The SEC provided an overview of significant actions that were brought by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement in 2015. The SEC filed 807 enforcement actions in the 2015 fiscal year and obtained orders totaling approximately $4.2 billion in disgorgement and penalties, slightly higher than the 755 enforcement actions and orders totaling $4.16 billion in disgorgement and penalties brought in the 2014 fiscal year.
The SEC noted that it was a year of many first-of-their-kind cases that spanned across the securities industry. The SEC outlined a number of categories of enforcement actions that were significant in 2015. These include:
- Financial Fraud and Issuer Disclosure- financial reporting remained an important priority for the SEC and a number of significant financial fraud and issuer disclosure matters were brought.
- Gatekeepers- the Enforcement Division brought a number of actions against gatekeepers, holding among others, attorneys and accountants accountable for their failure to comply with professional standards.
- Fairness of Exchanges, Traders and Other Market Participants- the SEC highlighted the Enforcement Division’s actions against exchanges, traders and other market participants for among other things, securities law violations in connection with alternative trading systems and dark pools, as well as high frequency trading manipulation.
- Insider Trading- the Enforcement Division charged 87 parties in cases involving insider trading, many of which were discovered through the Enforcement Division’s use of data and analytics to uncover suspicious trading.
- Investment Advisers and Investment Companies- the Enforcement Division brought numerous actions uncovering misconduct by investment advisers and investment companies.
- Market Manipulation and Microcap Fraud- the Enforcement Division continued to combat market manipulation and microcap fraud, by among other things, using trading suspensions to neutralize threats to investors. The Enforcement Division also brought actions against firms acting as unregistered broker-dealers that were catering to customers engaged in microcap manipulation.
- International and Affinity-Based Investment Frauds- the Enforcement Division filed several actions to stop international investment frauds, including those that targeted immigrant communities.
- Municipal Securities- the Enforcement Division announced settlements with municipal underwriting firms under the Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation Initiative, which encourages self-reporting of continuing disclosure violations by municipal issuers and underwriters.
- Foreign Corrupt Practices- the Enforcement Division filed actions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including actions against individuals, as well as a financial institution.
- Whistleblower Program- the SEC stated that its whistleblower program awarded eight whistleblowers with approximately $38 million in the 2015 fiscal year. In addition, the Enforcement Division brought its first action for violating Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Rule 21F-17, which prohibits the use of confidentiality agreements to impede a whistleblower from coming forward to the SEC.
- Admissions- the Enforcement Division also obtained acknowledgements of wrongdoing in a number of significant actions this year, including in actions against an accounting firm, a broker-dealer and other financial institutions.