George S. Canellos is a partner in the New York office of Milbank and Global Head of our Litigation & Arbitration Group.
Mr. Canellos represents financial institutions, public companies, asset management firms, and individuals in government investigations and contested litigation in federal and state courts, and advises clients on corporate governance and compliance with the securities and banking laws. Mr. Canellos has received national recognition and many awards for his achievements in litigation and capital markets enforcement. Praised by Chambers USA as “a tremendously talented lawyer” and “very cogent thinker” who is able to “handle difficult situations in a very calming matter,” Mr. Canellos has more than two decades of experience prosecuting and defending white collar criminal cases and civil actions arising under the securities laws, having served twice in federal law enforcement — most recently in top positions at the US Securities and Exchange Commission and earlier in his career as a federal criminal prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In March 2014, Mr. Canellos rejoined Milbank, where he was a partner from 2003 to 2009.
In his four and a half years at the SEC, Mr. Canellos served most recently as co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement and before that, as the Enforcement Division’s acting director and deputy director. In those positions, Mr. Canellos set SEC enforcement priorities and policies, and supervised the civil law enforcement efforts —including in investigations, prosecutions, and trials — of approximately 1,300 SEC personnel in 12 offices across the country. From July 2009 until May 2012, Mr. Canellos served as director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, overseeing approximately 400 professional staff of enforcement attorneys, accountants, investigators and compliance examiners responsible for enforcement investigations and actions, and compliance inspections of New York-based investment banks, investment advisers, broker-dealers, mutual funds and hedge funds.
While at the SEC, Mr. Canellos supervised many of the landmark enforcement cases in recent years, including the insider trading actions against Raj Rajaratnam, many individuals associated with Galleon Management LP, and hedge fund managers associated with S.A.C. Capital; the first-ever action against the operator of a “dark pool” trading platform; actions against participants in the structuring of collateralized debt obligations and the securitization of mortgage loans; and actions concerning and clarifying the responsibilities of participants in the investment advisory and mutual fund industries. In these and other cases, he worked closely with top leadership of the US Department of Justice, FINRA, CFTC, State Attorneys’ General, and the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, and financial markets regulators in Europe and Asia.
Mr. Canellos began his career in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, working principally on takeover disputes and securities litigation. In 1994, he joined the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, where he served in a number of positions and led the prosecution of many high-profile cases. As Chief of the Major Crimes Unit, he supervised assistant US attorneys investigating and prosecuting large-scale financial crimes, and as Senior Trial Counsel of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force he headed numerous prosecutions of individuals and corporations for accounting fraud, investment advisory fraud, insider trading and other violations of the federal securities laws. Mr. Canellos also served as Deputy Chief Appellate Attorney, overseeing the briefing and argument of criminal appeals before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Following his nine years of service at the US Attorney’s Office, Mr. Canellos joined Milbank as a litigation partner. At Milbank, he has advised many of the nation’s leading broker-dealers, investment advisory firms, and mutual fund companies on compliance with the securities laws and the rules of self-regulatory organizations. He led the defense of clients in many of the recent headline investigations of the financial industry, including investigations of a wide variety of accounting practices; revenue-sharing and market-timing practices of mutual funds; soft-dollar and directed brokerage practices of investment advisors and broker-dealers; specialist trading on the New York Stock Exchange; revenue-sharing practices of insurance carriers and brokers; the promotion of tax shelters and strategies by securities and accounting firms, and trading and financial transactions implicating US sanctions laws. Mr. Canellos has handled many jury and non-jury trials, and briefed and argued dozens of appeals before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and other courts of appeals.