatives. She played a pivotal role in the corporate compliance reform within Peru, leveraging her deep understanding of local legal frameworks to enhance regulatory compliance and operational integrity within the country.

Previously, as Associate General Counsel for the Americas at The Western Union Company, Becerra led transformative initiatives that elevated the legal function across a vast and diverse region spanning 52 countries. She has several law degrees and certifications from Universidad de Lima, Georgetown, Harvard, and George Washington. 

 

10. Mark Scarpitti
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, 1st Franklin Financial Corporation

Mark Scarpitti is the EVP and General Counsel of 1st Franklin Financial Corporation. Since 1941, when Founder Ben F. Cheek, Jr. made his first $34 auto loan, 1st Franklin Financial Corporation has supported communities and families through inclusive financial services. 

In his role, Scarpitti is immersed in all aspects of the company, providing prompt routine legal services, planning for the future, and knowing when to engage to provide counsel, solutions, or relief. With 29 years of experience, he began his career at State Farm as a Claim Specialist. He then went on to serve as a Partner and Attorney at Day Ketterer Ltd. & Oldham Kramer, LLC before moving into his current role. 

Scarpitti graduated from The University of Akron with a JD in law and from Bowling Green State University with an undergraduate degree in communications.

 

11. Ben Giumarra
General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, Embrace Home Loans

Ben Giumarra is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Embrace Home Loans, Inc., where he oversees all legal and compliance functions. Specializing in consumer financial protection, privacy, data security, fair lending, and enterprise risk management, he has contributed to the design and development of partnerships with prominent banking institutions, including Ameriprise Financial and Eastern Bank.

Giumarra’s career in the banking industry began at Boston-based Spillane Consulting Associates, where he quickly gained recognition as an expert on Dodd-Frank regulations and their impact on the banking industry. He now has a proven track record of translating complex legal standards into clear and practical instructions and managing legal affairs in a way that leverages modern innovation without forgetting the fundamental aspects of what makes for a good legal department.

Giumarra has a JD from Boston University School of Law and a bachelor’s in business administration from the State University of New York College at Potsdam. 

 

12. Sharon Carmeli
General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, Bluevine

Sharon Carmeli is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Bluevine, which provides a one-stop digital banking platform specifically designed for small businesses. Since launching in 2013, Bluevine’s innovative and intuitive products, including business checking, integrated accounts payable, and lines of credit, have helped over 500,000 business owners save time and money so they can focus on growing their businesses.

Beginning her professional career 19 years ago, Carmeli got her start as a Junior Associate at Yigal Arnon & Co. From there, she went on to Herzog, Fox & Neeman Law Office, before eventually rising to General Counsel at Gaon Holdings Ltd. and Tzinorot, Middle East Tube Company Ltd, her most recent position before joining Bluevine. 

Carmeli graduated from the University of Chicago Law School with an LLM concentration in securities law, corporate law and M&A. She has an undergraduate degree in law and psychology from the University of Haifa.

 

13. Julie Lickstein
General Counsel, NMI

Julie Lickstein is the General Counsel of NMI, a global leader in embedded payments, powering more than $200 billion in payment volumes every year. From their industry-leading payment gateway technology to their seamless merchant acquiring, underwriting, onboarding, and management platform, they enable their partners across the entire payments ecosystem. 

In her role, Lickstein addresses a diverse array of legal and operational challenges. During a period of significant growth, her efforts helped expand customer solutions, both organically and through acquisitions, ultimately building a robust legal and compliance department from the ground up.

With 10 years of experience, Lickstein was previously a Deputy General Counsel and Director of Strategic Initiatives at YipitData. Earlier in her career, she worked with Foley & Lardner, LLP as an Associate. Lickstein has a JD from New York University School of Law, and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in economics, with a minor in law and society.

 

14. Vi R. Smalley
General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, and Managing Director, Conning Group

Vi R. Smalley is the GC, Corporate Secretary and Managing Director of Conning Group — a leading investment management firm with a long history of serving the insurance industry. Founded in 1912, it has investment centers in Asia, Europe, and North America. Today, it supports institutional investors, including insurers and pension plans, with investment solutions, risk modeling software, and industry research. 

In her multiple roles at Conning, Smalley is responsible for the company’s global legal affairs and serves as a member of several Conning committees, including the operating committee. Before joining the team in 2006, Smalley was with Citigroup Insurance Investments and previously practiced with Bingham McCutchen, LLP (now Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP).

