In 2010, in the wake of the financial crisis, Congress passed comprehensive financial regulation reform legislation known as the Dodd-Frank Act (Pub.L. 111-203). Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act established both a bounty award program as well as anti-retaliation protection for whistleblowers who report securities law violations.
Pursuant to the mandate of Section 922, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) established an Office of the Whistleblower, and implemented its final rules on the Dodd-Frank Program through a comprehensive rulemaking process that involved significant public input in May 2011. Continue reading →
On January 12, 2018, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in Raymond J. Lucia Cos., Inc. v. SEC, No. 17 130, a case raising a key constitutional issue relating to the manner in which the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC or Commission) appoints its administrative law judges (ALJs). The Court will decide “[w]hether administrative law judges of the [SEC] are Officers of the United States within the meaning of the Appointments Clause.” The answer to this question matters because if SEC ALJs are “officers,” then they should have been appointed by the Commission itself instead of hired through traditional government channels—and the Commission only exercised its ALJ appointment authority in late-2017. Although the question is limited to SEC ALJs, any decision could also impact ALJs at other agencies government-wide.
At this point, both the petitioner and the Solicitor General (SG) actually agree that ALJs are officers. In its response to the cert petition raising this issue in Lucia, the SG, in an about-face, had abandoned the SEC’s long-held defense of the manner in which it appoints its ALJs. Up until now, in an attempt to fend off an asserted constitutional defect in their AJL’s method of appointment, the SEC has argued (with SG approval) that ALJs are “mere employees” of the SEC, and not “officers.” The day after the SG dropped this position—and with no warning in its briefing—the Commission took the step to appoint the current ALJs.Continue reading →
The following is the third 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.
The Dodd-Frank Act authorized the SEC to bring almost any enforcement action in an administrative proceeding. Before Dodd-Frank, the SEC could secure civil fines against registered broker-dealers and investment advisers in administrative proceedings, but had to sue in court non-registered firms and individuals, including public companies and executives charged with accounting fraud, as well as traders charged with insider trading violations. After the Dodd-Frank amendment, save for a few remedies that can only be obtained in court, the SEC can choose the forum in which it prosecutes enforcement actions. Continue reading →
FBI Director James Comey was grilled last week on Capitol Hill where Republicans condemned and Democrats lauded his decision to not recommend prosecuting presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her actions of handling (mishandling) classified information. As I watched Comey’s testimony, I was struck by how two groups of people could look at the same acts of a person and have such polarizing views as to whether or not a criminal act had occurred. Politics aside, we need to have more of a consensus on what constitutes a crime. Continue reading →