Stephen M. Cutler ’85

A Rock in a Storm


Photo of Steve Cutler

Steve Cutler’s journey at Yale Law School began in 1958 when his father (Class of 1959) met his mother (Class of 1960), who at the time was one of J.W. Moore’s research assistants working on his civil procedure treatise.

“When my mother told him she was dating my father, Professor Moore said he’d check him out – and after calling on him in class a few times, grudgingly pronounced him ‘okay.’”

Deciding to follow in his parents’ footsteps, Cutler attended the Law School after graduating summa cum laude from Yale University.

“‘It’s the best education you could ever have, no matter what you end up doing’ was their mantra; it still rings in my ears.”

Cutler, who currently serves as Of Counsel for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP’s Litigation Department, was honored with the Simeon E. Baldwin Award by the Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law in 2020. The award, which was presented in 2022 due to the pandemic, recognizes Yale Law School alumni and faculty for distinguished achievement in law and business.

During the award presentation, Robert J. Giuffra Jr. ’87, Co-Chair of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Chairman of the Center’s Board of Advisors, commended Cutler for his equanimous leadership throughout his career in the public and private sectors.

“Steve was at the center of some of the biggest corporate frauds in American history — Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco, and HealthSouth,” said Giuffra of Cutler’s time as Director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement. “Steve was widely praised for how tough but fair he was. Steady, methodical, and not a grandstander. He was respected by all.”

Cutler’s ability to remain levelheaded in the face of adversity can be attributed to a few guiding principles that he’s followed throughout his career. “Have humility. Never make an important judgment or decision alone. There’s no substitute for hard work and preparation.”

After a few years at SEC, Cutler went on to serve as General Counsel at JPMorgan Chase.

Shortly after taking on the role at JPMorgan, the world was hit with the financial crisis of 2008. As banks were failing left and right, Cutler was “unflappable” as he guided the largest U.S. bank through one of the worst financial disasters in history.

Cutler credits his supportive family, particularly his wife Wendy, for getting him through one of the most stressful points of his career. “My wife was always an island of calm during whatever storm I was facing at work.”

“For those seeking to learn about crisis management, Steve is a master and should be their first stop,” said Michael S. Solender ’89, General Counsel at Ernst & Young, during the award presentation. “I can think of no one in our profession more deserving of the Simeon Baldwin Award than my friend Steve.”

Now a seasoned veteran in high-stakes legal matters, Cutler would tell any lawyer or soon-to-be-lawyer entering the market today that “with every difficult period comes opportunity, too. [Plus] there will never be a surplus of Yale Law School grads!”