SEC issues record number of enforcement actions

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The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a record 735 enforcement actions in the fiscal year that ended 30 September, 2011. This record number includes many cases involving highly complex products, transactions, and market practices, including those related to the financial crisis as well as insider trading by market professionals.

“We continue to build an unmatched record of holding wrongdoers accountable and returning money to harmed investors,” says SEC Chairman Mary L Schapiro (pictured). “I am proud of our Enforcement Division’s many talented professionals and their efforts that resulted in a broad array of significant enforcement actions, including those related to the financial crisis and its aftermath.”

In 2009 and 2010, the SEC’s Enforcement Division underwent its most significant reorganisation since it was established in the early 1970s. In an effort that greatly strengthened its enforcement capacity, the Division flattened its management structure, revamped the way it handles tips and complaints, facilitated the swift prosecution of wrongdoers through a formal program that encourages cooperation from individuals and companies in SEC investigations, and created national specialised units in five priority areas involving complex and higher risk areas of potential securities laws violations, among other things.

In the first complete fiscal year (FY) since these and other reforms took place, markets and investors alike benefited substantially. This is evidenced by the filing of more enforcement actions in FY 2011 than ever filed in a single year in SEC history, and more than USD2.8 billion in penalties and disgorgement ordered in FY 2011 SEC enforcement actions.

“The Enforcement Division responded to Chairman Schapiro’s leadership with a record-breaking performance during a period of resource constraints,” says Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “This remarkable accomplishment has its roots in the talent, grit, and determination of the staff, as well as their creativity and willingness to consider new tools and approaches to stopping and deterring fraud and misconduct.”