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James M. McDonald


James M. McDonald

New York +1 212-558-3030 +1 212-558-3030 +1 212-558-1600 +1 212-558-1600
Washington, D.C. +1-202-956-7050 +1-202-956-7050 +1-202-293-7623 +1-202-293-7623
[email protected]
James M. McDonald is a litigation partner and a member of the Firm’s Securities & Commodities Investigations Practice and its Commodities, Futures and Derivatives group. His practice focuses on advising clients on regulatory enforcement matters, white-collar criminal matters, and internal investigations, as well as on regulatory and corporate governance matters related to the securities and commodities laws.  In addition, he has represented entities and individuals across the cryptocurrency ecosystem in government investigations, civil litigation, and regulatory matters.
From 2017 to 2020, Mr. McDonald served as Director of Enforcement at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where he had overall responsibility for all aspects of the CFTC’s enforcement program, including its investigations and litigations, market surveillance, and whistleblower office.  During his time at the CFTC, Mr. McDonald was responsible for creating the first task forces within the Division of Enforcement focused on manipulation and spoofing; insider trading; foreign corruption; anti-money laundering and the Bank Secrecy Act; and digital assets. He also coordinated the CFTC’s enforcement activities with the Department of Justice, the SEC, and numerous international regulators.
Prior to joining the CFTC in 2017, Mr. McDonald served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he investigated and prosecuted white-collar criminal offenses, as well as cases involving international narcotics trafficking and violent crime, and tried numerous jury cases. 
Mr. McDonald served as a law clerk to John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States, and Jeffrey S. Sutton, Jr., Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and as a Deputy Associate Counsel, in the Office of the White House Counsel, under President George W. Bush.

Mr. McDonald currently serves as an Adviser to the American Law Institute’s Principles of Compliance, Risk Management, and Enforcement. Mr. McDonald previously served as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Business School, where he co-taught a course on the intersection of business, regulation, and enforcement, and as a Senior Fellow at NYU Law’s Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement. Originally from Oklahoma, Mr. McDonald previously taught Constitutional Law, Federal Courts, Foreign Relations Law, and Supreme Court Decision-making as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law.

Mr. McDonald is a frequent featured speaker at bar association and professional organization conferences on issues relating to white-collar enforcement and internal investigations, including the American Bar Association, SIFMA, the Futures Industry Association, the New York City Bar, and PLI.
Mr. McDonald’s comments have been reported by numerous major news publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, and Bloomberg. 


Mr. McDonald joined Sullivan & Cromwell as a partner in January 2021.  Mr. McDonald’s recent representations include:
White Collar & Regulatory Enforcement
  • Represented BlockFi in connection with a settlement with the SEC and 52 states and territories in SEC resolution, and advising BlockFi on its announced plans to register BlockFi’s interest-bearing crypto account in connection with the settlements.  The settlement and registration efforts have been described as “groundbreaking” and “a landmark event.”
  • Represented Allianz and Allianz Global Investors US in parallel DOJ and SEC investigations involving allegations of fraud in connection with a fund’s collapse during the market volatility of March 2020. 
  • Represented the event contract platform Polymarket in its resolution with the CFTC.
  • Represented financial institutions in SEC and CFTC resolutions relating to off-channel communications and related recordkeeping obligations. 
  • Represented one of the world’s largest trading firms in an SEC investigation relating to trading activity and Regulation SHO.
  • Represented the General Counsel of a publicly traded company in connection with a special committee investigation following the announcement of criminal charges against another executive of the company. 
  • Represented the Board of a U.S. government agency in an SEC investigation concerning allegations of various corporate governance violations.
  • Representing a global financial institution in parallel DOJ and SEC investigations relating to ESG disclosures. 
  • Representing a former senior executive of one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platforms in parallel DOJ, SEC, CFTC and FINCEN investigations.
  • Representing the founder and CEO of one of the world’s largest DeFi platforms in SEC investigation. 
  • Representing swap dealer in CFTC investigation relating to trade reporting issues and counterparty disclosures including pre-trade mid-market mark disclosures.
  • Representing intermediary in DOJ and CFTC investigations relating to off-shore digital asset exchange potentially soliciting U.S. customers in connection with derivatives transactions. 
  • Representing multiple trading firms in DOJ and CFTC investigations relating to off-shore digital asset exchange potentially soliciting U.S. customers in connection with derivatives transactions.
  • Representing registered Designated Contracts Market in CFTC investigation. 
  • Representing multiple digital asset trading platforms in connection with CFTC investigations.
  • Representing a DeFi protocol in connection with an SEC investigation. 
  • Representing digital asset platform in SEC and state investigations relating to whether platform is operating as an unregistered National Securities Exchange.
  • Representing digital asset wallet-services provider in SEC investigations. 
  • Representing global trading firm in investigations relating to Terra/Luna collapse.
  • Representing digital asset platform in investigations relating to staking activity. 
  • Representing a public company in parallel DOJ and SEC investigations related to pre- and post-SPAC disclosures.
  • Representing energy company in CFTC investigation involving potential violations of Commodity Pool Operator and Commodity Trade Advisor registration requirements. 

Civil Litigation

  • Regularly advises entities on civil litigation related to enforcement investigations.
  • Advised Allianz and Allianz Global Investors US in civil litigation related to SDNY and SEC investigations.
  • Representing DeFi Education Fund in Amicus Curiae participation in CFTC v. Ooki DAO, 22-Civ.05416 (N.D. Cal.).
  • Represented a former CEO of a cryptocurrency exchange in connection with a civil lawsuit alleging fraud and manipulation.  
  • Represented cryptocurrency company in connection with class action lawsuits filed in federal and state court alleging unregistered securities offerings.

Corporate, Regulatory and Compliance Advice
  • Advising numerous CFTC registered entities in connection with compliance with CEA and related CFTC regulations.
  • Advising numerous entities on compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related laws in connection with their commodities businesses.  
  • Advising numerous digital asset companies on regulatory compliance issues.
  • Advising numerous trade associations, including ISDA, MFA, DeFi Education Fund, and the Blockchain Association, in connection with regulatory and compliance issues.  
  • Advising numerous entities on remediation and compliance with reporting obligations arising out of resolutions of enforcement matters.
  • Advising digital asset trading platform in connection with Bank Secrecy Act examination.


  • Chambers: Recognized for Derivatives: Enforcement – Nationwide (2022)
  • LawDragon: Recognized as one of the 500 Leading Litigators in America (2022)
  • Benchmark Litigation: Recognized as a Future Star (2023)
  • Law360: Recognized as a Rising Star in Compliance (2022)