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News August 13, 2012 Issue

IM Deputy Director Robert Plaze Is Retiring

Say it isnít so.

After almost 30 years of working in one place, with one mission and one priority Ė investor protection Ė SEC Division of Investment Management deputy director Robert Plaze is retiring.

He made it official at the beginning of the month, and from the minute the news broke, the accolades have been pouring in. The SECís press release used words like "instrumental," "central," and "key architect" to describe his contributions to adviser and investment company regulation.

"Few people have had as great an impact shaping the regulatory landscape for the benefit of individual investors. Bobís keen intellect and passion for investor protection have been central to virtually every significant rule affecting mutual funds and investment advisers for more than a generation," said SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro.

To put the significance of his retirement into perspective, take a look at some of his recent accomplishments. Plaze made significant contributions to or was integrally involved in:

  • Private fund adviser registration (both the first rule, which successfully saw the registration of many private fund advisers before it was ultimately undone in the courts, and then the current rule under the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA) mandate);
  • Money market fund reform;
  • Custody rule amendments;
  • Form ADV amendments to both Part 2 (ten years in the development) and Part 1 in the wake of the DFA;
  • Significant work on the SECís position taken in the Unibanco line of no-action letters, which state that the activities of foreign advisers, even those that are U.S. registered, with respect to their foreign clients will not be subjected to substantive U.S. regulation; and
  • Financial crisis management in 2007 and 2008, particularly the rapid approval of relief for more than thirty significant money market funds to permit affiliated backstops that prevented the funds from breaking the buck.

And thatís all just in the past seven or eight years. There are at least twenty more years where those came from.

Plaze joined the staff in 1983 in the Division of Investment Management, rising through positions as Special Counsel, Assistant Director, and Associate Director for Regulatory Policy to help lead the Division as its Deputy Director. He will leave the Commission at the end of this month.

"I think he was an important, dedicated public servant for many years, and the Commission will be diminished by his departure," said former Division director Marianne Smythe.

"I look at it as an end of an era," said Willkie Farr partner and former Division director Barry Barbash. "Bob has been an integral member of the Division for decades, and clearly one of the anchors. He has such an intellectual presence, heís an intellectual thinker and he has been central to so many of the most important rules for advisers and mutual funds," he said.

Plaze was also praised as a good teacher. Barbash observed that attorneys who passed through the Division in their careers got superb training from Plaze, and that he put a lot of effort into it.

"This is not an obituary Ė I canít believe heís really retiring from everything," said Barbash. "I expect to see him in the industry some day in some other capacity."