SEC headquarters in Washington. (Photo: AP)

The SEC announced Friday that George Canellos, the co-director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division, is departing the agency, leaving the co-director of the division, Andrew Ceresney, as sole director of the SEC’s high-profile unit.

Canellos, 49, joined the SEC in July 2009 as director of the SEC’s New York office, became deputy director of enforcement in July 2012, was named acting director following the departure in February of director Robert Khuzami and was named co-director with Ceresney, 41, by Chairwoman Mary Jo White in April 2013. 

When now-Chairman White was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, both Canellos and Ceresney worked under her. Among Canellos’ many accomplishments at the SEC was his role, while at the New York office, in overseeing the investigation into Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. At the enforcement division he led insider trading actions against Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Management and Steven A. Cohen of SAC Capital and helped implement, according to an SEC statement, “new approaches to examinations of investment advisory firms while more closely integrating the teams responsible for examinations of broker-dealers and investment managers.”

When Chairwoman White announced last April the appointment of Canellos and Ceresney (who was also a colleague at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton) as co-directors of enforcement, she said that “George and Andrew are two of the best lawyers and finest people I know.” At that time, multiple media sources suggested that the co-directorship might not last too long. For example, a New York Times Dealbook article quoted “people briefed on the matter” who said that Canellos was “expected to return to private practice well before the end of President Obama’s second term.”

Check out Enforcement Roundup: Investors Win $900,000 in FINRA Arb Over Nontraded REITs on ThinkAdvisor.