The Securities and Exchange Commission's chief watchdog is stepping down from his post. Andrew Bowden, director of the commission's Office of Compliance, Inspection and Examinations, will leave at the end of April to return to the private sector, the SEC announced Tuesday

Bowden gained notoriety last year for his tough stance on private equity misdeeds. But comments Bowden made about private equity last month raised eyebrows. At a panel hosted by Stanford University, Bowden said, “This is the greatest business you could possibly be in.”

Bowden went on to suggest that his teenage son should go into private equity. “I tell him, ‘Cole, you want to be in private equity. That’s where to go, that’s a great business,’ ” Bowden said. The comments were first reported by finance writer Yves Smith at her site, Naked Capitalism.

At the SEC, Bowden oversaw monitoring of various types of financial firms, including hedge funds, brokerages and private equity firms.

Bowden joined the nation’s top financial regulator in 2011, following a career in asset management, largely at the investment firm Legg Mason.

Last year, Bowden made news for taking a hard line with private equity. In remarks at an industry conference, Bowden outlined various instances of wrongdoing his office had found while investigating private equity firms. More than half the time, Bowden said, his team had discovered “what we believe are violations of law or material weaknesses in controls.”

The speech was seen as an opening salvo in a campaign by the SEC to more closely monitor private equity and hedge funds. Bowden laid out a number of problematic fee arrangements and conflicts of interest that he promised would come under stricter SEC oversight in coming years.

In an SEC statement, Commissioner Mary Jo White called Bowden “thoughtful, creative, and dedicated advocate for investors.”

The SEC did not say where Bowden will be heading when he leaves his post.