William A. Birdthistle

William A. Birdthistle

Professor from Practice

William Birdthistle joined the Law School in April 2024. His scholarship focuses on investment funds, financial regulation, and corporate governance.

Before joining the Law School, he served as Director of the Division of Investment Management at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from 2021-2024. He is the author of Empire of the Fund: The Way We Save Now (Oxford University Press, 2016) and co-editor of the Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds (Elgar, 2018).

Prior to the SEC, Birdthistle was Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Earlier in his career, Birdthistle clerked for the Honorable Diarmuid O'Scannlain on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and practiced law at Ropes & Gray in Boston for five years as an attorney in the firm’s investment management practice.

He received his JD from Harvard Law School in 1999, where he served as managing editor of the Harvard Law Review; an MA in history from the University of Chicago in 2021; and a BA summa cum laude in English and psychology from Duke University in 1995.


University of Chicago

  • PhD student, History, 2019–present
  • MA, History, 2021

Harvard Law School

  • JD, cum laude, 1999
  • Managing Editor, Harvard Law Review

Duke University

  • BA, English & Psychology, summa cum laude, 1995
  • Phi Beta Kappa


University of Chicago Law School

Professor from Practice, 2024 – present

US Securities and Exchange Commission

Director, Division of Investment Management, 2021–2024

Chicago-Kent College of Law

  • Professor of Law, 2014–2024
  • Associate Professor of Law, 2011–2014
  • Assistant Professor of Law, 2006–2011

University of Iowa College of Law

Visiting Professor of Law, 2011

Ropes & Gray LLP

Corporate Associate, Investment Management Practice, 2001–2006

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Judicial Clerk to the Honorable Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, 1999–2000

Books (Author)

  • Empire of the Fund: The Way We Save Now (Oxford University Press, 2016).www

Books (Editor)

  • Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds. (Edward Elgar, 2018) (edited with John D. Morley). www

Book Sections

  • "Free Funds: Retirement Savings as Public Infrastructure," in Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds, William A. Birdthistle & John D. Morley eds. (Edward Elgar, 2018). www

Journal Articles

  • "Funding Crises: An Empirical Study of the Paycheck Protection Program," 69 Buffalo Law Review 1541 (2021). www
  • "Digital Finance Platforms: Toward a New Regulatory Paradigm," 23 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law 273 (2020) (with Dirk Zetzsche & Douglas W. Arner & Ross P. Buckley).
  • "Mergers & Acquisitions with Props & Pantomime," 20 Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law 277 (2019). www
  • "Federalism of Personal Finance: State & Federal Retirement Plans," 41 Seattle University Law Review 367 (2018).
  • "Becoming a Fifth Branch," 99 Cornell Law Review 1 (2013) (with M. Todd Henderson). ssrn cu
  • "The Supreme Court’s Theory of the Fund," 37 Journal of Corporation Law 101 (2012).
  • "Investment Indiscipline: A Behavioral Approach to Mutual Fund Jurisprudence," 2010 University of Illinois Law Review 61 (2010).
  • "Breaking Bucks in Money Market Funds," 2010 Wisconsin Law Review 1155 (2010) (anthologized in Securities Law Review (Donald C. Langevoort, ed., West 2012)).
  • "Portfolio of Eloquence," Wall Street Journal __ (2009) ((reviewing Frank O’Connor, The Best of Frank O’Connor (2009) (Julian Barnes ed.))).
  • "One Hat Too Many - Investment Desegregation in Private Equity," 76 University of Chicago Law Review 45 (2009) (with M. Todd Henderson). cu
  • "The Fortunes & Foibles of Exchange-Traded Funds: A Positive Market Response to the Problems of Mutual Funds," 33 Delaware Journal of Corporate Law 69 (2008) (anthologized in Securities Law Review (Donald C. Langevoort, ed., West 2009)).
  • "Football Most Foul," 10 Green Bag 2d 159 (2007).
  • "Compensating Power: An Analysis of Rents and Rewards in the Mutual Fund Industry," 80 Tulane Law Review 1401 (2006).
  • "Immigration Process Leaves a Harsh Imprint," Christian Science Monitor 9 (2004).
  • "Memories of Erin," Wall Street Journal W6 (2004) ((reviewing Benedict Kiely, The Collected Stories of Benedict Kiely (2003))).
  • "A Contested Ascendancy: Problems with Personal Managers Acting as Producers," 20 Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review 493 (2000).
  • "Recent Case: Jenkins v. Medford, 119 F.3d 1156 (4th Cir. 1997) (en banc)," 111 Harvard Law Review 1596 (1998) ((student case comment)).

