Bloomberg Law
Jan. 24, 2017, 10:11 PM

SEC Bigwig and Trump Nemesis Returns to Debevoise

Gabe Friedman

Debevoise & Plimpton announced Tuesday that it has re-hired Andrew Ceresney, who spent the past three years as the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Director of Enforcement.

Ceresney will re-join the firm in New York as co-chair of its litigation department and said in an interview he expects to counsel clients who are under investigation for criminal and civil regulatory matters and also work on civil litigation. He had departed the firm in 2013 to join the SEC.

Previously while at Debevoise, Ceresney was one of the lawyers who deposed now-President Donald Trump in 2007. At the time, Trump was suing Ceresney’s client Tim O’Brien, who wrote the book Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald,” for allegedly understating his net worth. Mary Jo White, who chaired the SEC during Ceresney’s tenure at the agency, also represented O’Brien, who is executive editor of Bloomberg View.

During the presidential campaign, a transcript of the deposition, which was obtained by the Washington Post, briefly dominated the news cycle for about a week in August. The Post report described Ceresney and White as “relentless,” saying they forced Trump to confront his own falsehoods and exaggerations.

From the article:

“I was paid more than a million dollars,” Trump said when Ceresney asked how much he’d been paid for a speech in 2005 at New York City’s Learning Annex, a continuing-education center.

Ceresney was ready.

“But how much of the payments were cash?”

“Approximately $400,000,” Trump said.

Trump said his personal math included the intangible value of publicity: The Learning Annex had advertised his speech heavily, and Trump thought that helped his brand. Therefore, in his mind he’d been paid more than $1 million, even though his actual payment was $400,000.

“Do you actually say that, when you say you got a million dollars publicly?” Ceresney asked.

“I don’t break it down,” Trump said.

Ceresney mentioned the representation when asked what his practice had been like before leaving for the SEC in 2013.

When asked about several SEC lawyers who had recently departed for in-house roles in compliance rather than at law firms, Ceresney remarked the upside to taking an in-house role is that the lawyer can counsel the client on a day-in, day-out basis, which generally leads to a closer relationship than an outside lawyer has.

For him, being at a law firm is still the most desirable position.

“Obviously it’s a personal decision,” he said. “I was at [Debevoise] for 10 years, I really enjoyed counseling my clients. I enjoyed being in court, making presentations, counseling the board, counseling individuals.”

Ceresney added, “For me, I’m 45 years old, I’ve got hopefully plenty of time left to practice.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission also has announced a string of other departures in recent weeks, many of whom have not yet said where they will land.

Departures include:

  • Michael Osnato, chief of the enforcement division’s complex financial instruments unit, who is planning to leave the agency this month. For three years, Osnato led a unit of 45 attorneys and industry experts in investigations related to complex financial products, which resulted in cases related to high frequency trading, structured notes and against Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency.

  • Nathaniel Stankard, deputy chief of staff for policy since May 2013. As a senior advisor to Chair Mary Jo White he advised on more than 50 rulemakings and helped formulate the agency’s implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

  • General Counsel Anne K. Small, who served as the chief legal officer for the agency since April 2013. She represented and counseled the Commission on appeals and advised on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

  • Andrew J. ''Buddy’’ Donohue, who had been chief of staff since May 2015, is leaving. He was a senior adviser to White on all policy, management, and regulatory issues.

  • Sharon Binger, who departed as director of the SEC’s Philadelphia office in December, joined private equity firm Silver Lake Partners to oversee its compliance function.

  • Timothy Warren, associate director of enforcement in the Chicago office, is retiring at the end of this month.

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