The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that it has barred Spencer Barasch, a former enforcement official in the Commission’s Fort Worth office, from appearing and practicing before the Commission for one year for violating federal conflict of interest rules.
The bar was imposed in an order instituting an administrative proceeding and resolves allegations involving Barasch’s representation of Stanford Group Company after Barasch went into private practice. Barasch consented to the Commission’s action without admitting or denying the Commission’s allegations.
Earlier this year, Barasch agreed to pay a $50,000 civil fine to the U.S. Justice Department for the same conduct.
Barasch, a Dallas resident, was the Associate District Director for the Division of Enforcement in the Commission’s Fort Worth office from June 1998 to April 2005. According to the Commission’s order, while at the Commission, Barasch took part “personally and substantially” in decisions involving allegations of securities law violations by entities associated with Robert Allen Stanford, including Stanford Group Company.
According to the Commission’s order, when Barasch joined a private law firm in 2005, he contacted the Commission’s Ethics Office about whether he could represent Stanford Group Company before the Commission and was told that he was permanently barred from doing so with respect to any matters on which he had participated while at the Commission. The order finds that Barasch declined to represent Stanford Group Company then, but that in the fall of 2006, he accepted an engagement from the Stanford entity and billed it for 12 hours of legal work related to Stanford matters Barasch had participated in while at the Commission.
During this representation, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1), Barasch tried to obtain information about the Commission’s Stanford investigation from Commission staff in Fort Worth, but a staff attorney questioned whether Barasch could represent the firm. The staff attorney declined to have any substantive discussions with Barasch and suggested that Barasch contact the Commission’s Ethics Office on the matter. The order finds that Barasch did so and was again told that he was permanently barred from representing Stanford Group Company in the matter, prompting him to end his representation.
U.S. laws prohibit former federal officers and employees from knowingly seeking to influence or appear before any agency on a matter in which they had “participated personally and substantially” during their federal employment. The Commission’s order finds that Barasch violated this conflict of interest rule, which constitutes “improper professional conduct” under Rule 102(e) of the Commission’s rules of practice.
Before Barasch can resume appearing and practicing before the Commission, the Commission must determine that Barasch has truthfully sworn that he has satisfied several conditions that reflect on his character and fitness to practice before the Commission.
“This action shows that the Commission takes seriously ethical lapses by attorneys who appear and practice before it, and that such violations will result in serious disciplinary action,” said SEC Associate General Counsel Richard M. Humes.
The Commission’s case was investigated by Thomas J. Karr, Karen J. Shimp and Sarah E. Hancur of the Office of the General Counsel, following an investigation and report on the Stanford matter by the Commission’s Office of the Inspector General. The Commission acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas.