SEC - Enforcement Actions Over Last 2 Years Highest Ever

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Building on last year’s record results, the Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that it filed 734 enforcement actions in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2012, one shy of last year’s record of 735.

Most significantly, that number included an increasing number of cases involving highly complex products, transactions, and practices, including those related to the financial crisis, trading platforms and market structure, and insider trading by market professionals. Twenty percent of the actions were filed in investigations designated as National Priority Cases, representing the Division’s most important and complex matters.

The SEC also announced that it obtained orders in fiscal year 2012 requiring the payment of more than $3 billion in penalties and disgorgement for the benefit of harmed investors. It represents an 11 percent increase over the amount ordered last year. In the past two years, the SEC has obtained orders for $5.9 billion in penalties and disgorgement.

'The record of performance is a testament to the professionalism and perseverance of the staff and the innovative reforms put in place over the past few years', said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. 'We’ve now brought more enforcement actions in each of the last two years than ever before including some of the most complex cases we’ve ever seen'.

Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, 'It’s not simply numbers, but the increasing complexity and diversity of the cases we file that shows how successful we’ve been. The intelligence, dedication, and deep experience of our enforcement staff are, more than any other factors, responsible for the Division’s success'.

The sustained high-level performance comes two years after the Division underwent its most significant reorganization since it was established in the early 1970s. The results in 2012 were aided by many of the reforms and innovations put in place in the past two years, such as increased expertise in complex and emerging financial markets, products, and transactions, including through enhanced training, the hiring of industry experts, and the creation of specialized enforcement units focused on high-priority misconduct; a flatter management structure; streamlined and centralized processes and the improved utilization of information technology; and a vastly enhanced ability to collect, process, and analyze tips and complaints.

Financial Crisis-Related Cases

Among the cases filed by the SEC in FY 2012 were 29 separate actions naming 38 individuals, including 24 CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers, regarding wrongdoing related to the financial crisis.

These cases included enforcement actions involving:

During the last 2½ years, the agency has filed actions related to the financial crisis against 117 defendants – nearly half of whom were CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate executives, resulting in approximately $ 2.2 billion in disgorgement, penalties, and other monetary relief obtained or agreed to. The SEC brought enforcement actions against Goldman Sachs, J.P Morgan Securities, and Morgan Keegan as well as senior executives from Countrywide, New Century, and American Home Mortgage.

Insider Trading Cases

Insider trading cases also are on the upswing with 58 actions filed in FY 2012 by the SEC, an increase over last year’s total of 57 actions. The 168 total insider trading actions filed since October 2009 have been the most in SEC history for any three-year period.

In these actions, the SEC has charged approximately 400 individuals and entities for illegal trading totaling approximately $600 million in illicit profits. Among those charged in SEC insider trading cases in 2012 were:

Other Enforcement Matters

In order to ensure fair trading and equal access to information in the securities markets, the SEC brought several actions involving compliance failures and rules violations relating to stock exchanges, alternative trading platforms, and other market structure participants.

These cases included:

  • First-of-its-kind charges against the New York Stock Exchange for compliance failures that gave certain customers an improper head start on trading information.
  • The first-ever action against a “dark pool” trading platform (Pipeline Trading Systems) for failing to disclose to its customers that the vast amount of orders were filled by an affiliated trading operation.
  • An action against Direct Edge Holdings LLC for violations at two of its electronic stock exchanges and a broker-dealer arising out of weak controls that resulted in millions of dollars in trading losses and a systems outage.

In the NYSE matter, the exchange and its parent company NYSE Euronext agreed to pay a $5 million penalty, marking the first-ever SEC financial penalty against an exchange.

Investment Advisers: The SEC filed numerous actions resulting from several risk-based, proactive measures that identify threats at an early stage so that early action to halt the misconduct can be initiated and investor harm minimized. In 2012, several actions resulted from the Division’s investment adviser compliance initiative, which looks for registered investment advisers who lack effective compliance programs designed to prevent securities laws violations.

The SEC also filed actions charging three advisory firms and six individuals as part of the Aberrational Performance Inquiry into abnormal performance returns by hedge funds. Other actions against investment advisers included cases against UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico and two executives for misleading disclosures relating to certain proprietary closed-end mutual funds, Morgan Stanley Investment Management for an improper fee arrangement, and OppenheimerFunds for misleading investors in two funds suffering significant losses during the financial crisis. UBS paid more than $26 million to settle the SEC’s charges while OppenheimerFunds paid more than $35 million for its violations.

The SEC filed 147 enforcement actions in 2012 against investment advisers and investment companies, one more than the previous year’s record number.

Issuer Disclosures: The SEC brought 79 actions in FY 2012 for financial fraud and issuer disclosure violations. Those cases included actions against Life Partners Holdings and senior executives for fraudulent disclosures related to life settlements; two executives at China-based Puda Coal for defrauding investors about the nature of the company’s assets; and an enforcement action against Shanghai-based Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu for its refusal to provide the SEC with audit work papers related to a China-based company under investigation for potential accounting fraud against U.S. investors.

Broker-Dealers: The agency filed 134 enforcement actions related to broker-dealers, a 19 percent increase over the previous year. Broker-dealer actions included charges against a Latvian trader and electronic trading firms for their roles in an online account intrusion scheme that manipulated the prices of more than 100 NYSE and Nasdaq securities as well as charges against New York-based brokerage firm Hold Brothers On-Line Investment Services and three of its executives for their roles in allowing overseas traders to access the markets and conduct manipulative trading through accounts the firm controlled. The defendants in the Hold Brothers action paid a total of $4 million to settle the SEC’s charges.

FCPA: The SEC filed 15 actions in FY 2012 for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. FCPA actions were filed against former Siemens executives, Magyar Telekom, Biomet, Smith & Nephew, Pfizer, Tyco International, and a former executive at Morgan Stanley’s real estate investment and fund advisory business.

Municipal Securities: The SEC filed 17 enforcement actions related to municipal securities, more than double the number filed in 2011. Among those charged in SEC municipal securities actions were the former mayor and city treasurer of Detroit in a pay-to-play scheme involving investments of the city’s pension funds, and Goldman Sachs for violations of various municipal securities rules resulting from undisclosed “in-kind” non-cash contributions that one of its investment bankers made to a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate.

The Division also achieved impressive results in its litigated enforcement actions. During fiscal year 2012, the Division prevailed at trial against 95 percent (21-1) of defendants.

Additional data on the SEC’s FY 2012 enforcement results will be available as part of the SEC’s upcoming Agency Financial Report.

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