For nearly two decades, David Peavler has roamed the halls of the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Fort Worth regional office – first as a rookie lawyer in its enforcement section, then as assistant regional director and for the past three and a half years as the head of the office.
The SEC announced Thursday that Peavler will step down as the director of its Fort Worth office this Saturday.
Associate regional directors Eric Werner and Marshall Gandy will fill the role until a replacement is announced, SEC officials said.
“It’s a big loss,” said Winstead partner Toby Galloway, who was formerly the lead trial counsel for the SEC’s regional office. “David has done just about everything a lawyer at the SEC can do – and excelled at them all.”
Other former SEC insiders and experts agree.
“Over nearly 20 years with the SEC, David handled or supervised numerous first-of-their-kind cases and significant examinations that protected and promoted investors’ interests,” Jessica Magee, a former SEC associate regional director and now a Holland & Knight partner, told The Texas Lawbook in an interview Thursday.
“For me, his most notable accomplishment is, and his legacy will be, how he paired exceptionally strong technical skills and knowledge with a leadership style that fostered entrepreneurship, ownership and accountability,” Magee said. “And how well he embodied these attributes during challenging times, including a government furlough and global pandemic, to help position the office as one of the finest in the agency.”
Rebecca Fike, a former SEC senior enforcement lawyer who worked with Peavler, said he is “leaving a particular legacy of boosting FWRO’s investigation of and reputation for large, complex accounting and other public company cases.”
“David’s expertise as a CPA prior to joining the commission, combined with his on-the-ground experience as a general counsel at a financial services firm, brought a practical and rigorous perspective to investigations,” Fike said. “In addition, his historical knowledge of the commission garnered over his years of service in nearly every role the FWRO has will be a loss to the staff and the office.”
Peavler declined to comment Thursday on where he is going after he departs the position this weekend because he still is still handling agency matters.
Born and raised in Texas, Peavler, who is 55, received a degree in accounting at Baylor University and his law degree at the University of Texas. He joined the litigation practice of Locke Lord where he represented accounting firms in securities class action lawsuits.
In 2000, the SEC hired Peavler to be a lawyer in its enforcement division – a position he held for a little more than a year. In 2001, he moved to the corporate legal department at ConocoPhillips.
In November 2002, Peavler rejoined the SEC’s Fort Worth office as assistant director. In 2011, the SEC promoted him to associate regional director over enforcement – a position he held until he became the general counsel of HD Vest Financial in 2017.
“It’s hard not to miss [being at the SEC],” Peavler told The Texas Lawbook in 2019. “It’s exciting work and provides a level of professional fulfillment you can’t get anywhere else.”
During his time at the SEC, Peavler led several high-profile investigations and prosecutions, including the Seaboard Corporation case, where the SEC first established its corporate cooperation guidance. Other major cases led by Peavler included:
- The SEC’s enforcement action against Royal Dutch Shell, which resulted in Shell paying a $120 million penalty for overstating its reserves by 4.5 billion barrels;
- The SEC’s prosecution of Millennium Bank for its involvement in a $100 million international Ponzi scheme case; and
- The $46.8 million judgment against Life Partners for securities violations over information that company leaders should have disclosed to investors.
Peavler also led the 2015 investigation and enforcement action against Houston-based KBR in what was the first case against a U.S. company for violating provisions of the whistleblower protections clauses in the Dodd-Frank Act.
“Just months into David’s tenure as regional director, he was faced with the COVID-19 lockdown,” Galloway said. “His steady leadership during the pandemic, guiding the office and maintaining productivity when everyone was forced to work from home, will be a defining legacy for David. He represented the agency in public with dignity and aplomb, and his even temperament and professionalism will be missed.”
SEC Chair David Gensler, in a written statement, thanked Peavler for “his long and distinguished service with the SEC.”
“At the helm of the Fort Worth Regional Office, David led the EXAMS and enforcement efforts covering four states, hundreds of examinations, and referrals that led to numerous enforcement actions,” Gensler said. “For 19 years, David advanced the SEC’s mission, and I commend him for his excellent work. I also would like to thank Eric and Marshall for stepping in to serve as co-acting regional directors.”