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David Birnbaum

David Birnbaum

Managing Director, Business Development and Strategy

David Birnbaum is a Managing Director of Bates Group, based in New York City. Prior to joining Bates Group, David was the principal legal executive and advisor to Merrill Lynch’s U.S. and international wealth management and private banking businesses, and he led the Legal Team supporting executive, home office, and field-based management, and over 16,000 Financial Advisors. David and his team provided day-to-day tactical and strategic advice and support to all aspects of the business including: regulatory inquiries/investigations; responses to regulatory proposals; interpretation and compliance with laws and regulations; arbitration and litigation matters; recruitment and employment; internal investigations and discipline; dispute resolution; new products; marketing and sales; and operations and back office.

David’s extensive, 27-year legal, compliance, business, and management experience at Merrill Lynch includes having (1) led and restructured diverse legal departments and staff both in the U.S. and internationally, in complicated environments enhancing relationships with regulators and clients; (2) launched and directed critical projects and initiatives resulting in savings of over $300 million; and (3) directed and managed due diligence and integration teams for major acquisitions, including Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch. David has delivered legal, compliance, regulatory, and business advice resulting in profitable business execution with the highest standard of integrity.

David is a consultant and subject matter expert in these Practice Areas and Services:



Global Wealth & Investment Management (Managing Director & Associate General Counsel)
Provided legal and compliance direction and counsel to executive, business unit, and product management for the Global Wealth & Investment Management businesses. Senior lawyer to the President of the U.S. Wealth Management and Private Banking and Investment

International Law & Compliance Department (FVP & Assistant General Counsel and Manager)
Rebuilt and directed this London-based department with 26 diverse, geographically dispersed staff of legal and compliance professionals advising and supporting Private Client retail brokerage offices, businesses, and products, Merrill Lynch Bank (Suisse), and Merrill Lynch International Trust Services in the United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, and Africa Region. Key successes included:

  • Drove business and office expansion across the Region by establishing close working relationships with government and regulatory agencies
  • Built and deployed a robust surveillance/compliance infrastructure
  • Developed and executed important legal, compliance, regulatory, and litigation initiatives
  • Partnered with and advised the Region’s executive management and Finance, Risk Management, Operations, Human Resources, and other support areas

International Product Development, Marketing, and Support (FVP & Assistant General Counsel)
Led global legal team which advised and supported the development, offer, and sale of all products and services through the international retail network for the wealth management and affluent client segments.

Legal Operations and Support Department (Director & Senior Counsel and Manager)
Turned around and led this department’s dramatic improvement in providing advice and service to Merrill Lynch’s retail broker-dealer businesses and sales offices regarding account opening and maintenance, commercial, and operational/back office matters. Overhauled existing and implemented new legal and service initiatives and processes Key successes included:

  • Reduced account opening processing time from 3 weeks to 1 day
  • Significantly streamlined documentation and procedural

Major Acquisition and Project Management
Presently responsible for securing all U.S. regulatory and legal approvals necessary to close the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America, and advising on the integration of the Wealth Management Businesses of the two companies. Previously managed legal due diligence and secured regulatory approvals for closing and integrating business acquisitions and mergers, including the purchases of First Republic Bank and Advest (a regional broker-dealer). 

Led major regulatory, compliance, and business projects including those that resolved significant regulatory (SEC, NYSE, and NASD) matters and completely re-engineered compliance and business processes.

Six Sigma Program (Deployment and Project Champion)
Initiated and directed the Office of General Counsel’s Six Sigma Program for quality improvement, efficiency, and cost reduction. Project successes included:

  • Over $50 million of savings through expense reduction and enhanced efficiency
  • Creation of an arbitration/litigation Early Case Evaluation initiative
  • Increased regulatory and business compliance

Law Firm Management
In response to an executive management mandate, originated and led initiatives that dramatically reduced outside counsel spend by over $150 million and reduced the number of outside counsel used from 1,200+ to less than 100 Approved Firms while enhancing relationships, decreasing risk, and increasing client service.

Private Client and Capital Markets Business Units (Primary Legal Counsel)
Provided securities, finance, and corporate law advice involving matters in retail brokerage; high-net-worth individual and institutional private placements; public and private commodity pool offerings including managed account, alternative investment, and investment advisory programs for high-net-worth and ERISA-covered clients; partnership syndication, finance, and support; institutional and middle-market financial advisory; and small- and middle-market business lending. Managed attorneys and staff, supervised outside counsel, worked with government and self-regulatory agencies, and developed and articulated corporate policies and responses to regulatory and legislative initiatives. 


Long Island Lighting Company, Assistant General Counsel, 1986-1987

Damson Oil Corporation, Senior Attorney, 1984-1986

Cooper Cohen Singer Ecker & Shainswit, Associate, 1983-1984


Hofstra University School of Law, JD, 1983

University of Chicago, BA, 1979