UPDATE 1-U.S. SEC loses two more top officials

Wed Dec 5, 2012 1:15pm EST

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON Dec 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Wednesday that two more major regulators will be leaving the agency.

The SEC said Robert Cook, the director of the Trading and Markets Division, and Mark Cahn, the agency's general counsel, will be departing.

Wednesday's announcement marks the third and fourth major resignations at the SEC in less than two weeks. SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said last week that she will step down on Dec. 14. The SEC announced on Tuesday that Corporation Finance Director Meredith Cross was also leaving.

It is not unusual for government agencies to experience turnover after a presidential election, but coping with the volume of high-level departures could be challenging for the SEC and its incoming chairman, commissioner Elisse Walter, who was tapped by the White House to replace Schapiro.

The agency is pushing to finalize a host of rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, while balancing its own initiatives, including money market fund reform and cracking down on computerized trading.

Many of the rules that still need to be completed are being written by staffers in the Trading and Markets Division, such as regulations for the over-the-counter derivatives markets and credit-rating agencies.

The SEC said Cahn will depart at the end of the year to return to the private sector. He has served as general counsel since February 2011 and was instrumental in setting up the agency's whistleblower program.

Cook, who joined the agency in January 2010, will remain at the SEC for a transitional period.

Cook's Division of Trading and Markets oversees securities exchanges and markets, broker-dealers, clearing agencies, derivatives, and FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

He was central to the agency's response to the May 2010 "flash crash" when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged about 700 points before rebounding.

The SEC has put in place new circuit breakers and erroneous trade break rules after the flash crash and is considering broader market structure reforms.

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