The following post provides an overview of the key findings from our research on the enforcement outcomes of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for the five-year period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. The full journal article can be accessed here.
ASIC is Australia’s corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator. This government organization regulates Australian companies, financial markets, financial services organisations and professionals who deal and advise in investments, superannuation, insurance, deposit taking and credit. ASIC dedicates a significant amount of resources (around 70%) to surveillance and enforcement activity, reflecting its view that enforcement is an important part of its regulatory role. Continue reading →
The following is the first post in a series of three on recent SEC enforcement. The full report can be accessed here. A note of caution to the readers: the SEC does not share enforcement data. All three posts are based on a database of SEC enforcement actions I have put together along with several research assistants, covering the period between 2007 and 2017. The data was collected by hand, and reviewed at least once. Entries were compared with SEC releases and reports, but the chance of error remains.
Last week, the SEC released its enforcement report for fiscal year 2017. In it, the SEC reported moderate declines in the number of filed enforcement actions, 754 compared with 868 in fiscal year 2016, and in the total monetary penalties ordered, $3.8 billion compared with $4.1 billion in fiscal 2016. The narrative accompanying the release suggests that despite the change in SEC leadership, enforcement remains consistent. Continue reading →
In a recent post to this blog, Professor Amy Sepinwall made a startling argument. Reflecting on the debate between liberals and conservatives over the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2016, she strongly suggested that the Act’s strengthening of the mens rea element in criminal cases should be limited to the disadvantaged and not extended to “the already advantaged.” She applauded the proposed bill for providing “deserved fairness for the disadvantaged,” but appeared to lament the fact that a more stringent mens rea requirement under that bill would be available for “some senior corporate management ‘fat cats,’” as well. This position is consistent with her defense of the “responsible corporate officer” doctrine, which does away with any mens rea requirement in certain cases against high level corporate officers. Continue reading →
On October 25, 2017, the United Kingdom Supreme Court issued a fascinating and potentially groundbreaking opinion, in a civil suit for contract breach called Ivey v. Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd. As this post will explain, the UK Supreme Court refined a major component of English law of white-collar crime, while purporting to relegate that component to the dustbin.
The central problem in the substantive criminal law of white-collar offenses—an issue I have pursued in much of my scholarship (here, here, here, and here, for example)—is how the law draws lines between seriously morally wrongful business practices and those that are acceptable, even if, in hindsight, regrettably unwelcome. The perennial challenge is to draw lines that are sufficiently clear to warn potential wrongdoers of criminal sanctions and that mark out only serious wrongdoers for imprisonment, while crafting those lines to be sufficiently broad and flexible to apply, and thus be effective, in an ever accelerating and more complex industrial world. Continue reading →
In late June, FIFA, the world’s governing soccer organization, released the “Garcia Report,” chronicling the extensive corruption and conflicts of interest that occurred in FIFA’s awarding of the men’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup venues. Part1 summarized the report’s findings. Part 2 discusses how specific steps and safeguards can mitigate the risks of misconduct and ensure cooperation among FIFA officials – and at any organization.
FIFA’s problems started at the top. FIFA’s investigators found an astounding number of executive committee members committed misconduct and showed disdain for the investigation. FIFA’s failures were systemic and reflected a culture of corruption. An organization’s culture cannot be fixed simply by strengthening rules or creating a targeted compliance program. Indeed, these are meaningless if the leaders themselves are corrupt. Executives must have integrity and show a commitment to everyone’s compliance with the law. FIFA needs to identify candidates for its executive committee that have shown integrity and a dedication to complying with rules and laws. Continue reading →
The first installment of this two-part series summarizes the Garcia Report’s findings of misconduct. Author Brandon Fox also focuses on the difficulties investigators faced as a result of leaders failing to cooperate and contrasts the misconduct and lack of cooperation to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s behavior.
In late June, FIFA, the world’s governing soccer organization, released the Garcia Report chronicling the extensive corruption and conflicts of interest that occurred in FIFA’s awarding of the men’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup venues. This article summarizes the Garcia Report’s findings of misconduct, focusing on the difficulties investigators faced as a result of leaders failing to cooperate, and discusses how specific steps and safeguards can mitigate the risks of misconduct and ensure cooperation among FIFA officials – and at any organization.Continue reading →
On September 19, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) issued a press release stating that the bipartisan authors of a 2015 landmark criminal justice reform bill were preparing to reintroduce that legislation. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, to which Sen. Grassley will grant new life, was part of a widespread effort at criminal justice reform that appeared to have died with the 2016 election. A centerpiece of the effort would have clarified and enhanced the mens rea (or mental state) necessary for conviction: in the House version, a defendant could be convicted only if she knew she was engaged in criminal activity; the Senate version was even more defendant-friendly, requiring willful participation.
Criminal justice reform has a laudable overarching ambition—to reduce sentences and incarceration rates, especially for minor drug and firearms offenses. As Yale Law Professor Gideon Yaffe writes, this would benefit “those who are especially ill-treated by the criminal justice system: the poor and racial minorities.” But these efforts are being championed by some unusual suspects: Republican members of Congress, who don’t ordinarily vie for more leniency when it comes to street crime, and the Koch brothers, who also are notusually poster boys for the plight of the underclass, who are over-represented in criminal prosecutions, convictions and America’s prisons. Continue reading →
Imagine a class of criminals that is growing year over year, whose members have higher than average recidivism rates, and for whom the public has very little sympathy. They would seem an unlikely group for judges and scholars to think are punished too severely. This, though, is the fortunate position of the white-collar fraudster.
To be sure, federal penalties for fraud can be quite burdensome. The base offense level for most frauds is 6, but this can climb as the loss caused by the fraud increases from $6,501 (add 2 levels) up to $550,000,001 (add 30 levels). The number of victims can also have a significant impact, ranging from an additional 2 levels if there are at least ten victims to an additional 6 levels if there are more than twenty-five. A first-time fraudster who causes more than $550,000,001 in losses to at least twenty-five victims is looking at a recommended sentence of thirty years to life. For most judges and scholars, that kind of punishment sounds disproportionate.Continue reading →
Have you noticed the number of articles and blogs covering the troubling trend of personal liability for compliance officers and Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) in the financial services sector? While anyone entering this industry knows it is highly regulated and replete with regulatory requirements, the growing liability of its compliance professionals is worrisome. Those responsible for overseeing their firm’s compliance program have many duties, and now more than ever find themselves on the receiving end of enforcement actions. This is evident in expanded corporate probes of compliance professionals or increasing regulatory expectations cited in speeches and proposed regulations.
Compliance professionals are concerned about facing personal liability especially when it is for non-rogue behavior. As a result, I thought this trend warranted a closer review. Continue reading →
Should individuals sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have to give up, or “disgorge,” corporate gains resulting from a fraud, or just their own direct gains? In an August 29 summary order, SEC v. Metter, the Second Circuit avoided wrestling with this question, but it may be one of the next major battles in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 5, 2017 decision in Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635. Kokesh held that the disgorgement remedy in SEC enforcement actions is a “penalty” for purposes of the five-year limitations period for the “enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture.” 28 U.S.C. § 2462. Many have assumed, on the basis of a footnote in Kokesh, that courts will soon be considering whether they have authority to order disgorgement at all in SEC enforcement actions. That issue certainly lurks, but I suspect that courts first will revisit the proper scope of the remedy, including whether a court may force a defendant to “disgorge” ill-gotten gains that the defendant did not personally receive but that went to third parties, such as individuals and entities associated with the defendant. Continue reading →