Late Friday night U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that President Trump intended to nominate SEC Chairman Jay Clayton as the next U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, replacing Geoffrey Berman.
Barr said in his statement that Berman was “stepping down” after two and a half years on the job without providing any details. Berman responded soon after that he had not resigned and had no intention to leave office.
But by Saturday evening Berman was fired by Trump, effective immediately, replaced temporarily by Berman’s deputy Audrey Strauss, and Berman agreed to leave.
“I could leave the District in no better hands than Audrey’s. She is the smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working,” said Berman in a statement.
The office he is leaving has investigations into several close associates of Trump, including Michael Cohen, and is currently investigating Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, when he was fired.
Barr had reversed an earlier decision, included in his Friday night statement, that Berman would be replaced by Craig Carpenito, currently the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, effective July 3.
“Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so,” wrote Barr. He said he expects Strauss would serve as acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District “until a permanent successor is in place.”
That permanent successor is expected to be SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. In his Friday night statement announcing that Trump “intends to nominate” Clayton to replace Berman, Barr lauded Clayton as an “extraordinarily successful SEC Chairman, overseeing efforts to modernize regulation of the capital markets, protect Main Street investors, enhance American competitiveness, and address challenges ranging from cybersecurity issues to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Barr wrote that Clayton’s “management experience and expertise in financial regulation give him an ideal background to lead the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York” and thanked Clayton “for accepting this nomination.”
Clayton has led the SEC since May 2017 and was previously a partner in the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, representing leading financial institutions including banks and hedge funds such as Goldman Sachs and Pershing Square Capital Management. He is a securities attorney and has never served as a prosecutor.
There were no statements posted on the SEC site about the administration’s intention to nominate Clayton to succeed Berman, and ThinkAdvisor has not heard back from the SEC for comment.