Erik Sirri, the director of the Securities and Exchange Commission's division of trading and markets, will leave at the end of the month to return to academia, the SEC announced yesterday.

Sirri was hired by former SEC chairman Christopher Cox in 2006 to succeed Annette Nazareth, who was tapped to become a commissioner. Sirri has presided over the agency's regulation of securities exchanges, brokers, dealers, clearing agencies, transfer agents and credit rating agencies.

He also worked closely in coordinating responses to the recent market crisis, including the issuance of a no-action last year that said municipal issuers could self-bid on their own auction-rate securities without violating the SEC's market manipulation rules, provided generally that they disclosed their bids in advance.

"The SEC has benefited greatly from Erik's leadership skills, deep understanding of the financial markets, and his ability to apply economic principles to advance investor protection and improve the capital markets," SEC chairman Mary Schapiro, said in a statement.

Sirri was a finance professor at Babson College and took leave from that post to join the SEC. He also is a former finance professor at Harvard Business School. Sirri served as a chief economist of the SEC from 1996 to 1999.

Before pursing a career in finance and economics, he worked for several years on planetary astronomy missions for NASA and in the aerospace industry as a research scientist at Nichols Research Corp. He has a BS in astronomy from California Institute of Technology, an MBA from the University of California, Irvine, and a Ph.D. in finance from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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