May 26, 2017 / 9:56 PM / 8 months ago

Steven Peikin expected to be named co-chief of SEC enforcement: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chief Jay Clayton is expected to name Steven Peikin, a partner from his former law firm, to help lead enforcement at the agency, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Clayton worked with Peikin at Sullivan & Cromwell, noted for its representation of financial institutions, until the former left to become SEC chair. He was confirmed earlier this month.

Stephanie Avakian, now the SEC’s acting director of enforcement, will be appointed co-director, another person familiar with the matter said.

A former federal prosecutor turned white-collar defense attorney, Peikin has represented major banks at Sullivan & Cromwell and would have to follow SEC recusal rules involving law firm clients.

At Clayton’s confirmation hearing, some Democrats said they were concerned his close ties to Wall Street would create too many recusals and might lead to weaker oversight. Like Peikin, he too has represented Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N).

A spokeswoman for the SEC, which is tasked with policing and writing rules for Wall Street, declined to comment. Peikin did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Avakian was unable to be reached for comment.

Peikin is managing partner of the criminal defense and investigations group at Sullivan & Cromwell, where he has represented Goldman and Barclays PLC (BARC.L) in investigations involving sanctions violations, LIBOR manipulation and insider trading.

In 2015, he represented Michael Coscia, a high-frequency trader convicted of “spoofing” in the government’s first criminal prosecution of the fraudulent trading practice. Spoofing involves placing orders that are not intended to be fulfilled to trick other traders.

    From 1996 to 2004, Peikin was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, according to his firm biography. While there, he headed the securities and commodities task force and prosecuted Silicon Valley financier Frank Quattrone for obstruction of justice.

    Clayton’s handling of the enforcement post sounds similar to the way it was filled after Mary Jo White became SEC chair in 2013. White worked at Debevoise & Plimpson before heading the SEC.

    She chose Andrew Ceresney, a colleague from the firm, as co-director of enforcement, who initially shared the role with George Canellos, who had been the acting enforcement director.

    White and Ceresney stepped down with the end of the Obama administration. Avakian, Ceresney’s deputy director, then became acting enforcement chief.

    The plan to hire Peikin was first reported on Friday by the Wall Street Journal.

    Reporting By Karen Freifeld; Editing by Andrew Hay

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