When the Securities and Exchange Commission has a green crop of lawyers eager to learn, they often drive up to Baltimore and the offices of Henry H. Hopkins at T. Rowe Price Group Inc., who holds court on the Investment Company Act of 1940 and other arcane securities law.
"He's sort of the dean of mutual fund law," T. Rowe Price Vice Chairman Edward C. Bernard said.
Now the dean is moving on. Hopkins, 64, announced yesterday that he's retiring after a career that began at a Baltimore law firm and ended after nearly four decades at Price, where he was chief legal counsel.
Hopkins plans to "cogitate" on his future, though he said he would have plenty to do with his board duties, including at his alma mater, the University of Maryland School of Law, and the U.S. Lacrosse Foundation. He plans to stay in Baltimore where family connections run deep; he's a descendant of Johns Hopkins, founder of the university.
Henry Hopkins got to know Thomas Rowe Price Jr., who started the company in 1937, because the two were neighbors. He went to work at the company's new legal department. One of his initial duties was to write the company's first code of ethics.
Since then, he has crafted policies on such thorny matters as whether mutual fund boards should be required to have independent chairmen and how to handle soft-dollar arrangements, in which brokers provide mutual funds with free research and other products. Critics say soft dollars encourage funds to trade more through the brokers.
Industry observers say Hopkins' leadership helped to ensure that Price would avoid the scandals that rocked the mutual fund business several years ago.
"He has steered the firm to very high ethical standards," said Gordon Croft, who left Price in the late 1980s to start his own Baltimore investment firm, Croft-Leominster Inc.
As Price's counsel and through his work with the Investment Company Institute trade group, Hopkins has weighed in on dozens of rule changes by the SEC. Hopkins, who will leave in March, recruited his successor, David Oestreicher, from the regulatory agency.