Kathleen Moriarty, ETF Industry’s ‘SPDR Woman,’ Dies at 69


(Bloomberg) — Kathleen Moriarty, a lawyer who played an instrumental role in the creation of the first exchange-traded fund, has died. She was 69.

Her death was announced by Chapman and Cutler LLP in New York, where she was senior counsel in the corporate and securities department. No cause or other details were provided.

Moriarty spent almost 30 years breaking ground in the fastest-growing segment of the money-management industry, guiding products to market such as the first hedge-fund replicator, the first physical commodity ETF and the first leveraged offering. 

ETFs are low-cost, investment vehicles that track an index or a basket of securities and trade like equities on an exchange. Moriarty built a reputation as the go-to lawyer for anyone seeking to sell an innovative ETF that regulators may scrutinize closely.

“I’ve represented most everybody who’s done an unusual ETF,” Moriarty said in a 2014 interview

She earned the nickname “SPDR Woman” for her work on the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (ticker SPY), which State Street Corp. introduced in 1993, and on subsequent SPDR products. With $357 billion in assets, SPY currently reigns as the largest and oldest ETF in the $6.5 trillion industry. 

“Kathleen was a pioneer in the investment management industry and was at the forefront of some of our industry’s most impactful innovation of the last 30 years,” Morrison Warren, co-leader of Chapman’s Investment Management Practice Group, said in a statement. “Throughout her time at Chapman, she was a humble and thoughtful colleague and universally recognized as a kind-hearted and beloved individual.”

Reggie Browne, the co-global head of ETF trading and sales at GTS known as the Godfather of ETFs, called Moriarty “one of the ETF industry’s GOAT Super lawyers” in a LinkedIn post. 

“She was at the helm of nearly every upward inflection point in ETF product innovations,” he wrote. “She was a super nice person with a warm heart and welcoming spirit.”

A Chicago native, Moriarty moved with her family to New York when she was 5 and lived in Manhattan for most of her life. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, with a degree in psychology and art history, and earned her law degree from the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Indiana, where she met her husband, Robert John Keefe.

Prior to Chapman, Moriarty worked at law firms including Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, according to her LinkedIn page

It was during her time at Katten Muchin Rosenman that Moriarty represented Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss in their first attempt by a US applicant to register a Bitcoin ETF with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. 

While that endeavor was unsuccessful — US regulators still have yet to approve a physically backed crypto ETF — Moriarty went on to represent companies using blockchain technology and other funds looking to invest in digital assets.

“I feel honored and blessed to have known and worked with Kathleen,” said Deborah Fuhr, co-founder of ETFGI, who served on the board of Women In ETFs with Moriarty. “She was involved in many new innovations. Always gave freely of her time. Was a nice, warm, friendly pioneer in the ETF industry. She will be missed.”

–With assistance from Christopher Condon.


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