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SEC Set Records for Enforcement Actions, Penalties and Disgorgements in 2015

Last week, SEC Chair Mary Jo White testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.  Several of Ms. White's comments may be of interest to potential SEC whistleblowers.

1.Testimony: SEC Sets Records in 2015

According to Ms. White, “The SEC filed a record 807 enforcement actions in FY 2015 covering a wide range of misconduct, and obtained orders totaling $4.19 billion in disgorgement and penalties, both at record levels.”  (Testimony, p. 5.)

Ms. White further testified that “Each of the last three years has been marked by vigorous enforcement and examination programs, empowered with new tools and methods to detect and hold wrongdoers accountable and protect investors.”  (Testimony, p. 1.)

As I reported previously, during that same testimony, Ms. White also praised the SEC Whistleblower Award Program as having had “a transformative impact on our enforcement program.”

2. Testimony:  Key Areas for SEC Enforcement

One question that potential SEC whistleblowers often wonder is whether the SEC will be interested in the wrongdoing they have uncovered.

During her testimony, Ms. White identified several “key areas” that the SEC continues to focus on.  One area that Ms. White called “critical” is “financial reporting and issuer disclosure.”  According to Ms. White:

Comprehensive, accurate, and reliable financial reporting is the bedrock upon which our markets are based, and is essential to ensuring public confidence in them.  And at my direction, since 2013, our Enforcement Division has intensified its focus on pursuing violations in this area.  Part of this effort involved creating a dedicated group of accountants, attorneys, and analysts who use cutting edge data analytical tools to look for evidence of reporting discrepancies and other early warning signs of financial reporting fraud.  (Testimony, p. 6.)

Another “key area of enforcement” that Ms. White addressed is investment management:

… the SEC has continued to bring actions addressing a widening range of issues, including performance advertising, undisclosed conflicts of interest, compliance issues, and private equity fees and expenses.  Among these are “first-of-their-kind” actions for failures to report material compliance matters to fund boards and the improper allocation of expenses by private equity advisers.  The Enforcement Division’s focus on private equity has expanded significantly over the past few years … (Testimony, p. 6.)

Other areas that Ms. White identified during her testimony included:

  • high frequency trading
  • the operation of trading platforms such as dark pools
  • manipulative trading
  • misusing confidential customer trading information
  • market access
  • technology controls, and
  • net capital violations

(Testimony, p. 6.)

3. What Else does the SEC Investigate?

In an earlier post, I wrote about anti-money laundering charges that the SEC recently brought against a Wall Street brokerage firm for “failing to sufficiently evaluate or monitor customers’ trading for suspicious activity” by failing to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).  Some other things that the SEC can and does investigate include:

  • Accounting frauds
  • Books and Records violations
  • Financial Statement frauds
  • Initial Public Offering frauds (IPOs)
  • FCPA violations (bribery or improper payments made to foreign officials)
  • Deceptive practices in buying or selling stocks
  • Municipal Securities frauds
  • and more

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About the Pickholz Law Offices LLC

The Pickholz Law Offices LLC is a law firm that focuses on representing clients involved with investigations conducted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA, and other securities regulators.

The Pickholz Law Offices has represented employees, officers, and others in SEC whistleblower cases involving financial institutions and public companies listed in the Fortune Top 10, Top 20, Top 50, Top 100, Top 500, and the Forbes Global 2000. We were the first law firm ever to win an SEC whistleblower award for a client on appeal to the full Commission in Washington. Inside Counsel magazine named this achievement one of the five key events of the SEC whistleblower program. Examples of the Firm’s SEC whistleblower cases are available here.

In addition to representing SEC whistleblowers, since 1995 the Firm’s founder, Jason R. Pickholz, has also represented many clients in securities enforcement investigations conducted by the SEC, FINRA, the U.S. Department of Justice and US Attorney’s Offices, State authorities, and more. Examples of some of the many securities enforcement cases that Mr. Pickholz has been involved with are available here.

You can see what actual clients have had to say about The Pickholz Law Offices by going to the Client Reviews page on our website or by clicking here.

How to Contact the Pickholz Law Offices LLC

If you would like to speak with a securities lawyer or SEC whistleblower attorney, please feel free to call Jason R. Pickholz at 347-746-1222.

The Pickholz Law Offices remains open and will be fully operational through teleworking while we all grapple with this terrible pandemic. We hope that all of our clients, colleagues, friends, and their families remain safe and healthy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been affected by COVID-19.

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The Pickholz Law Offices represents U.S. and international clients in securities and white collar cases. The Firm has helped whistleblowers report frauds to the SEC, CFTC, and IRS, and has defended clients in investigations by the SEC, CFTC, DOJ, FINRA, and other financial and securities enforcement regulators.

The Firm’s founder, Jason Pickholz, is the author of the two-volume book Securities Crimes, has appeared on tv and radio, and has taught continuing legal education courses. A former BigLaw partner, he has been representing clients in financial and securities fraud cases since 1995. In recognition of his many achievements, Mr. Pickholz was elected by his legal peers to be a Fellow of The New York Bar Foundation, an honor limited to just 1% of all attorneys in the New York State Bar Association.

Mr. Pickholz has been counsel in many high-profile cases. He was the first attorney ever to win an SEC whistleblower award on appeal to the Commission, which Inside Counsel magazine called one of the five key events in the history of the SEC whistleblower program. On the defense side, Mr. Pickholz has defended clients in the SEC’s COVID-19 investigations, the CFTC’s cryptocurrency cases, and a former US Senator, among others.

If you want to speak with a CFTC, IRS, or SEC whistleblower lawyer, or with a white collar defense lawyer, you can call the Firm at 347-746-1222.

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