Christopher R. Conte will step down as an associate director in the division of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission this month to join the Washington office of the law firm Steptoe & Johnson.

Conte, 49, oversaw a variety of high-profile cases involving accounting fraud, disclosure violations and unlawful market-timing during an 18-year career at the agency. He led the SEC's enforcement actions against Dell Inc. and its senior officers and against former executives at Comverse Technology. He assisted in cases against Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Robertson Stephens Inc. involving unlawful IPO allocation practices.

Conte also investigated illegal payments under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, manipulative short-selling practices, and insider trading by corporate executives and other professionals.

Conte's "extensive experience and deep commitment to investor protection made him a strong force in the effort to hold accountable those who violate the securities laws," said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC's division of enforcement said Monday.

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