The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday announced that Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresney will leave the agency by the end of the year.
During Ceresney’s nearly four years as head of the agency’s largest division, the SEC filed more than 2,850 enforcement actions and obtained judgments and orders totaling more than $13.8 billion in monetary sanctions. The SEC also charged more than 3,300 companies and more than 2,700 individuals, including many CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers.
“Under Andrew’s strong leadership, the Enforcement Division took its already robust enforcement program to an even higher level, achieving unprecedented results, including a record number of enforcement actions, first-of-their-kind cases and a first-ever admissions policy for a civil law enforcement agency,” said SEC Chair Mary Jo White, in a press release.
As director, Ceresney helped the enforcement division implement a new settlement protocol requiring defendants in certain cases to make admissions of wrongdoing. Since the admissions policy was instituted, the commission has obtained admissions from approximately 80 parties.
Under Ceresney, the SEC also brought charges against Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services for fraudulent misconduct in its ratings of certain commercial mortgage-backed securities. These enforcement actions were the agency’s first ever against a major ratings firm.
S&P agreed to pay more than $58 million to settle the SEC’s charges, plus an additional $19 million to settle parallel cases announced today by the New York Attorney General’s office ($12 million) and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office ($7 million).
The enforcement division also enhanced its trial capacity under Ceresney’s leadership. In more than two and a half years, the SEC has not lost a jury trial in federal district court.
The division’s favorable jury verdicts occurred in very significant cases, including cases against two brothers accused of violating the laws governing ownership and trading of securities by corporate insiders; insider trading cases against two brokerage employees and a pharmaceutical executive and a U.K. resident; and a first-ever case against a recidivist municipality and one of its city officials.
In a statement, Ceresney said: “I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together – our innovative and wide-ranging actions have protected investors, deterred misconduct, and sent the message that the SEC is and always must be the tough cop on the financial beat.”
Ceresney joins a growing number of SEC officials set to depart the agency on the cusp of the incoming presidential administration. Foremost among them is SEC chief White’. According to former SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar, SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar will almost certainly be the acting chairman of the commission and could potentially be the new chairman of the agency.
Upon Ceresney’s departure, Stephanie Avakian, deputy director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, will become the acting director. Avakian joined the SEC in June 2014 from the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, where she was a partner in the firm’s New York office and a vice chairwoman of the firm’s securities practice.
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