Richard Breeden graduated with honors from Stanford University in 1972 and from the Harvard Law School in 1975.
After beginning his career practicing securities law and handling mergers and acquisitions in New York City, Mr. Breeden served in a series of government positions from 1981-1993 under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush (41) and William Clinton.
Mr. Breeden worked in the White House for four years under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. During the Reagan Presidency, Mr. Breeden served as Deputy Counsel to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and staff director of a cabinet-level group attempting to restructure federal banking regulation. Later, during the first year of the Bush Presidency, he served as Assistant to the President for Issues Analysis and co-head of Domestic Policy. In this capacity, Mr. Breeden was largely responsible for developing and winning Congressional enactment of the President’s program to create the Resolution Trust Corporation and restructure the U.S. savings and loan industry. He also helped coordinate the response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill and other long-term issues.
In late 1989, President Bush nominated Breeden to serve as the 24th Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he served for nearly four years following unanimous Senate confirmation. As Chairman, he was a strong advocate of investor interests and of strengthening the SEC as an institution . Among other things, he achieved legislation authorizing stronger enforcement remedies, and he won significantly greater budgetary resources for both personnel and technology. At the same time, he sought to eliminate outmoded or ineffective regulations to promote increased economic growth and lower costs of raising capital. These steps included creating the Rule 144A market, licensing the first ETFs and authorizing many of the early electronic trading systems, along with reducing accounting and disclosure requirements for smaller businesses. Chairman Breeden launched the “Red Book” study of the Investment Company Act to chart a course for modernization of the Act, and took many other steps to help strengthen market stability and efficiency. For example, Chairman Breeden proposed eliminating artificial restrictions on the number of investors in hedge funds, overhauled SEC proxy rules, promoted greater transparency in many areas of corporate reporting and instituted the first market circuit breakers and T+3 settlement. He was also the first SEC Chairman to focus the Commission on globalization, and achieved hundreds of first time foreign listings in U.S. markets.
Since leaving the SEC in 1993, Mr. Breeden has served as a consultant to large and small businesses on a wide range of topics. In addition, he has handled a series of corporate bankruptcies and restructurings on behalf of various federal courts, the SEC or the U.S. Department of Justice. These assignments included serving as corporate monitor of WorldCom, Inc. for the U.S. District Court in Manhattan following one of history’s largest accounting frauds. He was also corporate monitor of the accounting firm KPMG LLC under its deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice relating to promotion of fraudulent tax shelters. Through a claims administration firm that he owns, Mr. Breeden has also assisted the SEC and the DOJ on numerous occasions by administering financial recovery funds. He is currently distributing over $4 billion to approximately 40,000 global victims of the Madoff fraud on behalf of the Justice Department. By the end of the Madoff case Mr. Breeden and his firm will have returned well over $8 billion to more than 1.5 million victims of financial fraud.
In 2005, Mr. Breeden launched a series of equity investment funds focused on taking concentrated investment stakes in underperforming midcap companies and supporting steps necessary to generate improved shareholder value. After several years with assets under management of up to $1.6 billion, in 2013 Mr. Breeden closed his funds to outside investors but continues to manage a proprietary investment portfolio.
Mr. Breeden serves as chairman of the nominating and governance committee of the board of STERIS plc, a UK-domiciled medical device manufacturer focused on improving the safety, sterility and efficacy of hospital procedures around the world. He is also a Trustee of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation and a member of the Standing Advisory Group of the Public Company Audit Oversight Board (PCAOB). During his years since leaving the SEC, Mr. Breeden has served as an outside director of more than 15 companies in the U.S., the U.K., Spain and Germany. In 2016, he was awarded the William O. Douglas award by the Association of SEC Alumni for lifetime achievements for investors.
Mr. Breeden and his wife Linda live in Greenwich, Connecticut.