Listening to all sides to make lasting change

By Keith Meatto

As a competitive adolescent figure skater, Brian Fetterolf learned to move quickly with precision under pressure. Now, as a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the finesse of figure skating has translated into navigating complex financial regulations. Both activities demand technical skill, adaptability, and a keen sense of balance.  

Essential to his career in both the private and public sectors has been his ability to be a skilled generalist, to have intellectual nimbleness while embracing new challenges and thriving in multiple settings, skills he honed at CPRL. 

“CPRL taught me how essential it is to collaborate and gather input from all parties to design systems and make lasting change,” he said. 

Brian Fetterolf head shot.

Early in his career after graduating from Columbia Law School, Brian was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer for White and Case. There he was thrown into learning deeply and quickly about a range of sectors, from aviation to telecommunications to e-commerce. When de-SPAC mergers surged in 2021, Brian quickly researched the transaction structures for companies to enter the public capital markets as an alternative to a traditional initial public offering and how the federal securities laws applied. To move any transaction along to meet a company’s goals in a merger or reorganization, he said, “We had to continuously engage with multiple internal and external stakeholders, such as other legal specialists, accounting firms, financial advisors, the client and opposing counsel.

“CPRL was a good training experience in researching and applying a particular legal framework, as well as researching a particular field so as to move a client’s project forward towards a solution.” 

While at CPRL, Brian immersed himself in studying schools serving the children of members of the military. Tasked with researching the educational and emotional experiences of those children, Brian and his project team interviewed students, teachers, principals, and guidance counselors. Along the way, he learned the importance of building trust and finding common ground among diverse stakeholder groups. 

In many ways, that education started while teaching middle school math in Denver through Teach for America, and high school algebra and geometry in Hawaii, an experience he describes as “humbling.” “During my first few weeks, it was very apparent when my instruction was confusing, if my classroom expectations were not clear, or the lesson was not engaging enough,” Brian says. “I think it was one of the more memorable moments in my career where I really seemed to fail quite quickly and clearly, receiving instant feedback from my students.”

His desire to be in public service stayed with him. When the opportunity arose at the SEC, he jumped.  “It was a natural transition, as I would be reviewing many deals similar in structure to those that I had been working on in the private sector,” he said. At the SEC, he has seen up close the impact of taking a continuous improvement approach within a large public institution, noting that the SEC operates within a comprehensive, longstanding regulatory framework that builds upon itself and develops new rules and regulations with input from a range of stakeholders as markets and industries change.

“Public institutions serve an invaluable role to society, and the relationship between the public and private sector is interesting, particularly with regards to public institutions' potential to interact with and impact the private sector,” he said. 

Brian has also taken a leadership role at the SEC to advocate for workplace inclusivity as a member of the board of SEC’s Pride Alliance. “I want to be my own authentic self,” he says. “The community at my prior firm was invaluable to me, so I wanted to take a more active role here.”