SEC names co-directors of enforcement

Apr 28, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

The Securities and Exchange Commission named George Canellos and Andrew Ceresney co-directors of the agency's Division of Enforcement last Monday.

Both have worked with new SEC Chairman Mary Jo White.

Mr. Canellos, who had served as acting director of enforcement since January, worked as an assistant attorney to her while she was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in the 1990s and the early 2000s. In that role, he was chief of the major-crimes unit and senior trial counsel for the securities and commodities fraud task force.

After working six years as a litigation partner at Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP, Mr. Canellos, 48, headed the SEC's New York Regional Office from 2009 to 2012.

Mr. Ceresney, 41, is joining the SEC from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where he was a partner when Ms. White headed the litigation department. She left the firm to become SEC chairman.

The working relationship between Ms. White and Mr. Ceresney could be too close for comfort, said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, adding that they both might be disqualified from SEC cases involving the firm's former clients.

NO FAVORITISM

“The SEC will have to ensure that cases don't fall by the wayside because of potential conflicts of interest and recusals,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement. “The commission can't give any impression of favoritism toward former clients of the chairman and co-director of enforcement's former law firm.”

The appointment of the enforcement co-directors is among Ms. White's first moves as head of the SEC. The Senate unanimously confirmed her April 8.

“George and Andrew are two of the best lawyers and finest people I know,” Ms. White said in a statement. “They are a perfect combination to lead the talented Enforcement Division professionals who protect investors and keep our markets safe and vibrant.”

The division, the SEC's largest, employs more than 1,200 investigators, trial attorneys and others.

Mr. Ceresney also worked with Ms. White in the U.S. Attorney's Office, where he was deputy chief appellate attorney and a member of the securities fraud task force and the major-crimes unit.

Given her background as a federal prosecutor in New York who jailed crime kingpins and terrorists, she is expected to emphasize enforcement at the SEC.

Ms. White's defense of Wall Street firms and prominent officials while at Debevoise & Plimpton raised concerns during her confirmation hearing about her willingness to crack down on financial market malfeasance. She assured lawmakers that she would fight vigorously for investors.

mschoeff@investmentnews.com Twitter: @markschoeff

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