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Monday, February 09, 2009

Chief SEC Enforcer Heads Out

News summary by MFWire's editors

Linda Thomsen is officially leaving the SEC, but who will step in as the new top enforcer? On Monday the regulatory agency confirmed that Thomsen will "return to the private sector" after more than 13 years at the agency and more than three years atop the enforcement division. Yet the SEC remained silent on the identity of Thomsen's successor; the WSJ previously pointed to Deutsche Bank's Robert Khuzami as the man who will take Thomsen's place (see MFWire, 2/9/2009).

Press Release

Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2009 The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that Linda Chatman Thomsen, Director of the Division of Enforcement, plans to return to the private sector. Ms. Thomsen led a historic period of SEC law enforcement during which the Commission brought more than 2,000 enforcement actions and returned billions of dollars to harmed investors. In the past two years, the Commission has brought the second and third-highest number of enforcement actions in agency history.

Among the many precedent-setting enforcement actions led by Ms. Thomsen were:

  • The Enron investigation and the resulting actions against a number of large financial institutions including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Merrill Lynch.

  • The historic auction rate securities market settlements that will return more than $50 billion in liquidity to tens of thousands of investors.

  • A major expansion of the SEC's enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including 10 "Oil for Food" cases and the Siemens case. Siemens was the largest FCPA settlement in the Act's 30-year history, and as part of the first global anti-corruption action brought with U.S. and foreign criminal authorities, represented a significant advance in international enforcement cooperation.

  • The agency's first false rumor case in which the Commission alleged that a trader caused a 17 percent drop in a company's stock price in 30 minutes by deliberately spreading false information about that company in order to profit from short selling in the company's stock.

  • Numerous subprime and financial fraud cases including actions against former Bear Stearns employees for fraud in connection with collapsed hedge funds, former Credit Suisse employees for deceiving their customers about investments, and a number of broker-dealers who preyed upon vulnerable homeowners by selling them inappropriate securities financed with funds raised from selling those homeowners inappropriate mortgages.

  • A number of unprecedented enforcement actions against hedge funds, including cases where the defendants allegedly preyed on their investors, as in Wood River and Bayou, or on the markets themselves, as in insider trading and PIPEs cases.

  • Stock option backdating investigations, often in coordination with criminal authorities, and the resulting actions against executives and companies, including the $468 million enforcement action against the former CEO of UnitedHealth Group.

  • As head of the Division, Ms. Thomsen oversaw an impressive trial record for the Commission, including prevailing in jury trials against: the former CFO of Waste Management for his involvement in a multi-billion dollar financial fraud; former research analyst Paul Johnson for issuing false and misleading recommendations and failing to disclose conflicts of interest; former registered representative Jamie Solow who engaged in a fraudulent trading scheme involving inverse floating rate collateralized mortgage obligations; and the former chairman, CEO and controlling shareholder of Chancellor Corporation for aiding and abetting a massive financial fraud.

    In addition, under Ms. Thomsen's leadership the Division of Enforcement brought hundreds of financial fraud cases, including those against AIG, Fannie Mae, Nortel, and Tyco, and dozens of insider trading cases. Many of the insider trading cases were brought against securities industry and other professionals, including a case against a Dow Jones board member, another involving two overlapping schemes by securities industry professionals that rivaled cases from the days of Ivan Boesky, and several others involving sophisticated trading rings of global proportion.

    "Linda's achievements have been nothing short of extraordinary, even heroic, in an era of unprecedented challenges in our securities markets," said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. "Linda has distinguished herself in public service through her keen intellect, profound understanding of our securities laws, and relentless pursuit of wrongdoers. While Linda's wisdom, judgment, integrity and humor will be sorely missed by all of her colleagues, the agency and the investors we serve will always be grateful for Linda's service."

    Ms. Thomsen said, "Working on the staff of the Commission has been an extraordinary privilege. For nearly 14 years, I have been surrounded by smart, hardworking, creative, wonderful colleagues who have been devoted to public service, this agency, and its essential mission of investor protection. There is no higher honor than to serve the public and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do so during my time at the Commission."

    Ms. Thomsen joined the SEC staff as an Assistant Chief Litigation Counsel in 1995. She served as an Assistant Director, an Associate Director, and Deputy Director of the Division of Enforcement before former Chairman William H. Donaldson appointed her Director in 2005. Before joining the Commission's staff, she was in private practice at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell and served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. Ms. Thomsen earned her A.B. in Government from Smith College and received her J.D. from Harvard Law School. 

    Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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