Other Publications

  • "Alexander Vindman Proves We Must Purge All Trace of the Foreign-Born from Our Military, Starting with . . . George Washington," Chicago Tribune, November 4, 2019, at p. C17.
  • "The 401(k) Is Turning 40 Years Old. It's Past Time We Change How Americans Save for Retirement," Time.com, November 2018 (with Daniel Hemel). www
  • "Next Stop for Mutual-Fund Fees: Zero," Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2018 (with Daniel Hemel). www
  • "No, 401(k)s Aren’t a 'Great and Popular Middle Class Tax Break'," The Atlantic, October 24, 2017 (with Daniel Hemel). www
  • "How Lawsuits Against Ivy League Retirement Plans Could Help You," Next Avenue, August 24, 2016. www
  • "Modest Proposal: Only the Foreign-Born for President," Chicago Tribune, August 23, 2016.
  • "5 Reasons to Think Twice About Your Target-Date Fund," MarketWatch, August 23, 2016.
  • "Literary Financial Literacy," The New Rambler, January 6, 2016 ((reviewing John Lanchester, I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (2010), Capital: A Novel (2012), and How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say – and What It Really Means (2014))).
  • "Making the Beautiful Game Beautiful Again," Chicago Tribune, June 7, 2015 (with Daniel Abebe). www
  • "Making the Beautiful Game Beautiful Again," Chicago Tribune, June 7, 2015.
  • "In Search of the Classic Irish Pub," Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2009, at p. W9 ((reviewing Bill Barich, A Pint of Plain (2009))).
  • "Behind the Green Veil," Wall Street Journal, January 2, 2009, at p. W6 ((reviewing Richard Tillinghast, Finding Ireland (2008))).
  • "A Postmodern St. Patrick’s Day," Chicago Tribune, March 9, 2008.
  • "Burning Bright: How the Celtic Tiger Proved the Begrudgers Wrong," Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2008, at p. W8 ((reviewing R.F. Foster, Luck and the Irish (2008))).
  • "An Irish Freshman Adapts to Dorm Life," Chicago Tribune, March 16, 2007, at p. 27.
  • "Bookmarks," Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2007, at p. W6 ((reviewing Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (2006))).
  • "A Gentleman’s Day Out in London Town," ForbesTraveler.com, August 22, 2006.
  • "Relegating the Twelfth Man," Chicago Tribune, July 12, 2006, at p. 19.
  • "Writer’s Block," Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2006 ((reviewing Alan Furst, The Foreign Correspondent (2006))).
  • "Go, Azertyuiop! Racing Season Among the Irish," Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2006, at p. P11 ((reviewing Bill Barich, A Fine Place to Daydream (2006))).
  • "A Ward-Heeler’s Bruising Path," Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2005, at p. D10 ((reviewing Thomas Fleming, Mysteries of My Father (2005))).
  • "The Bejaysus Factory," Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2005, at p. W1.
  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges Roundtable, Yale Law School, December 2019
  • Society of Investment Law, Investment Fund Roundtables, Host: 2008-2019
  • The Business Use of Trusts, University of Cincinnati College of Law, February 2019
  • 4th Luxembourg FinTech Conference, University of Luxembourg, October 2018
  • Teaching Transactional Law Conference, Emory Law School, June 2018
  • War in Law & Literature Conference, University of Chicago Law School, February 2018
  • Rutgers Workshop on Consumer Financial Protection, February 2018
  • Berle IX: Investor Time Horizons, Georgia State U. College of Law, June 2017
  • Washington University School of Law, April 2017
  • Law & Entrepreneurship Association, UC Berkeley Law, March 2017
  • Fordham University School of Law, April 2016
  • Vanderbilt Law School, October 2015
  • American Association of Law Schools Conference, Presenter: 2014, 2011, 2010
  • National Business Law Scholars Conference, Presenter: 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012
  • The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, August 2013
  • Brooklyn Law School Symposium: Compliance in Financial Firms, February 2013
  • UCLA Junior Business Law Faculty Forum, November 2012
  • Midwest Law & Economics Association Annual Meeting, Presenter: October 2012
  • Notre Dame Law School, November 2010
  • University of North Carolina Law School, October 2010
  • Canadian Law & Economics Association Annual Meeting (Toronto), Presenter: 2010, 2009
  • Northwestern University Law School, September 2010
  • American Constitution Society (Illinois), August 2010
  • University of Chicago Law School Summit, participant, May 2010
  • Law & Society Association Annual Meeting, Presenter: 2016, 2010
  • U. of Chicago Law School Federalist Society, April 2010: Debate with Professor M. Todd Henderson
  • Morningstar webinar, April 2010: Debate with Professor John C. Coates IV on Jones v. Harris
  • Institute for Law & Economic Policy (Turks & Caicos Islands), Commentator: April 2010
  • Institute for Law & Economics, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Participant: April 2010
  • University of Illinois College of Law, September 2009
  • University of Chicago Law School, June 2008
  • Boston College Law School, March 2008
  • University of Illinois College of Law, February 2008
  • Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, February 2008

Memberships and Professional Affiliations

  • Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, 2008
  • Bar of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 2009
  • Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2000

Editorial Work

Referee, Journal of Legal Studies

Awards and Honors

  • Graduating Students Award for Teaching Excellence, University of Chicago Law School, 2019
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2010

Other Activities

  • Norman & Edna Freehling Scholar, 2013–2015
  • Searle-Kauffman Fellow on Law, Innovation, and Growth, 2009-2010
  • Lecturer, Themis Bar Review, 2009 – present
  • Lecturer, Shanghai Bar Association, China, U.S. Business Organizations, 2007

Amicus Briefs

  • Counsel of Record, Brief of Investment Law Scholars as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners (September 10, 2021), Hughes v. Northwestern University, et al., No. 19-1401 (U.S. 2021)
  • Counsel of Record, Brief of Law Professors as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent (November 2, 2010), Janus, et al. v. First Derivative Traders, No. 09-525 (U.S. 2010)
  • Counsel of Record, Brief of Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of Petitioners (June 15, 2009), Jones v. Harris Associates L.P., 129 S. Ct. 1579 (U.S. 2009)
  • Counsel of Record, Brief of Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of the Petition for Rehearing En Banc (March 18, 2009), Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575 (7th Cir. 2009)
  • Counsel of Record, Brief of Amici Curiae Law Professors in Support of the Issuance of a Writ of Certiorari (December 3, 2008), in Jones v. Harris Associates, Inc., 527 F.3d 627 (7th Cir. 2008), certiorari granted, 77 U.S.L.W. 3281 (U.S. March 9, 2009)