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SEC Sanctions Former Staffer Accused of Thwarting Stanford Probe

Allen Stanford
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A former regional enforcement director with the Securities and Exchange Commission who allegedly derailed repeated attempts to investigate convicted Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford and then tried to represent Stanford in private practice has been barred from practicing before the Commission for one year, the SEC said.

Spencer Barasch, 54, a partner at Andrews Kurth, previously agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty to the Justice Department to settle allegations he violated federal conflict of interest laws.

Barasch was a top enforcement attorney in the SEC’s Fort Worth office beginning in 1998, around the time the office began receiving complaints about Stanford. An internal investigation found Barasch repeatedly rebuffed other staffers’ requests to investigate Stanford. After Barasch left the Commission in 2005 for private practice, he asked the SEC’s ethics office for permission to represent Stanford and was told he could not. But in 2006, Barasch began representing Stanford anyway, even asking his former colleagues for information about the investigation they had finally begun.

The SEC sued Stanford for fraud in 2009, and a federal grand jury indicted him later that year for running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. He was convicted on 13 criminal counts in March and is awaiting sentencing.

Asked by then-SEC Inspector General why he was so persistent in attempting to represent Stanford, Spencer Barasch reportedly replied, “Every lawyer in Texas and beyond is going to get rich over this case. Okay? And I hated being on the sidelines.”

The SEC says Barasch has agreed to the one-year bar “without admitting or denying the Commission’s allegations.”

“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,” SEC Associate General Counsel Richard Humes said in a statement.