Fintech Startup Leap Theory Adds Manatt Consumer Finance Chair

Leap Theory LLC, a startup that provides analytics technology to financial services clients, has recruited a new law department leader in Richard Gottlieb.

Gottlieb most recently chaired the national consumer financial services practice at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. He worked out of the law firm’s offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, which Gottlieb left this month to join the management team at Leap Theory in its Silicon Beach headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif. His first day was Jan. 3.

Companies operating in the non-traditional financial services space have been busy in recent months recruiting in-house legal leaders. Fintech startups such as Brex Inc., Chime Financial Inc., and Finco Services Inc., better known as Current, have snapped up lawyers to build out their legal and compliance functions.

Leap Theory said in a press release that Gottlieb will lead its legal and compliance operations, as well as “direct several planned business initiatives” related to consumer lending and other business areas.

“Richard is perhaps the leading lawyer in his field, and we will count on him to build on our already compliance-driven operations,” CEO Morgan Gethers said in a statement. “Richard has tremendous contacts across the financial services industry, and we expect him to lead numerous new business ventures as we continue to expand our operations.”

The company, founded in 2018, paid a $25,000 penalty the following year levied by California’s Department of Business Oversight over referral fees that Leap Theory received for lead generation activities.

Gottlieb said in an email that Manatt didn’t represent Leap Theory in 2019. The company already has a legal and compliance department, including corporate counsel Christine Lee and compliance director Kamron King, as well as an assistant, which Gottlieb will now lead, he said.

In a series of posts to LinkedIn, Gottlieb disclosed that Los Angeles-based Manatt partner Scott Pearson—who joined the firm in 2019 from Ballard Spahr—has succeeded him as head of the firm’s consumer financial services practice.

During his time in private practice, Gottlieb specialized in handling class actions and civil litigation for banks and mortgage service providers. Among his many financial services clients over the years were PNC Bank NA, Citicorp Credit Services Inc., and the Independent National Mortgage Corp., a now-defunct bank better known as IndyMac that collapsed at the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

The demise of IndyMac, whose assets were subsequently sold off to an investor group led by future Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, saw Gottlieb be retained to represent the company and other similarly situated financial clients in subprime mortgage litigation. At the time, Gottlieb was a partner at Dykema Gossett, where he led a 75-lawyer team as chair of the firm’s financial industry practice.

Gottlieb left Dykema in 2013 to join Buckley, a financial services boutique where he spent nearly three years before becoming an equity partner at Manatt in 2016. He handled litigation, regulatory enforcement, and transactional matters for the West Coast firm, which Gottlieb helped expand into Chicago.

He’s the latest financial services lawyer to leave private practice behind for a legal leadership job in the fintech world.

Bloomberg Law reported last month on newly public online brokerage TradeZero Holding Corp. hiring former Clear Street LLC general counsel Andrew Koslow for the same in-house position.

Clear Street, a New York-based fintech platform for trading software, has hired former Cantor Fitzgerald LP assistant general counsel Scott Gutmanstein to succeed him as general counsel. Clear Street also brought on former Goulston & Storrs corporate partner Kenneth Sicklick last year to be its chief legal officer.