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Colleen Mahoney heads the securities practice at one of the nation’s premier firms. Among her clients are some of the most recognizable corporate names. But she’s adept at staying out of the limelight — which, she says, is just the way her clients, including the HealthSouth Corp. and Putnam Investments, like it. The 46-year-old Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner is a veteran of the Securities and Exchange Commission and, by the accounts of her peers and former superiors, at the very top of the securities bar. When Mahoney left the SEC in 1998, then-Chairman Arthur Levitt had this to say: “The SEC, the securities markets, and countless investors are all better off because of Colleen’s keen sense of fairness, intellectual abilities, and relentless pursuit of justice. Colleen is a superb lawyer, an effective manager, and a good friend. . . . I’ve relied on her sage guidance on countless occasions. I am fortunate to have had such a dedicated and insightful adviser.” Mahoney’s 15 years at the SEC began in 1983 in the litigation section of the general counsel’s office. For three years in the early 1990s, she was chief counsel in the Division of Enforcement. From 1993 to 1994, Mahoney served as executive assistant to Levitt. And she departed the SEC as acting general counsel. Levitt predicted that Mahoney’s SEC experience would provide the foundation for a legal career that “will continue to rise for many years to come.” It wasn’t a bad prediction. Troubled Putnam Investments recently turned to Mahoney when it became the first mutual fund group charged in an industrywide investigation into improper trading. Putnam was charged with securities fraud by the SEC and Massachusetts regulators for allegedly failing to disclose improper market-timing trades by some customers and employees. In a settlement with the SEC, Putnam agreed to reform certain practices and to pay back investors hurt by its short-term trading, but didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing. Mahoney also headed an internal investigation into accounting at bankrupt discount retailer the Kmart Corp. Skadden is lead counsel to Kmart on the largest Chapter 11 bankruptcy in retailer history. HealthSouth, a rehabilitation and surgical clinic operator, is also relying on Mahoney. Its chief executive, Richard Scrushy, was recently charged with 85 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, and money laundering that led to $2.7 billion in profit inflation over seven years. More than a dozen former company executives have pleaded guilty to various charges in connection with the scandal. As a partner in the D.C. office of New York-based Skadden, Mahoney also represents the Enron Corp. in the government investigations aspect of its legal travails. Mahoney, an American University law graduate, started her career in 1981 at Steptoe & Johnson before joining the SEC two years later. In the years since she left the commission, Mahoney notes, the scope of its enforcement program has “changed tremendously,” which in turn has changed the role of securities lawyers. “A situation that 20 years ago might have had only one dimension to it now has a wide range of issues,” says Mahoney. “It’s an intense and challenging time.”

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