Smalley is also currently a Director on the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut Board. She earned a JD from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and has an undergraduate degree from Smith College.

 

15. Allison Brecher
General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Vestwell

Allison Brecher is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Vestwell, where she leads the legal and compliance program for all of Vestwell’s operations. The leading employer and individual savings platform is dedicated to transforming access to essential financial wellness and savings programs to close the American savings gap. 

In addition to other responsibilities, Brecher also handles privacy-related matters and serves as Chief Privacy Officer of Vestwell. For more than 20 years, she has focused her practice on ERISA, employee benefits, and data privacy. 

Prior to joining Vestwell, Brecher was the Senior Assistant GC of Marsh & McLennan, where she handled regulatory and litigation matters for the company’s retirement, benefits administration, and health and benefits business lines. She received her JD from DePaul University, and an undergraduate degree from Union College.

 

16. Michael Gershowitz
General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, and Senior Managing Director, Harrison Street

Michael Gershowitz is the GCl, CCO, and Senior Managing Director of Harrison Street — one of the leading investment management firms exclusively focused on alternative real estate assets. Since its inception in 2005, the firm has created a series of differentiated investment solutions focused on demographic-driven, needs-based assets. 

Joining the company in 2005, Gershowitz began as its lead outside Real Estate Counsel. In his current role, and as a member of the firm’s executive committee, he oversees the legal support for all transactions and other matters arising across the firm’s funds. He also manages the firm’s compliance program and advises on all legal matters. 

Gershowitz has over 25 years of industry experience. Before joining Harrison Street, he was a partner at DLA Piper, where he continues to serve as Senior Counsel. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. After graduating, he also served as an Adjunct Professor of Real Estate at Booth.

 

17. Kyle Funn
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Lendistry

Kyle Funn is currently an Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Lendistry. As a minority-led, technology-enabled, and mission-focused small business and commercial real estate lender and deployer of capital, the company aims to provide economic opportunities and progressive growth for small business owners and their underserved communities through financing, access to grants, and financial education. 

Funn is a corporate and securities lawyer by trade with experience in early and growth-stage private company representation, securities law matters, corporate governance, public and private equity and debt offerings, and M&A. He was formerly a Senior Corporate Associate for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C., as well as a Corporate Associate for an LA-based business litigation and corporate firm. 

Funn received his law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and his undergraduate degree from Howard University.

 

18. Ivor Wolk
General Counsel, Yieldstreet

Ivor Wolk is the General Counsel of Yieldstreet, the leading private market investment platform helping people dive into alternative investing with confidence and ease. From real estate, venture capital, private equity, art, short-term notes and more, Yieldstreet investors gain exclusive access to a wide range of opportunities. 

In his role, he has helped pioneer new investing platforms that expand access to private market alternatives for individual investors, breaking new ground while ensuring a robust legal and compliance framework. With over 25 spent as a Senior Attorney at investment banks and top law firms, Wolk has guided organizations through tremendously complex transactions, evolving regulatory environments, and unexpected market shifts. 

Wolk graduated from the University of Cambridge with an LLM, as well as from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg with an LLB in law and an undergraduate degree in accounting and economics.

 

19. Rosie Teo
General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Salary Finance

Rosie Teo is the General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer of Salary Finance. Founded in 2015 by the former Head of Google UK & Ireland, Salary Finance is made up of a fast-growing, passionate team driven by a desire to help people have a more positive relationship with their money. 

In her role, Teo is part of the leadership team that built a global market-leading Series E fintech — which originated $1 billion in lending across the UK and the US and achieved two successful exits (including a sale to Experian plc). She began her professional career 10 years ago, as an Associate at DLA Piper in 2014. From there, she went on to Macfarlanes, before eventually rising to General Counsel at Work Report, her most recent position before joining Salary Finance. 

Teo graduated from the College of Law in London, Moorgate, and from the University of Cambridge with an MA in law. 

 

20. Jessica Wilde
General Counsel, VFI Corporate Finance

Jessica Wilde is the General Counsel of VFI Corporate Finance, an investment-grade rated direct lender in leasing and commercial financing. The company has a long history of providing corporate financing options for large and mid-size companies for projects throughout North America.

