David Meister is stepping down as director of enforcement at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in October, the agency announced today.
A former partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Meister has led the 130-lawyer division since 2010, filing a record number of new cases and going after some of Wall Street's biggest players—including JP Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley & Co. He also led the prosecution against mega-banks including Barclays for the manipulation of the LIBOR benchmark interest rate, resulting in record penalties of almost $1.3 billion.
Gretchen Lowe, the Enforcement Division's chief counsel, will serve as acting director of enforcement. Meister has not announced his future plans.
The CFTC is currently closed because of the government shutdown, with the exception of select functions, such as reviewing emergency notifications and certain filings deemed necessary for the protection of property. These include financial reports of futures commission merchants and risk assessment reporting requirements.
Other matters pending before the commission will be put on hold until the agency reopens, according to the agency’s shutdown plan published today in the Federal Register. “It would be contrary to the [Commodity Exchange Act], and to the public interest, if these review and approval time limits continued to run while the Commission is unable to conduct routine business,” the notice states.
CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a statement that Meister “brought energy, talent and experience to our critical mission to protect the public from fraud and abuse and ensure market integrity.”
The Dodd-Frank Act expanded the agency's jurisdiction to include the $300 trillion swaps market and gave the Enforcement Division new grounds to go after wrongdoers.
Meister oversaw the first cases making use of these broader powers, bringing charges against a commodity pool operator, Quiddity LLC, for making material false statements to the CFTC. Previously, the agency had to rely on criminal authorities to prosecute liars. The CFTC also brought charges against the operator of a $90 million Ponzi scheme involving sales of silver under a new Dodd-Frank provision banning fraud schemes in interstate commerce.
Jason Moreau, a securities litigation partner at McDermott, Will & Emery, wrote in an email that “given the expansion of the CFTC’s enforcement powers under Dodd-Frank and its increased visibility in recent high-profile scandals, I fully expect Mr. Meister’s successor will be looking to maintain momentum and employ the same aggressive approach to enforcement.”