Business

Ex-SEC Official Joins Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office

Posted January 5, 2018 7:29 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — Robert S. Khuzami, who led the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission for four years during the Obama administration, was named Friday as the deputy U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Khuzami’s selection was announced by Geoffrey S. Berman, who was appointed this week as the interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and who is expected to be nominated to the post by President Donald Trump.

Berman said in a statement that Khuzami had been an “outstanding” assistant U.S. attorney in an earlier tenure in the office, “and he has since distinguished himself in further public service and in the private sector.”

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has traditionally been one of the most aggressive pursuers of cases involving white-collar and Wall Street crime, and Khuzami’s background means he could become one of the country’s top financial watchdogs.

Khuzami, 61, a Brooklyn native, has been a partner in the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, based in its Washington office, since leaving the SEC in 2013.

While a prosecutor in the Southern District from 1990 to 2002, Khuzami met and worked with Berman, who also began in that office in 1990. The two men have remained close friends, Khuzami has said.

In 1995, when Mary Jo White was the U.S. attorney, Khuzami was a member of the team that won the convictions of an Egyptian sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, and a group of other men who had plotted to blow up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and other city landmarks.

He also served for three years as the head of the Southern District’s security and commodities fraud task force.

From 2002 to 2009, he worked at Deutsche Bank, eventually becoming general counsel for its U.S. businesses.

Khuzami spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention, in defense of the Patriot Act and in support of President George W. Bush’s re-election.

Khuzami took the SEC post in 2009 in the aftermath of revelations about Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme, when the agency was under fire for failing to uncover the decades-long fraud and for missing warning signs of the financial meltdown.

Khuzami ultimately led a sweeping overhaul of the agency’s enforcement unit. “We intend to learn every lesson we can,” he told the Senate Banking Committee in September 2009. “There are no sacred cows.”

Khuzami was credited with reinvigorating the SEC’s enforcement division. But during his tenure, the agency also faced criticism from consumer advocates and other groups that it didn’t do more to punish top Wall Street executives or banks after the financial crisis.

Berman took over the Southern District post from Joon H. Kim, who became the acting U.S. attorney in March after the longtime top prosecutor, Preet Bharara, was fired by the Trump administration.

Berman also announced Friday that Joan Loughnane, who had served as the deputy to Kim for the past 10 months, would resume her role as chief counsel when Khuzami arrived.