Former SEC Counsel Rejoins Cleary Gottlieb Amid Madoff Scrutiny

David Becker, who quit as Securities and Exchange Commission general counsel before he was sued over inherited profits from Bernard Madoff’s fraud, has rejoined the law firm where he worked before taking the SEC post.

Becker, 63, returned to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP to focus on securities enforcement, corporate governance, internal investigations and financial regulation, the firm said today in a statement. Becker, who will be based in Washington, left the SEC in February after two years in the position.

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has faced scrutiny stemming from a lawsuit filed by Irving H. Picard, the bankruptcy court trustee unwinding Madoff’s business, a week after Becker announced plans to leave the agency. The suit demands that Becker and his brothers return $1.5 million in what Picard called fictitious profits from liquidating their mother’s account three years before the Ponzi scheme unraveled.

Congressional lawmakers and SEC Inspector General H. David Kotz have begun investigations into why Becker was permitted to work on Madoff matters at the SEC even though he had personal ties to the case. Becker, who returned to the SEC two months after Madoff was arrested in December 2008, has said his involvement was cleared by the agency’s ethics office. He has said his departure was unrelated to the Picard lawsuit.

Becker had also served as SEC general counsel before his previous stint at Cleary Gottlieb, which began in 2002. He worked at the firm until 2009, when Schapiro tapped him to help guide the agency through the pending financial regulatory overhaul and cope with lawmakers’ criticism of perceived missteps including its failure to spot Madoff’s fraud.

Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges related to his decades-long Ponzi scheme and is serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison.

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