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A year after joining Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, former JPMorgan Chase & Co. general counsel and vice chairman Stephen Cutler has been appointed to head the firm’s government and internal investigations practice.
Cutler is stepping into a role previously occupied by former federal prosecutor and Simpson Thacher litigation partner Mark Stein, who will remain at the firm as a partner in its government investigations group.
Cutler, a former director of enforcement for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, joined the Wall Street firm last April following his departure from JPMorgan, where he spent over a decade guiding the investment bank through the financial crisis and its aftermath as a top company lawyer and executive.
In his new role as head of the government and internal investigations group, Cutler said his goals are “to continue to do some of the most interesting, most impactful work in the area.”
“What we aspire to be is really good at what we do and I think we have been,” Cutler said.
But what the group doesn’t aspire to be is a 100-partner practice, he added.
“That’s not who we are,” Cutler said. ”I can’t say that we want to do things radically differently, but I think we want to continue on the path we’re on.”
Over the last two decades, Simpson Thacher’s government and internal investigations practice grew from a small group of lawyers to a team of over 30, including half a dozen partners that joined in recent years from government roles, he noted.
Those additions include Southern District of New York fraud prosecutor Brooke Cucinella, former SEC associate enforcement director Cheryl Scarboro, former SEC complex financial instruments chief Michael Osnato Jr., and former U.S. Justice Department criminal fraud section chief Jeffrey Knox, former director of criminal enforcement of the DOJ’s antitrust division John Terzaken and former federal prosecutors Nicholas Goldin and Joshua Levine, among others.
“I think the firm’s made a judgment and, appropriately so, that in order to be doing the best kind of work in this area that’s the experience that you need,” said Cutler, who also spearheaded investigations within the government.
Cutler joined the SEC from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in 1999 as deputy director. In 2001, he became director of the agency’s enforcement division, where he led the investigations into the failures of Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. before rejoining Wilmer in 2005.
On the eve of the global financial crisis, Cutler joined JPMorgan in 2007 as general counsel.
As the bank’s top lawyer, Cutler oversaw JPMorgan’s $236 million purchase of The Bear Stearns Cos. in March 2008 and its $1.9 billion acquisition the following September of assets from Washington Mutual Inc. He also oversaw JPMorgan’s $13 billion settlement in 2013 with the U.S. Department of Justice over its role in selling mortgage-backed securities.
In 2015, following the sudden death of JPMorgan vice chairman James Lee Jr., Cutler became vice chairman and senior adviser to the banking giant’s board of directors and CEO Jamie Dimon.
“Steve is an excellent choice to lead our investigations practice,” William Dougherty, chairman of Simpson Thacher’s executive committee, said in a statement.
“He is highly respected for his leadership skills and widely recognized as one of the leading lawyers of his generation,” Dougherty said. “His experience in both the public and private sectors is unmatched.”