| WASHINGTON, April 18
WASHINGTON, April 18 U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White will name a trusted
lieutenant, Andrew Ceresney, to be her enforcement director in
the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said.
Ceresney has already been spotted around SEC headquarters
and is starting to schedule meetings with agency officials, said
the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The two have worked together for more than a decade as
criminal prosecutors and then in private practice, often
handling matters as a team.
Ceresney prosecuted securities fraud cases at the U.S.
attorney's office in Manhattan in the late 1990s and early 2000s
when White led that office and later followed White to the law
firm Debevoise & Plimpton, where they defended Wall Street banks
and other top companies and their executives in white-collar
The pair have been sought after in the defense bar, handling
prime assignments for JPMorgan Chase & Co, former Bank
of America Corp chief executive Kenneth Lewis and
"Mary Jo and Andrew have been on the shortlist for every
white-collar assignment that has come up," said Michael
Schachter, a lawyer at Willkie Farr & Gallagher who previously
worked with Ceresney, speaking of the close working relationship
of the two.
While White comes to the SEC with a reputation as an
aggressive prosecutor who can shake up the agency, she has faced
some concerns about whether she might be barred from
participating in many high-profile cases because of her prior
Ceresney's appointment appears to exacerbate her conflicts,
since they will likely share many of the same recusals.
In order to help address those issues, current acting
enforcement director George Canellos could stay on as a co-head
for a limited time, sources said.
At the SEC, Ceresney will face a wide portfolio of pending
investigations and will have to make decisions on where to
devote resources. The agency is juggling its final push on cases
tied to the financial crisis, with its focus on newer areas of
interest, including conduct tied to high-frequency trading.
Ceresney will also have to find a way to appease federal
judges, who have grown increasingly critical of the agency's
"neither-admit-nor-deny" settlement policy since U.S. District
Judge Jed Rakoff in 2011 rejected a proposed $285 million accord
with Citigroup on such grounds.
KEEPING UP WITH THE BOSS
Former colleagues said it came as little surprise that White
would turn to Ceresney to fill her top enforcement post, since
they have worked together for so long and share a similar
approach to work.
Ceresney often responds to emails late at night, associates
said, much like White.
"I suspect its one of the secrets of his success with Mary
Jo - he's the only one who can keep up with her," said Lewis
Liman, a partner at the law firm Cleary Gottlieb who worked with
Ceresney as the U.S. Attorney's office and on cases in private
Ceresney, like White, is also a long-distance runner, having
recently run a half-marathon.
At the U.S. Attorney's office, Ceresney worked on the
securities and commodities fraud task force, in the major crimes
unit, and as a deputy handling appeals, according to his online
biography at Debevoise. While a prosecutor, he handled
white-collar cases including stock and bank fraud, accounting
fraud, money laundering, among others.
In 2003 he won the conviction of American Banknote's chief
executive Morris Weissman, who was accused of fraudulently
inflating the company's earnings by recognizing millions of
dollars in revenue early and using those figures to raise $115
million through an initial public offering.
In 1999, he prosecuted Andrew Crispo, a prominent New York
art dealer, who was convicted of attempted extortion and
obstruction of justice after he threatened to kidnap the young
daughter of a legal advisor on his bankruptcy case.
Former colleagues and associates described Ceresney with
adjectives frequently associated with lawyers that come out of
the Southern District of New York - often considered the best
prosecuting office in the country.
"Andrew was a tough, well-prepared prosecutor, but he was
always a prosecutor of the highest integrity and honesty," said
Robert Gottlieb, a lawyer who defended two trials that Ceresney
prosecuted involving stock and bank fraud.
Chuck Ross, who defended a money laundering case involving a
remitting house in upper Manhattan that Ceresney prosecuted
described Ceresney as "incredibly professional," "super smart,"
and "very well prepared."
"We were adversaries, but it was a personable process to try
a case against him," Ross said.
Ross said even though his client was likely to be convicted
based on the evidence against him, Ceresney let the defendant,
who had showed up to court ever day, remain out on bail over
In an office filled with high-achievers, former colleagues
said Ceresney still managed to stand out. Liman, the Cleary
Gottlieb lawyer, did not work directly on any cases with
Ceresney while at the U.S. Attorney's office, but knew him
"You know people who are stars," Liman added.