The Utah Division of Securities has named a new director, four months after the former director resigned amid controversy over the division's handling of an investigation.

Keith M. Woodwell's selection was announced Monday. He begins his duties June 30.

Woodwell has served in several positions in the U.S. State Department, both domestically and abroad, and served as associate general counsel to the Utah Legislature for five years. He also was an associate attorney with the law firm Kesler & Rust, where he specialized in government regulatory law and commercial litigation.

Woodwell succeeds Wayne Klein, who left the division when it came under fire for its handling of a case involving four employees with stock brokerage and investment firm First Western Advisors Inc.

A state legislator last year requested an audit focusing on the division, in part for its handling of the case. Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, which includes the division, said Monday that she expects the audit to be made public within a month.

The division in March 2007 alleged that First Western Advisors, along with two current and two former brokers, was part of a securities fraud involving nine Utahns who invested more than $20.6 million.

The division later dismissed the fraud claims after the men signed settlement agreements with orders to comply with state requirements of the Utah Uniform Securities Act. The division also issued news releases expressing regret for any potential harm its allegations may have caused to First Western's business.

Giani and Klein have said the division never claimed First Western bilked clients out of money, but the division did raise questions about the firm's practices and fee structures, which were eventually addressed and resolved between the division and the company in the settlement agreements.

In the consent order, the company also agreed to change its policies in exchange for the agency dismissing fraud charges.

Klein recently joined Lewis B. Freeman & Partners as a principal and is leading its new downtown Salt Lake City office.


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com