As the former Director of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement, Stephanie Avakian is well positioned to help clients address the enforcement, governance and compliance issues presented by today’s markets. With decades of experience in government and private practice, she leads the firm’s Securities and Financial Services Department in counseling and defending public companies, investment banks, asset management firms, accounting firms, boards of directors and individual executives through the challenges of government investigations.
As Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, Ms. Avakian oversaw the Division’s approximately 1,400 professionals and staff. During her four years leading the Division, the SEC brought more than 3,000 enforcement actions, obtained judgments and orders for more than $17 billion in penalties and disgorgement, and returned approximately $3.6 billion to harmed investors. Matters under Ms. Avakian’s direction concerned a wide range of issues including insider trading, financial fraud and disclosure violations, auditor and accounting issues, market structure, asset management, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. She also led the Enforcement Division in confronting novel issues at the forefront of the markets today, such as initial coin offerings, digital assets, and cybersecurity. Throughout her tenure, Ms. Avakian took steps to increase the Division’s efficiency by implementing strategies to decrease the length of investigations, streamline the process for returning money to harmed investors, and expedite the review of whistleblower claims. Ms. Avakian also worked closely with other leaders at numerous federal, foreign and state agencies including the Department of Justice, CFTC, FINRA, CFPB, UK Financial Conduct Authority, and Office of the New York Attorney General.
Ms. Avakian’s experience addressing issues faced by financial services institutions and public companies date back to her previous 14-year tenure at WilmerHale. Before leaving the firm for the SEC in 2014, she served as vice chair of WilmerHale’s Securities Department. Throughout her time in various leadership roles, Ms. Avakian has emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion. Most recently, during her tenure at the SEC, the Enforcement Division increased the number of women and minorities in senior officer positions.
Ms. Avakian began her legal career working in various capacities at the SEC, including as counsel to former Commissioner Paul R. Carey and as a branch chief and staff attorney in the Division of Enforcement. Her experience and understanding of the government’s priorities and processes position her well to guide clients successfully through government investigations.