The Securities and Exchange Commission named Linda C. Thomsen to head the agency's enforcement division succeeding Stephen Cutler, who is leaving the regulator this month for a post in the private sector.

The appointment makes Thomsen, 50, the first woman to hold the top enforcement post at the SEC. A former federal prosecutor for Maryland, she came aboard the SEC in 1995 as assistant chief litigation counsel. She has served as deputy enforcement director since January 2002.

"Linda is a highly accomplished attorney with a proven record of effective advocacy on behalf of the nation's investors. The skills Linda has exhibited during her tenure at the Commission instill great confidence in her ability to lead this important division," said SEC Chair William Donaldson in a statement.

Thomsen has overseen a number of high-profile cases for the SEC, including the commission's investigation into Enron in 2001.

A replacement deputy director has not as yet been named.

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