On December 4, 2020, in what is according to the SEC its first proceeding charging an issuer for misleading investors about the financial effects of the pandemic on company finances and operations, the SEC entered into a settled Cease and Desist Order with The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated based on the agency’s determinations that the company’s late March and early April statements that it was “operating sustainably” were, without further information, misleading to investors.  The SEC’s December 4, 2020 Cease-and-Desist Order can be found  here, and the agency’s December 4, 2020 press release about the Order can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Charges Cheesecake Factory Over Misleading COVID-Related Disclosures

As I noted at the time, earlier this month the SEC released its enforcement activity report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020. While the report fully detailed the agency’s enforcement activity, the report did not break out statistics reflecting the SEC’s actions against publicly traded companies. A November 18, 2020 report from Cornerstone Research, written in collaboration with the NYU Pollack Center for Law & Business, entitled “SEC Enforcement Activity: Public Companies and Subsidiaries Fiscal Year 2020 Update” (here), takes a detailed look at SEC enforcement activity involving publicly traded companies and their subsidiaries during FY 2020.

As was the case with enforcement activity overall, enforcement activity involving publicly traded companies declined during FY 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, but after a sharp drop in activity during the first half of the fiscal year, enforcement activity rebounded toward the end of the second half. The agency’s $1.6 billion in public company monetary settlements slightly exceeded the equivalent figures for FY 2019. Cornerstone Research’s November 18, 2020 press release about the report can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Public Company Enforcement Actions Decreased in FY 2020, But Recoveries Increased

It was only this past June when the SEC made what was at the time the largest ever whistleblower award — $50 million – to a single individual. As it has turned out, that record stood for only a short time, as on October 22, 2020, the SEC shattered the prior record, paying out a whopping whistleblower bounty of $114 million to a single individual. The SEC’s award order is heavily redacted to protect the identity of the whistleblower so relatively is known about the circumstances surrounding the award, but even so the sheer size of the award makes a serious statement. The SEC’s October 22, 2020 award order can be found here. The SEC’s October 22, 20202 press release about the award can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Awards Largest-Ever Whistleblower Bounty of $114 Million

According to a new report from Cornerstone Research, the number of accounting and auditing enforcement actions the SEC initiated in 2019 was down slightly from the number initiated in 2018, but the number remained near the 2014-2018 average. Monetary settlements of accounting and auditing enforcement actions during 2019 totaled approximately $626 million.  The June 25, 2020 report, which also summarizes accounting and auditing enforcement activity initiated by the PCAOB, is entitled “Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Activity – 2019 Review and Analysis” and can be found here. Cornerstone Research’s June 25, 2020 press release about the report can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Actions Down Slightly in 2019

In prior enforcement actions the agency filed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the SEC has made it clear that it intends to target companies and individuals that are seeking to secure gains by misrepresenting to investors the companies’ ability to profit from the pandemic. On June 9, 2020, the SEC filed what is the latest of these pandemic-related enforcement actions. In its complaint, the agency alleges that a penny stock trader engaged in a fraudulent pump-and-dump scheme involving the stock of a biotechnology company. The SEC alleges he drove the company’s share price by making hundreds of false statements about the company in an online forum, and then after the company’s share price rose, he sold his stock for significant profits.
Continue Reading SEC Files Enforcement Action Based on Alleged COVID-19 Pump-and-Dump Scheme

In a June 4, 2020 press release (here), the SEC announced that it had granted an individual a $50 million whistleblower award, the largest ever award to a single individual. While there had been a prior $50 million award that two individuals shared, the largest prior award to a single individual was a 2018 award of $39 million.
Continue Reading SEC Grants Largest Ever Individual Whistleblower Award

In prior posts on this site (for example, here), I have noted the phenomenon of directors’ and officers’ liability claims arising in the wake of antitrust enforcement actions. These follow-on civil actions arguably represent one part of an increasing trend toward trying to hold individual directors and officers accountable for their companies’ antitrust violations. According to a recent paper, as a result of trends in relevant doctrines and enforcement policies, the risk to directors and officers from these developments is “likely to continue rising in the foreseeable future.” In his February 12, 2020 paper entitled “D&O Liability for Antitrust Violations” (here), University of Arizona Law Professor Barak Orbach details the developments contributing to these trends and reviews the implications for director and officer liability. Professor Orbach’s paper raises a number of interesting considerations, particularly from an insurance perspective, as discussed below.
Continue Reading Directors’ and Officers’ Antitrust Liability Risks and D&O Insurance Concerns