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Helane Morrison is cashing in her eight years of experience leading the Securities and Exchange Commission’s San Francisco office to join investment advisory firm Hall Capital Partners as general counsel. Morrison is credited with doubling the size of the SEC office during her tenure and with speeding up enforcement actions, which have most recently included backdating cases against Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and top officials at Apple Inc. “Helane is going to be remembered in part for having overseen significant growth in the number of enforcement attorneys and the number of enforcement actions,” said Craig Martin, a Morrison & Foerster partner who worked in the office until 2002. “She was and is an aggressive enforcer.” Morrison said she was ready for a new challenge after 11 years with the SEC, and the offer to be general counsel, chief compliance officer and principal at Hall Capital fit the bill. “Their work seemed interesting, I liked the people and their reputation is of being very ethical, so it seemed like a good fit,” Morrison said. The San Francisco-based investment firm manages and advises on about $22 billion in assets, catering to high-net-worth individuals as well as investment companies. Its investments range from traditional equities to more exotic private equity and hedge funds. The move represents a challenge and also a bump from the old government salary, Morrison said: “They’re paying me substantially more.” Asked whether it was a factor in her joining the company, she said, with a laugh, “I’ll enjoy the new salary.” SEC lawyers have been a hot commodity of late, and higher-ups in the agency have landed lucrative positions in the private sector. Last month, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr lured the former SEC regional director in Los Angeles, Randall Lee, to open its office there. In August, SEC Commissioner Roel Campos joined Cooley Godward Kronish in Washington, D.C. Lawyers in the Bay Area say Morrison also was highly sought by law firms. That’s not without good reason, said Kenneth Scott, a professor emeritus of securities law at Stanford Law School. He pointed to the performance and prominence of her office. “My impression is that they’ve had a pretty good record,” Scott said. “They really came into the spotlight with the whole stock options backdating issue, along with the U.S. attorney’s office — they took a leading role in national terms.” Aside from backdating, the office brought fraud cases involving executives at companies including HBO & Co., which later merged into McKesson, and financial reporting cases against both Hewlett-Packard Co. and Google Inc. Marc Fagel, the enforcement chief of the SEC’s San Francisco office, said Morrison “set the bar very high” with her leadership of the office. He also credited her with speeding up cases that the SEC has brought during her tenure. “Helane had a real focus on efficiency and making sure that cases didn’t languish,” he said. No successor or interim regional director has been named, and that process could take months, SEC lawyers said. At Hall Capital, Morrison takes the place of Kirk Dizon, a former Cooley Godward lawyer who now co-leads Hall’s private equity group. “We work with investors and we deal in fairly complex funds like private equity and hedge funds,” said Jeff Shields, a principal at Hall Capital. “The issues we need to deal with from a legal perspective are growing as we grow our business and we’re thrilled to have someone like Helane.”

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