Justice Dept.: SEC Cases Can Come First

May 5 2010 | 10:33am ET

The Securities and Exchange Commission will no longer take a back seat to the Justice Dept. on parallel legal cases, a top Justice Dept. official said.

Lanny Breuer, who heads Justice’s criminal division, said that the regulator will no longer automatically delay civil cases to allow criminal cases to proceed first. The move comes in the wake of much handwringing over the Galleon Group insider-trading cases, where it appeared for a time that the SEC case would begin prior to a criminal trial for Galleon founder Raj Rajaratnam.

“The days are gone where the civil action will necessarily be stayed until the criminal action is over,” Breuer said following a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations.

The Justice Dept. said that Breuer's comments were not meant to indicate a change in policy, but merely reflect the fact that courts have shown an increasing willingness to allow SEC-led civil cases to proceed in advance of parallel criminal actions.

Breuer added that the Justice Dept. and SEC hope to build a stronger working relationship to fulfill President Barack Obama’s desire to see “comprehensive approaches” to enforcement. That effort is likely to be bolstered by the fact that the SEC enforcement division is now headed by veteran prosecutor Robert Khuzami, who Breuer says he has a “very close” relationship with.

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