US Securities and Exchange Commission - VALIC

US SEC Announces Retirement of US SEC Cyber Unit Head Robert Cohen

SECAs per recent statement released by United Stated Securities and Exchange Commission, Robert Cohen – a long standing member of the regulatory body and current head of SEC’s cyber unit division is set to resign from his role next month. Robert Cohen has been a part of the US regulatory body for nearly 15 years now having joined the firm back in 2004. His department – Cyber unit was a special team made up of select attorneys was formed back in 2017 in response to major data breach event to crack down on cyber related misconduct and he became the unit’s first chief. Prior to his current role as chief of cyber unit, he served in role of co-head of market abuse unit along with Joseph Sansone which he was promoted to back in 2015 and served in the role for nearly two years. The Cyber unit which is now an integral part of the US SEC’s enforcement division was created to tackle cyber related scams and restore investor confidence on the regulatory body which declined greatly owing to slow response from the watchdog for large scale attach which took place in 2016. 

Robert A. Cohen
Robert A. Cohen

The hack took place on SEC’s filing system known as EDGAR which contains wide range of documents such as periodical release and quarterly earnings statement of the companies that had not yet been made public and was hence used by hackers as insider information enabling them to make huge profits illegally. The issue was so huge that SEC had to inform congress before it made information public and many companies which became victim of the attack had not been notified by SEC back when the issue took place. In response to this event and to ensure such issues don’t happen again while also aiming to regain investor confidence the cyber unit division was created to target market manipulation schemes and cyber related threats to trading platforms. However, in the last two years, the unit has developed and evolved further to extend that it is currently capable of investigating and handling even violations involving cryptocurrencies and other digital assets. Mr. Cohen joined SEC’s enforcement division from private practise in 2004 and was promoted five times during his 15 year long tenure at the organisation. In his early days with the regulatory body he held the role of Branch Chief, Assistant Director, Co –Deputy Chief of market abuse unit.

Cohen is currently one of the top expert in US SEC when it comes to identifying and resolving various illegal trading practises. The most notable crackdowns handled by Mr. Cohen aside from the case Edgar hack attack, was an ultra short bond fund that declined during the financial crisis which ended with $118 Million settlement. He also handles many cases involving account violation by public issuers and hedge funds, ICO and cryptocurrency related cases. When speaking about his decision to part ways with US SEC, Cohen commented, “It has been a privilege working with great colleagues at the SEC, whom I cannot thank enough for their commitment, perseverance, and friendship. I am proud of our work together, which has had a strong and positive impact for investors”. Commenting on his departure, Jay Clayton Chairman of US SEC commented, “I’m grateful to Rob for his thoughtfulness, expertise and leadership in taking on the creation of the Cyber Unit. He leaves the unit well-positioned to continue the critical work of protecting our markets and retail investors in this complex and continually developing area”.  

Speaking on same note, Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin, Co-Directors of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement commented, “Rob has been a true leader in the Enforcement Division.We relied on Rob to lead the Cyber Unit because of his record of handling complex, high priority enforcement cases with both toughness and fairness, while also mentoring and training countless SEC attorneys and supervisors. The Cyber Unit has been a great success under Rob’s strategic leadership, soon after its creation, the Cyber Unit immediately began filing impactful cases that protect investors and demonstrate the SEC’s ability to respond nimbly to new and difficult challenges”.

While the US SEC has mentioned that Mr. Cohen will leave the organisation next month (August), it has failed to mention who will be filling in the wide hole left by Mr. Cohen’s resignation.