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SEC Taps Ex-CFTC Commissioner as General Counsel

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The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday named former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner and current Commodity Futures Trading Commission commissioner Dan Berkovitz as its general counsel.

The move will reunite Berkowitz with his former boss, SEC Chair Gary Gensler. Berkovitz served as general counsel of the CFTC when Gensler led the commission during the Obama administration.

“Dan is a dedicated public servant and was instrumental in both informing and implementing the Dodd-Frank Act. As general counsel, he navigated the CFTC through dozens of rulemakings to enhance regulatory oversight of the swaps markets, and he has remained a steadfast public servant as a commissioner. He will be invaluable in our work at the SEC,” Gensler said in a statement announcing the move.

Berkovitz joined Wilmer in 2013 as partner and co-chair of the futures and derivatives practice and represented some of the largest financial institutions in the country including JPMorgan Chase & Co. Morgan Stanley. He reported earning $1.18 million in partnership income at the firm in a 2018 financial disclosure statement.

President Donald Trump appointed Berkovitz to the Democratic seat on the CFTC in 2018.

“I am honored to join the SEC at this critical time for our capital markets,” Berkovitz said in a statement.

“Having worked with the SEC in my roles at the CFTC, I’ve long admired the dedicated and talented staff of the agency from afar. I’m excited to work again with Chair Gensler on a regulatory agenda that will enhance investor protection, strengthen our capital markets, and facilitate capital formation,” he explained.

Berkovitz has also taught at Georgetown University Law School and served as vice chair of the American Bar Association Committee on Derivatives and Futures Law.

Prior to working at CFTC in 2009, he was a senior staff lawyer for the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management.

The SEC’s current general counsel, John Coates, who has also been serving as acting director of the division of corporation finance, will leave the agency Nov. 1 to return to teaching at Harvard Law School, where he is also vice dean for finance and strategic initiatives.

Coates helped kickstart several of the SEC’s core regulatory priorities under Gensler, including climate disclosures, special purpose acquisition companies and the “meme stock” frenzy that rattled the markets earlier this year.

Michael Conley, currently the SEC’s solicitor, will serve as acting general counsel after Coates’ departure and until Berkovitz joins the agency.