Levenson Symposium

DC Chapter Holds Third Annual Alan B. Levenson Federal Litigation Symposium

By Patricia Ryan

On May 12, 2010, the District of Columbia Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, co-sponsored the THIRD ANNUAL ALAN B. LEVENSON SYMPOSIUM with the Levenson Foundation, in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the U.S. District Courthouse for the District of Columbia (Third and Constitution). The Symposium’s topic was: “The Relationship of the Courts, Private Counsel and Government Attorneys: A New Era of Enforcement at the SEC?” The panelists included four U.S. federal district court judges, a former Chairman of the SEC, a former Director of Enforcement at the SEC, the former Chief of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Unit, US Attorney’s Office, SDNY, and the Current Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. A catered dinner followed in the judges’ dining room. Three hours of CLE credits were given to attendees.

All expenses for the symposium were covered by the D.C. Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and the Alan B. Levenson Foundation, a 501c3 organization – including all CLE costs and the catered dinner. Alan B. Levenson was Director of the Division of Corporation Finance at the SEC for many years and was known for his vigorous support of the highest ethical standards in the law, and specifically, his area of expertise: securities law. Mr. Levenson chaired more than 50 conferences on securities and accounting law topics to further his belief that regular educational updates would enable lawyers and accountants to carry out their work with the highest professional standards. The Alan B. Levenson Foundation sponsors programs intended to improve standards of professional responsibility, ethics, and corporate governance in the legal, accounting, and business professions. For further information, please contact j.levenson@alanlevensonfoundation.org.

The four judges who participated on Panel One of the Symposium were:

Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth, US Federal District Court (DC)

Judge Reggie Walton, US Federal District Court (DC)

Judge Jed Rakoff, US Federal District Court (SDNY), and

Judge Stanley Sporkin (Ret. – US Federal District Court(DC)).

The judges on panel One discussed the role of federal district court judges in consent decrees presented to a district court and whether judges just “sign-off” on consent decrees or “review” consent decrees negotiated by private Counsel and government lawyers. The judges also addressed the factors federal judges expect to be considered by both private Counsel and government lawyers during the negotiations of consent decrees. In addition, the judges discussed whether federal district court judges have taken over the role of the SEC in negotiating consent decrees and whether the SEC is asking for the right kind of relief in its negotiations of consent decrees. Of particular interest to those in attendance was the discussion by Judge Rakoff of his recent decisions in the SEC/Bank of America decisions. All four judges on the panel have been known for careful scrutiny of consent decrees presented to the federal district court. The panel discussion was a rare opportunity to hear commentary from federal district court judges about a recent, and controversial, review of a consent decree negotiated by the SEC and private Counsel.

On Panel Two the panelists were:

Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the SEC

Reid Figel, former Chief, Securities and Commodities Fraud Unit, US Attorney’s Office, SDNY

George Canellos, current Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, and

Robert Mundheim, Of Counsel, Shearman & Sterling.

Panelists on the second panel discussed the issues and procedures that should be considered when negotiating a consent decree with the federal government that imposes monetary and other obligations, costs and burdens on a corporation for the acts of individual corporate executives. Questions reviewed were: Who should the decision-maker be? What processes should be utilized? What factors should be considered by all three sets of lawyers during the negotiations? How should a proposed settlement be presented (and by whom) in order to obtain a successful review and approval by the Court with oversight for the consent decree? In addition, the panel discussed the implications for the reorganization of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, including the delegation of the enhanced authority given to staff, e.g., the ability to issue orders of investigation.

Over 85 attendees participated in the seminar in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the federal district court. Seminars sponsored by the D.C. Chapter of the Federal Bar Association are open to all members of the Federal Bar Association and members of the Bar. Any members interested in organizing a legal education seminar for the members of the Federal Bar Association are encouraged to contact a member of the Board of Directors of the D.C. Chapter.

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