Andrew Ceresney. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)
Andrew Ceresney, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement director, will leave the agency by the end of the year, the SEC said Thursday.
During Ceresney’s nearly four years as head of the agency’s largest division, the SEC filed more than 2,850 enforcement actions and obtained judgments and orders totaling more than $13.8 billion in monetary sanctions. The SEC also charged more than 3,300 companies and more than 2,700 individuals, including many CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers.
“Under Andrew’s strong leadership, the Enforcement Division took its already robust enforcement program to an even higher level, achieving unprecedented results, including a record number of enforcement actions, first-of-their-kind cases and a first-ever admissions policy for a civil law enforcement agency,” SEC Chair Mary Jo White said in a statement.
As director, Ceresney, who joined the agency from Debevoise & Plimpton, helped the enforcement division implement a new settlement protocol requiring defendants in certain cases to make admissions of wrongdoing. Since the admissions policy was instituted, the commission has obtained admissions from approximately 80 parties.
Under Ceresney, the SEC also brought charges against Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services for fraudulent misconduct in its ratings of certain commercial mortgage-backed securities. These enforcement actions were the agency’s first ever against a major ratings firm.
S&P agreed to pay more than $58 million to settle the SEC’s charges, plus an additional $19 million to settle parallel cases announced today by the New York Attorney General’s office ($12 million) and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office ($7 million).
The enforcement division also enhanced its trial capacity under Ceresney’s leadership. In more than two and a half years, the SEC has not lost a jury trial in federal district court.
The division’s favorable jury verdicts occurred in significant cases, including cases against two brothers accused of violating the laws governing ownership and trading of securities by corporate insiders; insider trading cases against two brokerage employees and a pharmaceutical executive and a U.K. resident; and a first-ever case against a recidivist municipality and one of its city officials.
“I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together—our innovative and wide-ranging actions have protected investors, deterred misconduct, and sent the message that the SEC is and always must be the tough cop on the financial beat,” Ceresney said in a statement. He did not indicate his post-SEC plans.
Ceresney joins a growing number of SEC officials set to depart the agency on the cusp of the incoming presidential administration. White announced last month she would leave the agency at the end of Obama’s term.
Stephanie Avakian, deputy director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, will become the acting director after Ceresney leaves. Avakian joined the SEC in June 2014 from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where she was a partner in the firm’s New York office and a vice chairwoman of the firm’s securities practice.
This story was originally published at ALM affiliate ThinkAdvisor. All rights reserved.