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A dinosaur, a lawyer, and an accountant walked into a government office in Texas.
It’s not the beginning of a joke. It was just Halloween in 2017 at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Fort Worth Regional Office led by Director Shamoil Shipchandler, whose sense of humor extends from the workplace to Twitter, where his near-daily comic musings have attracted a wide online following.
Shipchandler, who has received a top Justice Department award for his work as a government lawyer, celebrated the holiday by donning an inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex costume as he roamed the office’s corridors. “Just an ordinary day,” except for the dino, he told Bloomberg Law.
The T. rex didn’t stay within the confines of the office, however. Shipchandler tweeted a photo of his costumed self from the SEC Fort Worth Twitter account, which has more than 11,000 followers–more than double any of the commission’s 10 other regional offices, including New York.
Shipchandler, a 44-year-old former Texas federal prosecutor, started putting humorous tweets alongside more serious ones in 2016, the year after he became director. Quips like, “We’re contemplating adding ‘Blockchain’ to our name so we’ll increase our followers by 70,000 percent,” drew more than 8,700 likes.
Not everyone is a fan of what’s tweeted out by the self-proclaimed “Fruit Loop in a world full of Cheerios.”
The replies to his joke about adding blockchain to the office’s name included, “This is probably the stupidest tweet that I’ve seen in a long time” and “Doesnt matter still wont follow you.”
Then, there’s Mark Cuban.
The billionaire investor and owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks didn’t appear to think a tweet about mimes-turned-kidnappers performing “unspeakable acts” was funny.
“Nice to know that the SEC is focused and ready,” he tweeted. “Great job folks.”
Cuban, in return, received tweets that appeared to defend the Fort Worth office. “Come on bro, at least they are attempting to be light and personable,” one Twitter user told him.
“Twitter is one of those mediums where everybody can voice an opinion, and they do,” said Shipchandler. “I would say not every response to our Twitter is positive. But overwhelmingly, the majority of the sentiment has been positive.”
To Shipchandler, humor is a way to attract eyeballs to the SEC’s more serious work such as helping military members with investing and providing guidance on corporate cybersecurity disclosures.
“You’ve got to make sure that they want to see your content,” he said. “Then, if they want to see your content, you can add in things that you think they should know about and they’ll end up seeing because they follow you.”
Shipchandler said the SEC’s Office of Public Affairs approves all the Fort Worth account’s tweets before he sends them.
“It’s good to have a second pair of eyes,” he said. “Humor can be dicey. I try to stay very, very much in the mainstream.”
An agency spokesman in Washington had nothing to add about the tweets, directing questions about them to Shipchandler.
Shipchandler said he and the roughly 120 staffers in his office don’t “joke around” with their enforcement work, which spans across Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas, in addition to Texas.
The office in February brought a fraud case involving the CEO of three Texas oil companies who allegedly spent $1 million in investor money on strippers, drugs, and alcohol. It also this year helped secure a court order for freezing assets of an initial coin offering that purportedly raised $600 million.
“When we’re talking about enforcement cases, that’s very serious business,” Shipchandler said.
He got high marks from his ex-boss, former U.S. Attorney Matthew Orwig, who hired him for the prosecutor job. Orwig praised his “strong, strong sense of duty” and “good sense of humor.” Shipchandler, a Cornell Law School graduate who worked stints at Bracewell LLP in Dallas and Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, rose to deputy criminal chief, asset forfeiture and money laundering chief, and attorney-in-charge of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas Plano outpost.
“Working with him was a really great experience, mature beyond his years,” Orwig, a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP in Dallas, told Bloomberg Law.
Shipchandler said he has no plans to quit his day job and take up stand-up comedy. “That would probably be the most dreadful result people could imagine,” he said.
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