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SEC official named interim enforcement chief

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An official at the Securities and Exchange Commission who headed its most important regional office for pursuing cases has been named as the agency's interim enforcement director.

George Canellos is currently deputy director of the SEC's enforcement division. He will become acting director on Feb. 8 to temporarily replace Robert Khuzami, the agency announced Thursday. During his four-year tenure, Khuzami led the SEC's efforts to penalize the largest U.S. banks for actions that helped trigger the 2008 financial crisis.

Canellos was director from July 2009 to June 2012 of the agency's New York regional office, which is responsible for more than 4,000 banks, brokerage firms, investment advisers and other financial institutions.

Canellos was appointed by Elisse Walter, who has been interim SEC chairman since Mary Schapiro resigned in December. President Barack Obama last week nominated Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney in Manhattan with an extensive record of prosecuting white-collar crime, to lead the agency. White, now an attorney in private practice, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate.

Canellos was an assistant U.S. attorney in White's office from 1994 to 2002. After that, he worked as an attorney in private practice before joining the SEC.