Lawyer in L.A. Seen as Pick for SEC Post

Times Staff Writer

Brian G. Cartwright, a Los Angeles corporate lawyer who began his career as an astrophysicist, is expected to be named general counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission today, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Cartwright, 58, has served as global chairman of the public company practice of Latham & Watkins, the same firm where SEC Chairman Christopher Cox practiced law from 1978 to 1986.

Neither Cartwright nor Cox was available for comment Monday. The sources said that although the lawyers worked on opposite coasts while at Latham & Watkins, that association helped land Cartwright on the short list of candidates.


Cartwright would succeed Giovanni Prezioso, who is returning to private practice. Prezioso announced his departure Nov. 30.

The general counsel is the SEC’s top lawyer, responsible for overseeing court actions and advising commissioners and employees on a broad range of matters, including enforcement decisions.

Cartwright, a native of Seattle, graduated from Yale University in 1967 and earned a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago four years later. He worked from 1973 to 1977 as a research physicist at UC Berkeley’s department of physics and Space Sciences Laboratory.

As an astrophysicist, he published more than 20 articles for professional journals on such topics as “The Origin of Fluorine, Sodium and Aluminum in the Galactic Cosmic Radiation.”

Cartwright received his law degree from Harvard University in 1980 and served two judicial clerkships, first with U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Malcolm Wilkey in Washington and then with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

He joined Latham & Watkins in 1982 and was named partner in 1988. He has specialized in a variety of matters of interest to shareholders and corporate managers. These include public offerings, private placements of debt and corporate governance issues and SEC policies that took effect after the scandals at Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc. and other companies and implementation of the Sarbanes-Oxley law.


Cartwright has been a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law since 1998 and was scheduled to co-teach a course this spring on securities law and public offerings. He is believed to share Cox’s enthusiasm for making filings more user-friendly and relying more heavily on the Internet.

As a member of Latham’s executive committee from 1994 to 1998, Cartwright was one of five partners responsible for overall management of the firm, which has more than 1,800 lawyers in 22 offices around the world.

Since taking over at the SEC in August, Cox has named appointees as secretary of the commission and head of the trial unit. He selected two deputy directors of enforcement, reflecting the growing importance and complexity of that division’s work.

There are currently several open positions, including those of chief accountant and the heads of the divisions of market regulation and investment management.

In addition, Cox must find a permanent head for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, a quasi-private agency created in the aftermath of the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

The SEC’s deputy general counsel also is retiring this month.