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Andrea Seidt ’98 takes different route to job as Ohio’s securities chief

March 5, 2009 | Alumni

Andrea Seidt ’98 always had a desire to help the “little guy.”

Before she entered high school, the argumentative teenager began telling people that she would become an attorney. Raised in a blue-collar family in the Appalachian region of Ohio, Seidt said she most wanted to be an attorney to help out regular folks who need it most.

And, as she entered The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, she was confident that she would pursue a career in criminal prosecution.

But Seidt’s mind changed, and she has since followed a non-traditional career path that includes time at a large law firm, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and in her current position – commissioner of the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Securities Division.

“If you would have told me in 1998 that 10 years later I would become Ohio’s securities commissioner, I would not have believed you,” she said. “I don’t think I even took a securities law course to be honest with you. I didn’t predict that in any way, shape, or form I would be where I am today.”

But Seidt said that after receiving her undergraduate degree from Ohio State and entering law school, she was adamant about becoming a prosecutor and helping crime victims. And after her first year at Moritz, she volunteered with a local criminal defense attorney who prepared writs for post-conviction relief on behalf of inmates awaiting the death penalty.

“We traveled up to Mansfield to visit an 18-year-old who was on death row,” she said. “I really didn’t like it. I realized that there were victims on both sides of these cases. I got emotional about it and thought maybe criminal law wasn’t for me after all.”

In her third year, she received an offer from Jones Day in Columbus. A few of her mentors at Moritz encouraged her to take the position.

While at Jones Day, Seidt was a general litigator and enjoyed the opportunity to represent a variety of clients in products liability, commercial contracts, and accounting and securities litigation. Seidt’s work with securities was the first taste of what would become the focus of her current career.

After eight years at Jones Day, Seidt decided that she wanted to head down an altogether different path. She was looking for a new challenge and a career that would allow more freedom to spend time with her husband and two children, now ages 6 and 3.

A position at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office opened, and she was named deputy chief counsel for the office in 2007. “I always had a yearning to do something for the little guy,” she said, “and I felt as though I would get some opportunities to do that in the AG’s Office.”

She certainly did. Seidt took the lead on a major subprime mortgage lending investigation in the state.

“Ohio was in a state of foreclosure crisis at least partially because of some fraudulent subprime mortgage lending practices,” she said. “We believed this investigation was essential to keep many Ohioans in their homes.”

Seidt led efforts to negotiate a settlement between the state of Ohio and Countrywide Financial Corp. As a result, Countrywide agreed to pay $4.4 million to the state. The settlement is expected to allow loan modifications for about 8,000 Ohio homeowners and foreclosure relief payments to another 4,000 homeowners.

Seidt also led multi-state amici curiae briefs in support of investors in two landmark securities cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 – Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc., and Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd. “That was pretty fun work as well,” she said. “We got 23 states to join us with the first brief and more than 30 states to join us in the second brief.”

The Attorney General’s Office partnered with the Ohio Department of Commerce during its investigation of subprime mortgage lenders in the state. And, in the summer of 2008, Seidt was contacted by the Department of Commerce Director Kimberly Zurz about the commissioner opening in the securities division.

But Seidt’s decision to leave the Attorney General’s Office was far from easy. Seidt was invigorated by the work she was doing at the office and felt an allegiance to Attorney General Nancy Rogers, who was named to the position following the resignation of Attorney General Marc Dann.

“(General Rogers) was rebuilding and reshaping the office, and I really felt an obligation to her and to the office,” she said. “I wanted to stay with the office and with General Rogers as long as I could through her tenure.”

Ultimately recognizing that Zurz’s offer was an opportunity she simply could not pass up, Seidt accepted the position and began as the commissioner of the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Securities in October 2008. Seidt now oversees the division’s 35 employees and three sections: licensing, registration, and enforcement.

“Sure there are high profile securities fraud cases, but the division also represents some of the smaller securities fraud victims,” she said. “We have a lot of cases involving the targeting of elderly investors. Some individual investors have lost their entire retirements, and helping those people is very rewarding for me.”

Seidt said that the transitions – to her current job and to the Attorney General’s Office – have been made easier because of strong female mentors she has been fortunate to have during her career. At Jones Day, Seidt said that two senior women attorneys provided her valuable insight and counsel throughout her years in private practice and, importantly, a sense of security when she decided to leave. But despite nearly slashing her salary in half, Seidt said she would make the same choice again.

“I don’t know anyone who ever took the gamble of leaving a large firm to do public service and regretted it,” she said. “But it is hard, really hard. I’ve just always tried to find what makes me happy and fulfilled; that is what has been the best for me.”

Then-Attorney General Rogers was clearly a role model, she said, as is her current boss, Ohio Department of Commerce Director Zurz. In law school, Seidt said that she looked up to now-Associate Dean Kathy Northern, whom she researched for in her first year at Moritz.

“I have been blessed to have strong female leaders,” she said, “in law school and in my different career path.”

What lies ahead for Seidt is uncertain, and she said that she has learned that it would be foolish for her to predict. She particularly enjoys being a regulatory attorney, and that would be something she would like to continue. “This job is a huge responsibility, and to be truly effective I am going to be really vigilant and settle into this role.”