Former SEC Enforcement Director Discusses Her New Role and Changes to SEC Enforcement Approach (Part One of Two)

Stephanie Avakian served as Co‑Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement (Enforcement) from 2017 until August 2020, when Steven Peikin stepped down and she assumed full command of that Division. Under her leadership, Enforcement and the SEC brought more than 3,000 enforcement actions, obtained more than $17 billion in financial remedies, returned approximately $3.6 billion to harmed investors and paid approximately $595 million in whistleblower awards, according to the press release announcing her departure. In addition, under her guidance, Enforcement and its 1,400 attorneys brought actions involving material nonpublic information; fraudulent or unregistered initial coin offerings; and complex market manipulation. Avakian has rejoined WilmerHale as chair of its securities and financial services department, and the Hedge Fund Law Report recently spoke to her in connection with her move. In this first article in our two-part series, she delves into her role at the SEC, her new position and various ways Enforcement’s approach changed during her tenure. In the second article, Avakian will explore key risks faced by fund managers, Enforcement’s priorities and ways fund managers can avoid facing SEC enforcement action. For coverage of Avakian while she was at the SEC, see “Despite Headwinds, Enforcement Remains Strong” (Sep. 27, 2018); and our two-part series: “SEC Officials Flesh Out Cybersecurity Enforcement and Examination Priorities” (May 11, 2017); and “SEC Officials Discuss Cybersecurity Examination Priorities and Provide Guidance on When to Disclose Cyber Events” (May 18, 2017).

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