Tom Tenenbaum ’76: At the Forefront of Securities Law

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When he first started at Fordham Law School, Tom Tenenbaum ’76 had never heard of securities law. Today, however, the Fordham Law alum has carved a path in securities law in some of the most rapidly-developing financial fields, including cryptocurrency.

Tenenbaum cites his years at Fordham Law as being particularly formative. The summer after his first year, he clerked for a firm that handled civil rights cases in housing and employment, but he happened to be assigned to research a case with a securities issue concerning warehouse receipts for Scotch whisky barrels. Despite knowing very little about securities law, he found himself immediately drawn to the field and the intellectual challenges it posed. The following semester, he sought out corporate and securities law courses, eager to learn more about this legal field. 

“I found the regulatory aspects of securities challenging,” he said. “And the case law was continually developing to make it work in the present with regard to matters that weren’t within anyone’s scope when the legislation was first passed in the 1930s.”

With his interests and background, he hoped to work for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, but when he graduated law school in 1976, there was an effective governmental hiring freeze. As luck would have it, though, a single position at the SEC’s New York office became available, and Tenenbaum got the job, making him the only lawyer they hired that year.

When he moved to Denver in 1980, he noticed there were relatively few local securities lawyers there, despite significant securities activity in the area, particularly in penny stocks, which drew a large amount of regulatory attention and legal defense work. Like his first position with the SEC, it seemed to be fate, or rather, being in the right place at the right time. After many years as a partner in major Colorado law firms, the opportunities afforded by rapidly developing computer technologies to serve his client base motivated him to strike out on his own. 

In 2002, he founded Tenenbaum Law, a boutique securities litigation and transaction firm. Since then, he has been quick to move into new financial and securities fields, in which Colorado is often at the forefront.

Colorado has been quick to adapt to blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency. Tenenbaum joked that cryptocurrency is “a regulatory defense lawyer’s gold cup,” especially as the government is scrambling to apply various regulatory handles to it: the SEC claims it is a security, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission claims it is a commodity and the IRS counts it as property. 

Cryptocurrency is a volatile fluid industry with many securities and other legal pitfalls for the unwary. Today, after years of extensive work, he is a widely-respected legal expert on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, giving CLE lectures on the subject.

He credits both his undergraduate and law school experiences at Fordham with giving him the desire to continue what he terms “lifelong learning.” It is this very curiosity that has guided his continued success.

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