In her role, Wilde strikes to balance the nuanced legal and credit risks to grow the business and volume of transactions. Her interest in solving problems and finding solutions has served her well in leading the company's Contracts Department. Her prior experience at private practice Waldo, Holbrook, and McDonough for 12 years influenced her ability to strategically oversee deals in litigation and bankruptcy.  

Wilde has a JD from Touro College and a BA from Brigham Young University. 

 

21. Laura Seamon
General Counsel, Airtm

Laura Seamon is the General Counsel of Airtm, a peer-to-peer network and USDC wallet service provider, enabling digital entrepreneurs to earn, save, and move money throughout the world. Airtm sits at the intersection of fintech and AI, fostering a community of online earners connected to the global economy. In her role, Seamon is an established expert in trading, market structure, and the crypto global regulatory landscape. 

Prior to joining Airtm, Seamon built and led Kraken's Regulatory, Product, and Banking teams for the Americas and offshore business. Seamon’s fintech expertise is built upon years of experience in the TradFi space, representing and advising the world's largest financial institutions during her collective time at the New York Stock Exchange and Charles Schwab, as well as at Nixon Peabody LLP in New York, where she began her legal career.

She has a JD from Emory University School of Law, as well as a BS in business management from Virginia Tech.

 

22. Amanda Hawley
Managing Director and General Counsel, Atria Wealth Solutions

Amanda Hawley serves as General Counsel for Atria Wealth Solutions, Inc., a wealth management solutions holding company focused on delivering a clear path to the future of financial advice for financial professionals, financial institutions and their clients. In her role, Hawley drives the strategic direction and management of Atria’s legal, regulatory, and compliance functions and subsidiary broker-dealers.

Hawley has over two decades of experience managing all aspects of litigation, risk, and compliance matters in the independent broker-dealer and investment advisor space. She was previously with LPL Financial and served as Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel in the Regulatory Strategy and Special Investigations Unit. She began her law career as a Judicial Clerk to the Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. 

Hawley has a JD from Suffolk University Law School, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Boston College.

 

23. Jason Bahnsen
General Counsel & Chief Risk/Compliance Officer, Vizypay

Jason Bahnsen is the General Counsel & Chief Risk and Compliance Officer of Vizypay, a company leveling the playing field for small to mid-sized businesses. Today, it is revolutionizing the payments industry by offering a credit card processing model that focuses on powerful payment solutions, real human customer support, and simple merchant services. 

Beginning his career in 2004, Bahnsen’s proven track record spans 20 years. Before joining Vizypay, he was a compliance officer at Wells Fargo and, before that, a Supervising Attorney in Iowa Operations at South & Associates, P.C. Earlier in his career, he worked with the Missouri State Public Defender System Trial Division as a Trial Attorney. 

Bahnsen graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City with his JD, and from the University of Northern Iowa with an undergraduate degree in criminology and economics.

 

24. Hunter Broadwell
General Counsel, Apiture

Hunter Broadwell is the General Counsel and Chief of Staff for Apiture, a deliverer of award-winning digital banking solutions to banks and credit unions throughout the U.S. Their flexible, highly-configurable solutions meet a wide range of financial institutions’ needs, from leveling the playing field with larger institutions to supporting growth through innovative data intelligence and embedded banking strategies. 

As the GC and COS, Broadwell is responsible for the Apiture legal and privacy functions, corporate secretarial activities, and corporate development. He has more than 15 years of business law and litigation experience. Prior to joining Apiture, he served as a managing legal counsel for a global clinical research organization. 

Before starting his career, Broadwell received a JD and BA in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

25. Thomas Lucchesi
General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, Koalafi

Thomas Lucchesi is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Koalafi — which offers flexible payment plans and credit-building opportunities for the 121 million non-prime U.S. consumers who don't qualify for traditional financing options. As GC and CCO, Lucchesi oversees all of Koalafi’s legal matters, including regulatory compliance and investigations, consumer disputes, corporate governance, capital markets, and vendor/merchant management. 

Lucchesi began his career in consumer finance litigation, working at large regional law firms based in Philadelphia and DC. From there, he went on to Donnelly & Associates P.C., before eventually rising to counsel at Stradley Rono — his most recent position before joining Koalafi. 

Lucchesi received his JD from Widener University Schools of Law, and an undergraduate degree from University of Delaware in hotel, motel, and restaurant management.