January 5, 2018 / 11:10 PM / 10 months ago

Ex-SEC enforcement chief named deputy U.S. attorney in Manhattan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Newly appointed interim U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan has tapped Robert Khuzami, formerly director of enforcement for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, to serve as his deputy, Berman’s office announced Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Robert Khuzami, Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement, describes insider trading charges against three hedge fund portfolio managers and one hedge fund analyst during a news conference in New York February 8, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Berman and Khuzami worked together as assistant U.S. attorneys in Manhattan in the early 1990s. Khuzami worked at the prosecutor’s office until 2002, rising to lead the office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.

Khuzami went on to work for Deutsche Bank AG from 2002 until early 2009, when he left and moved to the SEC.

At the time, the regulatory agency was under fire for failing to detect Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme and was being accused of lax oversight leading up to the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Under Khuzami’s leadership, the SEC brought 735 enforcement actions in fiscal year 2011 and 734 actions in fiscal year 2012, more than in any prior years. At the same time, Khuzami faced criticism for not bringing enough actions against high-level Wall Street executives.

Khuzami left the SEC in January 2013 and later that year joined the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where he has remained up to his appointment.

“I am extremely pleased that Rob Khuzami will be returning to public service as deputy U.S. attorney,” Berman said in a statement. “Rob was an outstanding (assistant U.S. attorney) during his prior tenure in the office, and he has since distinguished himself in further public service and in the private sector.”

Khuzami could not immediately be reached for comment.

Berman, who served on Republican President Donald Trump’s transition team, was one of 17 current and former federal prosecutors appointed by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as interim U.S. attorneys in jurisdictions around the country on Wednesday.

The interim posts are for 120 days unless those holding them are re-appointed by a court or officially nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a Justice Department official said.

Berman was previously at the law firm of Greenberg Traurig. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a supporter of Trump’s presidential run in 2016, practices at the same firm.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said Thursday that she opposed Berman’s nomination. In a statement to Reuters, she said that she found “deeply disturbing” reports the president personally interviewed Berman for the post of Manhattan U.S. attorney, whose jurisdiction includes Trump’s home, offices and real estate holdings in New York.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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