The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Merri Jo Gillette, Director of its Chicago Regional Office, is leaving the agency later this month after more than 25 years of service.
Ms. Gillette has headed the SEC's second largest regional office since 2004, overseeing a staff of more than 250 with responsibility for compliance inspections, investigations, and enforcement actions in a nine-state area. Under her leadership, the Chicago Regional Office has brought numerous enforcement actions, often in conjunction with criminal authorities, and conducted hundreds of examinations of SEC-registered firms, including risk-targeted examinations to assess industry trends across the region.
"Merri Jo has exemplified the high standards of leadership and service the agency expects and the public deserves: tough, tenacious and fair enforcement of the law, inspired leadership, and superior results. The SEC and the investors we protect owe her a deep debt of gratitude for her public service," said SEC Chair Mary Jo White.
"Working at the SEC with so many talented colleagues has been an extraordinary privilege," said Gillette. "I have been repeatedly awed by the professionalism, dedication, creativity and tenacity of my coworkers as they work to protect investors and safeguard our capital markets. I take great pride in our many collective achievements and am honored to have been part of the SEC's long tradition of excellence. My thanks go out to my staff, my contemporaries, my mentors and my adversaries, all of whom inspired and challenged me to vigorously pursue the mission of the SEC."
Key enforcement actions brought during Ms. Gillette's tenure include:
- SEC v. Badin Runruangnavarat, alleging that the defendant made more than $3 million of illegal profits by trading ahead of an announcement of a multi-billion acquisition of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui International Holdings
- SEC v. Nikolai S. Battoo, et al., charging an international asset manager for falsely representing the value of assets throughout financial crisis and concealing major losses
- In the Matter of Claymore Advisors LLC, In the Matter of Mohammed Riad and In the Matter of Fiduciary Asset Management LLC, charging two investment advisors and two portfolio managers for failure to disclose the fund's risky derivatives strategies that contributed to its collapse during the financial crisis
- In the Matter of Wells Fargo Brokerage Services, LLC, et al., charging the firm with failing to disclose risks inherent in complex mortgage-backed securities resulting in significant investor losses during the financial crisis
- In the Matter of Huron Consulting Group, LLC, charging a consulting firm and two former executives with accounting violations that overstated income for multiple years
- SEC v. Kwame M. Kilpatrick, et al, charging Detroit's former mayor, treasurer, and investment adviser to the city's pension funds in a pay-to-play scheme related to investment of city pension funds
- SEC v. Clay Capital Management, LLC, et al., charging a hedge fund, its principal, and three others with conducting an insider trading ring that netted $3.9 million
- SEC v. Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Inc., et al, and In the Matter of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, charging firms and a broker for fraud in the sale of $200 million of complex securities to the pension plans of five Wisconsin school districts
- In the Matter of State of Illinois, charging the state with misleading municipal bond investors about funding of the state's pension obligations
- In the Matter of Direct Edge Holdings LLC, et al., alleging violations at two electronic stock exchanges and a broker-dealer arising out of weak systems controls
"Almost every part our organization and practice has been indelibly marked by Merri Jo's extraordinary contributions of judgment, experience, energy, and wisdom," said George S. Canellos, Co-Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "The Enforcement Division and the agency as a whole will benefit for years to come from her rich legacy."
Under Ms. Gillette, the examination staff in Chicago played a key role in changes to make the agency's National Exam Program (NEP) more effective and efficient, and designed an electronic database for use in exams that later was put into use by SEC examiners nationwide. Ms. Gillette also served as an inaugural member of the NEP's Executive Committee and co-chair of its Compliance Committee.
Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) Director Andrew Bowden said, "Merri Jo built and led a great exam team in Chicago. She shared her time and talents on matters of national significance, including serving as a trusted adviser to me and past OCIE Directors. We wish her continued success in the future."
Ms. Gillette also has long been a champion for advancing inclusion and diversity in the workplace, serving as a founding member of the Division of Enforcement's diversity committee and Chair of the agency-wide Diversity Committee on Mentoring and Professional Development.
Ms. Gillette, 55, joined the SEC as a staff attorney in the SEC's Philadelphia Office in 1986. She worked on litigation and enforcement matters there for 18 years, advancing to become Branch Chief, Chief Trial Counsel, Assistant Regional Director, Supervisor of the Trial Unit, and Associate Director for Enforcement.
In 2007, Ms. Gillette received the SEC's Distinguished Service Award, which is the highest honor the agency bestows on an individual employee. In 2011, she received the SEC's Stanley Sporkin Award, which recognizes exceptionally tenacious and insightful contributions to the enforcement of the federal securities laws. She also was awarded the SEC-NTEU Labor-Management Relations Award in 2011.
Ms. Gillette has a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and a law degree from the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Penn. Before joining the SEC, she practiced law at the U.S. Department of Labor and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.
Ms. Gillette will join the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP as a partner in its Chicago office. Following her departure, Tim Warren, Associate Regional Director for Enforcement in the Chicago office will serve as the office's Acting Regional Director.