CFTC Enforcement Chief David Meister to step down this month

October 1, 2013 06:45 PM
Gretchen Lowe will serve as acting director

David Meister, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission enforcement chief who pursued investigations of MF Global Holdings Ltd. and interest-rate manipulations, plans to leave the agency this month.

Gretchen Lowe, the enforcement division’s chief counsel, will serve as acting director after Meister departs, the CFTC said today in a statement. Meister, who previously worked as a federal prosecutor and attorney in private practice, hasn’t announced future plans, said Steve Adamske, an agency spokesman.

The probe into manipulation of the London interbank offered rate and other benchmarks was among the widest-ranging in CFTC history. The agency began the investigation in 2008, and, on Meister’s watch, was among regulators that reached more than $2.5 billion in settlements with Barclays Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, UBS AG and ICAP Plc.

“David has brought energy, talent and experience to our critical mission to protect the public from fraud and abuse and ensure market integrity,” CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a separate statement. “He is a tough but fair former federal prosecutor who will be missed by all at the CFTC.”

Meister said in the CFTC statement that the time had come to return full-time to his family in New York. “The future of enforcement is bright, and I have no doubt Gretchen is going to continue the upward trajectory of the enforcement division,” he said in a telephone interview today.

JPMorgan, Corzine

Under Meister’s watch, the CFTC also joined other regulators in examining JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s $6.2 billion trading loss in London last year. The regulator is looking into whether the company manipulated trading in credit derivatives, people familiar with the matter said last month. The agency hasn’t yet brought claims in that case.

He was picked to run the CFTC division in November 2010 from the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where he was a partner specializing in white-collar criminal cases. He previously was an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan, serving on that office’s securities and commodities fraud task force.

During his first year at the CFTC, the regulator came under pressure to pursue MF Global, the brokerage that failed in 2011 and initially left a $1.6 billion gap in client funds. The agency sued Jon S. Corzine in June for failing to adequately supervise employees while he was chairman and chief executive officer. Corzine is seeking dismissal of the suit.

The CFTC’s complaint “relies on irrelevant allegations calculated to sully Mr. Corzine’s character, as well as rambling hindsight criticisms of complex management decisions, many of which were made during times of extreme stress,” Corzine said in a Sept. 10 filing in federal court in New York.

The case is U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. MF Global Inc., 13-cv-04463 and 11-cv-07866, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

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