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Category Archives: SEC Enforcement

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Reverse-Flash: SEC and FINRA Looking to Slow High-Speed Traders?

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement, Uncategorized

High-frequency trading is the latest craze hitting the market.  Popularized by Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, high-frequency or high-speed trading involves the use of sophisticated technological tools and computer algorithms to rapidly trade securities.  According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, high-frequency trading has been “blamed for making stock exchanges less transparent and markets more volatile [and] has disrupted the process… Continue Reading

No Admit, No Deny – No Longer?

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

Admissions by companies in enforcement actions brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) can open the floodgates to follow-on private civil litigation.  Fortunately, the SEC has traditionally settled with companies on a “no admit, no deny” basis.  That has begun to change. As you may recall, in 2011, U.S. District Judge Rakoff of the Southern District of… Continue Reading

Is the SEC that good? SEC Wins Every Administrative Case

Posted in Dodd-Frank, SEC Enforcement, Securities Litigation

In what is sure to add more “fuel to the fire,” it was recently reported that the SEC has won every case brought in its administrative courts over the last year.  The SEC has not been so successful with its federal court cases, winning 61% of those cases over that same period. Of course, regular blog readers know that the… Continue Reading

INDIVIDUAL MAY ACT AS SOLICITOR DESPITE SEC ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER

Posted in Investment Adviser Regulation, No-Action Relief, SEC Enforcement

The SEC Division of Investment Management determined that a solictor may receive a fee for the soliciation of clients for registered investment advisers notwithstanding a Commission administrative order against her.  See Matter of Stephanie Hibler, https://www.sec.gov/litigation/opinions/2013/34-70140.pdf. In deciding to allow the solicitor to receive cash solicitation fees, the SEC staff noted in its response letter… Continue Reading

Changes in SEC Enforcement Function

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, SEC Enforcement, SEC Organization

Adjustments to the SEC’s enforcement function is enabling it to be more aggressive with individuals and corporations when pursuing allegedly violative behavior. The SEC’s ongoing push to strengthen penalties for wrongdoing attempts to further deter current and future bad actors, stiff monetary penalties and sanctions not only punish alleged violations but send clear signals of… Continue Reading

The SEC Does Not Care About Collateral Impacts With Settlements

Posted in Collateral Consequences, SEC Enforcement

In determining whether to seek admissions in the settlement of an enforcement action, the SEC will not take into account any collateral consequences that might befall the defendant in question. Recent changes in the “nether admit/nor deny” policy is not about collateral consequences.  Instead, the SEC is determining if admissions are justified based upon the… Continue Reading

Should The SEC Turn Its Attention to Culpability and Harm?

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

Enforcement attention on activities involving the most culpable individuals and firms, and the most harm to investors may be the next phase in SEC enforcement. There is an opportunity cost to its enforcement actions.  It might be the best use of the SEC’s resources not to sue over technical violations and other deficiencies that do… Continue Reading

Will the SEC “Modernize” BDC Rules

Posted in Business Development Companies, SEC Enforcement, Securities Registration

Business development company representatives petitioned the SEC to “modernize” its rules pertaining to such entities.  BDCs are a type of private company that invests in small and mid-sized businesses. The SEC has long disfavored BDCs, but none of these representatives want the SEC to allow BDCs to operate under rules that apply to traditional public… Continue Reading

Guidance Assists Compliance and Supervision Decisions

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

The “message” behind the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets’ recent guidance on supervisory liability is that the agency will not target compliance officers as the “guarantors” of their firms’ compliance. The Division views compliance officers, typically, as having a more advisory consultative role and only when compliance personnel move out of that role and… Continue Reading

SEC Seeks Actions to Stress Support for Compliance

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

The SEC is looking for more cases to bring to emphasize its support for compliance programs, including a case against a former portfolio manager. OCIE has also several specialized working groups in areas such as securities valuation, marketing and sales practices, and fixed income and municipal securities, that are working with Enforcement staff to bring… Continue Reading

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same…SEC Develops “New” Task Force Geared at Broker-Dealer Enforcement

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, SEC Enforcement

The Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division has created a new task force to scrutinize broker-dealer practices. This unit existed in the 1980’s and 1990’s and was phased out.  It is now being brought back.  The SEC started developing the task force in September and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has also established an enforcement… Continue Reading

SEC Enforcement Division Shifts Focus to Dormant and Emerging Issues

Posted in SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

The SEC’s Enforcement Division will shift resources to some dormant and some new areas of possible noncompliance. “Old reliables” will include activities surrounding investment advisers, such as the perpetration of fraud and issues surrounding valuation and conflicts of interest.  Other adviser activities the Enforcement Division may focus on are fees and the boards that authorize… Continue Reading

Are SEC Defense Lawyers the Problem?

