SEC names enforcement deputy

Wilmer Cutler partner Stephanie Avakian will return to the agency’s enforcement arm.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) appointed Stephanie Avakian, a litigation partner at law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, as deputy director of the division of enforcement.

Avakian, who also is vice chair of Wilmer Cutler’s securities practice, will begin her role in late June, according to a SEC statement.

This isn’t the first time Avakian has worked for the securities regulator, having previously worked in the SEC’s enforcement division as a branch chief in the New York regional office, and later as legal counsel to SEC commissioner Paul Carey.

The enforcement division has been in a state of relative flux for the past year. It lost its co-chief when George Canellos left to re-join New York law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in January. Canellos held the position of enforcement director for 11 months after succeeding Robert Khuzami, who left the agency for Kirkland & Ellis last February.

Canellos was joined as co-director of enforcement by current enforcement director Andrew Ceresney who joined from Debevoise & Plimpton last April.

The SEC’s enforcement division is responsible for investigating possible violations of federal securities laws, including insider trading and fraud. It is the agency's largest unit, with more than 1,200 investigators, accountants, trial attorneys and other professionals.

The division’s structure and operations was revamped last year to create five “specialized units” designed to keep the regulator up to speed with increasingly complicated market transactions and practices.

For private equity firms, the key takeaway from the overhaul was the creation of an “Asset Management” unit, which hired specialist investigators to oversee the private funds market.