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Clayton Expected to Appoint Co-Directors for SEC Enforcement

June 2, 2017

Recently-confirmed SEC Chair Jay Clayton is about to appoint Steven Peikin and Stephanie Avakian as co-directors of the Enforcement Division. Mr. Peikin is a former Sullivan & Cromwell colleague of the Chair, while Ms. Avakian is the Agency’s acting enforcement director and a former white-collar defense attorney.


While both have strong backgrounds in securities law, their appointments may reinforce concerns among Democrats and consumer groups that the SEC is headed for a pro-business, anti-regulation stance.


The decision to appoint co-directors is not new. In 2013, then-Chair Mary Jo White appointed Debevoise colleague Andrew Ceresney to serve alongside George Canellos, who had been serving as acting director. However, Mr. Canellos left within the year, to become a partner at Milbank, Tweed.


STEVEN PEIKIN PROFILE.    According to his profile on the Sullivan & Cromwell site, Mr. Peikin is Managing Partner of law firm’s Criminal Defense and Investigations Group. His practice focuses on white-collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement, and internal investigations. He has represented institutions and individual clients in numerous high-profile matters, including those involving alleged violations of the federal securities and commodities laws, FCPA matters, price fixing, violations of economic sanctions, and tax and money laundering offenses.


From 1996 to 2004, Mr. Peikin served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. He was Chief of the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force, where he oversaw 40 prosecutors, investigators, and staff.


Mr. Peikin is Adjunct Professor of Law at NYU Law School, where he teaches the criminal enforcement of the securities and commodities laws. He is also a Member of the Criminal Justice Act Panel, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


STEPHANIE AVAKIAN PROFILE.    According to her profile on the SEC site, Ms. Avakian is Acting Director, SEC Division of Enforcement. She was named to that position in December 2016, after having served as Deputy Director of SEC Enforcement since June 2014. Before being named Deputy Director, Ms. Avakian was a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where she served as a Vice Chair of the firm’s securities practice. Her practice focused on representing financial institutions, public companies, boards, and individuals in a broad range of investigations and other matters before the SEC and other agencies.


Ms. Avakian previously worked in the SEC Division of Enforcement as a branch chief in the SEC’s New York Regional Office, and later served as counsel to former SEC Commissioner Paul Carey. She graduated from the College of New Jersey and Temple University Law School.