In early February 2017, acting SEC Chair Michael Piwowar revoked the subpoena authority from approximately 20 senior SEC enforcement staff. The change leaves the Director of the Division of Enforcement as the sole person with the authority to approve a formal order of investigation and issue subpoenas. Historically, the staff did not have subpoena power; however, in 2009 then Chair Mary Shapiro granted the staff the power, in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal. Chair Shapiro deemed the policy to relate solely to internal SEC procedures and, as such, passed the delegation of power without formal notice or opportunity for public comment.
This is the beginning of what I expect will be many, many changes within the SEC as the new administration changes the focus of the agency from Mary Jo White’s broken windows policies to supporting capital formation. The mission of the SEC is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets and facilitate capital formation. Although
In July a Democratic senator and a Republican senator together introduced the Stronger Enforcement of Civil Penalties Act of 2015 (SEC Penalties Act), which would give the SEC the ability to levy much heftier penalties for securities fraud, and against recidivists. The Act was referred to the Senate Baking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for review and further action. The proposed SEC Penalties Act would increase the limits on civil monetary penalties and directly link the size of the penalty to the scope of harm and associated investor losses, and substantially increase the penalties for repeat offenders.
Background: A Trend Towards Increased Enforcement
The SEC Penalties Act continues a trend to deter securities law violations through regulations and stronger enforcement including the SEC Broken Windows policy, increased Dodd-Frank whistleblower activity and reward payments, and increased bad actor prohibitions. See my prior blog on bad actor prohibitions HERE.