SoFi General Counsel Navigates Unique Legal Challenges
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SoFi Technologies, the digital personal finance company, is growing at an accelerated pace. Since its 2011 founding, SoFi has seen soaring revenue and increasing demand for its products.
For Robert Lavet, general counsel, the company’s leading position in the digital lending and fintech space has created unique legal challenges. As head of SoFi’s legal department, he has had to tackle a wide range of legal issues. In addition, he has had to navigate evolving regulations and oversee compliance and risk management functions.
SoFi’s Startup Story
Students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business founded SoFi. The company began as an alumni-funded lending platform, connecting recent Stanford graduates with alumni. The idea behind SoFi came from observations of gaps in the lending space. The idea was to focus on providing financial products geared toward so-called “HENRYs,” or “High Earner Not Rich Yet.” These are young people earning above average salaries who have not accumulated substantial wealth yet.
SoFi’s stated mission is “to help people reach financial independence to realize their ambitions.” The company provides innovative ways for its members to borrow, save, and invest their money through a seamless digital experience. It has evolved into a student-loan operator, digital banking, and stock trading platform.
Based in San Francisco, in 2015 SoFi became the first U.S.-based fintech company to receive a $1 billion financing round. Current CEO Anthony Noto came over from Twitter in 2018. He brought a wealth of experience from both the tech and finance industries. He was previously Chief Financial Officer of Twitter from 2014 to 2018. Before that, Mr. Noto was a banker at Goldman Sachs.
SoFi agreed to be acquired by a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in order to become a publicly traded company on Nasdaq in 2021. The SPAC, called Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. V, is headed by prominent venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya. Following the SPAC merger, the company reached a valuation of over $8 billion.
Path Leading to SoFi General Counsel Role
Mr. Lavet has had a distinguished legal career. Immediately before joining SoFi, Mr. Lavet was a litigator in a mid-size D.C. law firm. His practice focused on representing financial institutions and post-secondary educational institutions. Mr. Lavet was also the general counsel of Sallie Mae, a provider of federal educational loans, and spent 16 years there. Prior to Sallie Mae, he was a partner at a Washington D.C. law firm. He specialized in corporate and securities litigation.
At SoFi, Mr. Lavet is responsible for leading the company’s legal, compliance, and government relations functions. The company has recently faced lawsuits around its lending practices. For example, a lawsuit accused the digital lending platform of denying loans to immigrants.
SoFi’s Acquisition of Technisys
In late February 2022, SoFi entered an agreement to acquire Technisys, a banking software platform. It will pay approximately $1.1 billion for Technisys in an all-stock transaction. Upon completion of the acquisition, Technisys will operate as an independent subsidiary of SoFi.
The transaction will provide SoFi with technology that is strategic and complementary to its business. It will help in its pursuit of becoming a one-stop-shop financial services platform. However, by acquiring Technisys, SoFi will become subject to several banking regulations.
“Technisys has built an attractive, fast-growth business with a unique and critical strategic technology that all leading financial services companies will need in order to keep pace with digital innovation. The acquisition of Technisys is an essential building block in delivering on our member-centric, digital one-stop-shop experience for SoFi members and our partners through Galileo, our provider of fintech cloud services,” stated Anthony Noto.
Technisys’ leadership team echoed the positive sentiment. “We are thrilled to bring Technisys’ technology, customer base, and expertise to the larger SoFi Technologies platform,” stated Miguel Santos, CEO. “We are confident that together, we can offer a best-in-class financial experience for traditional and non-traditional financial services players alike at a greater velocity than ever before.
To build mainstream brand awareness, SoFi has pursued unique partnership and advertising opportunities. In 2019, SoFi acquired the naming rights of a sports and entertainment stadium outside of Los Angeles. The value of the 20-year deal is over $30 million per year. SoFi Stadium hosted Super Bowl LVI and is scheduled to host events at the 2028 Summer Olympics.