UPDATE 2-Top SEC enforcement lawyers leaving

Thu May 31, 2012 4:52pm EDT

* SEC's Sporkin, Kaplan going to law firms

* Sporkin to work for BuckleySandler LLP

* Kaplan to work for Debevoise & Plimpton

* Both were instrumental in enforcement overhaul

By Aruna Viswanatha and Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON, May 31 (Reuters) - Two senior U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission officials who helped implement a major overhaul of the agency's enforcement division are departing for private practice.

Thomas Sporkin, head of the SEC's Office of Market Intelligence, will be heading to BuckleySandler LLP, a financial services law firm founded by a former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom attorney, Andrew Sandler.

Robert Kaplan, the co-head of the enforcement division's asset management unit, is taking a job with business law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

The departure of Sporkin and Kaplan marks a major loss of talent for the SEC's enforcement division. Under Director Robert Khuzami the division has been trying to reform its operations following the SEC's failure to detect Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In response, the SEC created five new specialized units as well as an Office of Market Intelligence, which serves as a triage center for handling all of the tips, complaints and referrals that come into the agency.

Sporkin, the son of former SEC Enforcement Director Stanley Sporkin, helped oversee the creation and implementation of the SEC's new tips, complaints and referrals database.

He was also instrumental in establishing a deal with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to allow agents to be embedded with his group to help improve cooperation at the pre-investigation level.

Recently, Sporkin also received the Irving Pollack Award, an internal SEC award that honors significant accomplishments by employees.

Kaplan, meanwhile, led the specialized asset management unit along with co-director Bruce Karpati.

Under his leadership, the division has been developing initiatives used to help get out ahead of high-risk areas for hedge funds, private equity firms and mutual funds. Such past initiatives have included looking into the aberrational performance of hedge funds as well as the valuation of illiquid portfolios, false performance claims and preferential redemptions.

Sporkin said, "The challenge of going to a relatively young and talented firm and being able to have an impact is an opportunity I couldn't pass up."

Andrew Sandler, chairman of BuckleySandler, said Sporkin brings significant experience on federal civil and criminal enforcement and securities investigations to the firm.

At Debevoise, Kaplan will join a group of securities and white-collar enforcement lawyers that include former SEC associate director Paul Berger, and the former U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Mary Jo White

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