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October 23, 2014

The Big Bank Backlash Begins

Last week, I visited an alternate universe. The real world sees a pandemic of bank misconduct, but to the white-collar defense lawyers of Washington, the banks are the victims as they bow beneath the weight of regulators’ remarkably harsh punishments.

I was attending the Securities Enforcement Forum, a gathering of top regulators and white-collar defense worthies. The marquee section was a panel that included Andrew Ceresney, the current S.E.C. enforcement director, and five of his predecessors. Four of those former S.E.C. officials represent corporations at prominent white-collar law firms: Robert S. Khuzami, President Obama’s first enforcement director who now plies his trade at Kirkland & Ellis; Linda Chatman Thomsen, who served at the George W. Bush-era S.E.C. and now works for Davis Polk & Wardwell; William R. McLucas, the longest-serving agency enforcement director who is now at WilmerHale; and George S. Canellos, who just left the Obama S.E.C. to work for Milbank Tweed. (The well-known Stanley Sporkin, who served in the agency in the 1970s, rounded the panel out.)

The conference turned into a free-for-all of high-powered and influential white-collar defense lawyers hammering regulators on how unfair they have been to their clients, some of America’s largest financial companies.
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