Betty Santangelo

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

919 Third Avenue
10022, New York, USA

WWL says:

Betty Santangelo is a distinguished name in the white-collar crime space, who receives extensive recommendations for her expertise in securities and fraud prosecutions.


Betty Santangelo focuses her practice on white-collar criminal defence and securities/bank enforcement. A former assistant U.S. attorney for the SDNY, she has extensive experience in securities and commodities fraud enforcement actions. Her practice includes representing and conducting internal investigations for financial institutions, other corporate entities and individuals in matters brought by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, by various regulatory agencies, including the SEC, the bank regulatory agencies, the CFTC, FINRA, international regulators and state and local prosecutors.

What motivated you to pursue a career in white-collar crime?

I was inspired by my father, a U.S. congressman and a criminal defence lawyer, who regaled me with his description of his criminal trials, and a woman prosecutor who headed the Official Corruption Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the S.D.N.Y. who inspired me with her successful prosecutions of mail fraud cases. (I was her student assistant.). I was then lucky enough to work at my first job after law school for one of the first white-collar defence boutique firms, which was comprised of former Assistant U.S. Attorneys. Their practice opened my eyes to the breadth of a white-collar defence practice, including securities fraud, foreign corrupt practices cases and money laundering cases — all of which I found intellectually stimulating. Thereafter, while I was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the S.D.N.Y., I prosecuted securities and commodities fraud cases and a very large international insurance fraud. All of this experience convinced me to focus on white-collar defence.

What qualities make for a successful practitioner in business crime defence?
From my perspective, I think you need an intense interest in drilling down to the important facts, an ability to weed out frivolous explanations, and the art of being able to explain the justice system to your clients to help them get through the process.

What makes Schulte Roth & Zabel stand out from its competitors in the market?

SRZ focuses on servicing all types of financial institutions, operating from offices in New York, London, and Washington D. C. SRZ’s clients are themselves market leaders and innovators. Accordingly, SRZ’s success comes from being savvy on market trends and on top (if not ahead) of new developments in the industry. With market-leading experience and an appreciation of both legal and business perspectives, we provide comprehensive support to all our clients across all our practices.

You are a founding member of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s (SIFMA) Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Financial Crimes Committee. What are the organisation’s goals and how has it enhanced your practice?

The Committee is an offshoot of a group I organised to assist me, while I was a member of Treasury’s Bank Secrecy Act advisory group, in providing feedback to the U.S. Treasury Department regarding the AML rules. It is comprised of experienced AML practitioners whose goals are to discuss issues with other members of the industry and discuss best practices in order to enhance the ability of their financial institutions to build sound AML and counter terrorist financing programs. Where appropriate, the committee communicates those issues to the regulators in a concise and cogent way to enable them to understand the effect of those regulations on the industry and respond appropriately. I am extremely proud of how this committee has developed, my role in the committee, and how effective it has been. My work on this committee has enhanced my knowledge of the industry, helped me to be sensitive to my client’s concerns and to better represent them before the regulators.

How have frauds become more sophisticated over the past five years, and how do you think they could evolve in the near future?

The international scope of frauds has made them more complicated and more difficult to detect by law enforcement. Going forward, the use of crypto currency will make these frauds even more difficult to unwind.

How do you effectively coordinate on cases when working with foreign law enforcement agencies?

In approaching these cases, it is important to understand the differences between the foreign agency and the U.S. agency and their goals. The rules relating to testimony can also be very different. It is, of course, also important to find a knowledgeable foreign law firm who can work with you as a good partner.

Looking back over your career, what is the most memorable case you have been a part of?

Fortunately, for me, I have worked on a number of significant cases that have been memorable.

One of them was the enforcement action against Merrill Lynch relating to the Orange County bond default. At the time, it was the largest case of its kind, and generated a securities law enforcement investigation, civil litigation and a district attorney criminal proceeding. The matter involved billions of dollars in Orange County debt underwritings and resulted in a criminal settlement with the District Attorney of Orange County in which Merrill Lynch paid $30 million, but did not admit any wrongdoing. I was closely involved in overseeing the litigation and in negotiating the criminal settlement.

What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?

In developing your career, it is important to develop mentors along the way. I have been fortunate to have some good mentors. But the one thing I have learned over the years is that you should follow your own passion and choose your own path. If you do that, you will do a better job for your clients and live a happier life.