Thursday, November 11, 2010
The SEC recently determined that an attorney who engaged in unethical and improper professional conduct while representing prospective witness in Commission administrative proceeding, in violation of state bar disciplinary rules, should be permanently barred from appearing or practicing before the Commission. The ALJ imposed a nine-month suspension, but the SEC determined a permanent bar was warranted under Rule 102(e). As explained by the SEC in its opinion,
Steven Altman, Esq., an attorney licensed to practice law in New York, appeals from an administrative law judge's decision. The law judge found that between January 28, 2004 and March 10, 2004 (the "relevant period"), Altman engaged in unethical and improper professional conduct while representing a prospective witness for the Division of Enforcement ("Division") in a Commission administrative proceeding. Specifically, the law judge found that Altman offered to have his client evade the Division's service of a subpoena and/or testify falsely in exchange for a financial package from two respondents in the proceeding. The law judge further found that Altman did so with scienter. As a result of his conduct, Altman violated Disciplinary Rules ("DR") 1-102(A)(4), 102(A)(5), and 102(A)(7) of the New York State Bar Association Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility. The law judge suspended Altman from appearing or practicing before the Commission for nine months pursuant to Rule 102(e)(1)(ii) of the Commission's Rules of Practice and Section 4C of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
The Office of the General Counsel ("OGC") appeals the nine-month suspension imposed on Altman. It seeks an order permanently denying him the privilege of appearing or practicing before the Commission. We base our findings on an independent review of the record, except with respect to those findings not challenged on appeal. We conclude that Altman's conduct is fundamentally inconsistent with the effective administration of justice and warrants a permanent denial of the privilege of appearing or practicing before the Commission.