Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement director Stephen M. Cutler, whose tenure included investigations of some of the largest financial reporting failures in the nation's history, is leaving the commission next month to return to the private sector, the agency said. The agency has not yet named a successor.

During his tenure as enforcement director, which began in October 2001, Cutler, 43, oversaw the SEC's investigations of mammoth financial reporting failures that included Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Qwest, Tyco and HealthSouth, and helped the commission obtain judgments totaling more than $6 billion.

Of the 12 largest penalties in SEC history, 10 were obtained in cases brought under Cutler's leadership, including WorldCom's $750 million penalty -- the largest against a public company in commission history -- and the $300 million penalty against AOL-Time Warner.

In a statement announcing the move, SEC Chairman William H. Donaldson described Cutler as "what every prosecutor should be: tough but fair."

Cutler also led the SEC's efforts against banks, insurance companies and others for their roles in public company financial reporting failures; spearheaded its crackdown against illegal initial public offering allocation practices on Wall Street; led the agency's enforcement efforts against mutual fund abuses; and stepped up efforts to hold audit firms accountable for misconduct, including cases against KPMG for its audits of Xerox and Gemstar, and Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers for their violations of the auditor independence rules.

Prior to joining the SEC as deputy director of the Division of Enforcement in 1999, Cutler was a partner at the Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Previously, he served as a visiting fellow at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles and as a law clerk to Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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