Posted in SEC Enforcement

The SEC’s Enforcement Division has expressed concerns to the SEC’s General Counsel about defense lawyers possibly obstructing agency investigations – a practice that could lead to disciplinary proceedings. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 provided the SEC with explicit statutory authority to bring cases against lawyers and others under SEC Rule 102(e).  The SEC’s Enforcement Division… Continue Reading

SEC RARELY SEEKS TO POSSESS ELECTRONIC DEVICES

Posted in SEC Enforcement

SEC staff has been instructed to seek subpoenas for devices such as computer hard drives and cell phones only rarely. In many cases, there could be unintended consequences, such as exposing authorities to other sensitive materials on a device outside the scope of the investigation.  The SEC claims to be sensitive to this situation.  Typically,… Continue Reading

What Are You Doing About Cyber-Security

Posted in Books and Records, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Cyber-Security, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

It was apparently not enough that the SEC and FINRA made cyber-security an exam priority for 2014, but the Department of the Treasury has now focused on this pervasive issue.  In recent comments, Treasury Secretary Lew has urged financial firms to step it up when protecting against cyber-attacks.  Stories of cyber-attacks are becoming so common… Continue Reading

GOOD COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS EXALTED

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

Companies subject to enforcement actions will get more credit from regulators if the alleged misconduct is an exception in a compliance-driven corporate culture rather than a remedial step after discovery. In cases where the SEC finds fraud, there often are early warning signs, and inadequate corporate compliance may not have seen them.  The SEC believes… Continue Reading

SEC COMMISSIONERS DEBATE ENFORCEMENT

Posted in SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement, SEC Organization, SEC Structure

Two Securities and Exchange Commissioners – the agency’s two newest members – offered contrasting views of the commission’s use of its enforcement powers.  http://www.sec.gov/News/Speech/Detail/Speech/13705404038989#.Uo_nqCda-JQ(Stein);  http://www.sec.gov/News/Speech/Detail/Speech/1370540400457#.Uo_nvidA-JQ(Piwowar). Among other issues, one said the agency has delegated too much authority to its enforcement staff, while the other hailed the “incredible work” done by the SEC staff on a… Continue Reading

EFFECTIVE COMPLIANCE PROGRAM COULD HAVE ENFORCEMENT PAYOFF

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

An effective corporate compliance program may temper a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action, or – if there is an enforcement action – limit the penalties imposed.  See http://www.sec.gov/News/Speech/Detail/Speech/1370539872783#.UlbOPVOHiJR. Agency enforcers make judgments every day regarding the entities and individuals under investigation, and companies that demonstrate an effective compliance program and a genuine commitment to… Continue Reading

I Tweet, You Tweet, We All Tweet

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement, Social Media

The SEC recently issued two interpretations that address your use of interactive social media, like Twitter, in accordance with the securities laws.   These interpretations permit your firm to now use a hyperlink to satisfy the legend requirements and, at the same time, limit your responsibility where your communications are retransmitted, like a retweet.  The major… Continue Reading

Do You Really Want To Be A Dual Registrant

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Conflicts of Interest, FINRA Compliance, Registered Representatives, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

One of the priorities of the SEC National Examination Program is dual registrants; entities that provide both brokerage and investment advisory services.  The focus of the program on dual registrants begs the question why a firm would want to be one.  The answer to that question should be an obvious.  Being a dual registrant allows… Continue Reading

SEC Says Dodd-Frank’s Statute of Limitations Doesn’t Apply to It

Posted in Dodd-Frank, SEC Enforcement

According to the SEC, the Dodd-Frank Act does not require the SEC to bring an enforcement action within 180 days of issuing a Wells Notice.  See http://www.sec.gov/litigation/opinions/2014/ia-3829.pdf. Although the Dodd-Frank Act amended the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 Section 4E(a)(1) to require the SEC to bring the action within 180 days, the SEC said it was… Continue Reading

Why Should You Care About Cyber-Security

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

The short answer to this question is that the SEC and FINRA care.  Both regulators have made this issue an exam priority for the year, and it was recently a focus of an SEC roundtable.  We hear of data breaches on nearly a daily basis at retail stores, to name a common target.  But what… Continue Reading

SEC Discourages Incentivizing Whistleblowers to Keep Complaints In-House

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Dodd-Frank, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

What’s good for the goose is apparently not so good for the gander, as the SEC warns in-house attorneys against whistleblower contracts.  The SEC has been financially incentivizing whistleblowers to bring securities fraud complaints to the agency’s attention for years, with increasing success.  The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 empowers… Continue Reading