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The S.E.C.'s Revolving Door: From Wall Street Lawyers to Wall Street Watchdogs

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Got a quick note from a friend today, sending some happy news from the corporate non-enforcement arena. It seems that the white-shoe corporate defense firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale is expecting yet another regulatory baby!

The SEC last week announced that Anne Small will serve as the SEC’s new deputy general counsel. Small worked in Wilmer Hale’s litigation department before snagging this post. She’ll be replacing Mark Cahn, who worked at – wait for it – Wilmer Hale for 20 years, until joining the SEC last March, when he stepped in to work for a fellow named Andrew Vollmer, who had served as the SEC’s Deputy General Counsel since 2006. Cahn will now be kicked upstairs into the General Counsel spot.

But guess who his predecessor Vollmer worked for? That’s right, Wilmer Hale. So a Wilmer lawyer comes in to replace a Wilmer lawyer, who replaced a Wilmer lawyer. Hence the firm’s nickname – “SEC West.”

Besides Cahn and Small, there are other ex-Wilmerites at the Commission. There’s Joseph Brenner, the chief counsel of the Enforcement Division, and Meredith Cross, who heads the Division of Corporate Finance. Both were Wilmer partners.

Of course it’s not like the traffic doesn’t go in both directions. Last year the SEC’s head of trading and markets, Daniel Gallagher, left to become a Wilmer partner. And the SEC’s former Director of Enforcement William McLucas is now the head of Wilmer’s securities department. The firm hired the head of the SEC’s Los Angeles office, Randall Lee, in 2007. And so on and so on.

Exactly how tough do you think all these ex-Wilmer lawyers will be on current Wilmer clients like Goldman, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, General Electric, Credit Suisse, and practically every other major financial services company? The shamelessness factor is growing by the minute. 

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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