The SEC wants everyone to know that it is watching what the companies and firms it regulates are saying about their use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). SEC Chair Gary Gensler set the stage in a speech he made last December in which he warned companies about “AI Washing” – that is, making unfounded AI claims to the public. Now the agency has brought settled enforcement actions against two investment advisers for making allegedly false statements about their use of AI technology. As if the enforcement actions themselves were not enough to send the message that the SEC is on the AI beat, the agency also released a video statement from Gensler emphasizing the agency’s AI-related concerns.

The SEC’s March 18, 2024, press release about the enforcement actions can be found here. The SEC’s March 18, 2024, Administrative Order against Delphi (USA) Inc. can be found here. The SEC’s March 18, 2024, Administrative Order against Global Predictions, Inc. can be found here. The link to Gensler’s March 18, 2024, video can be found here.Continue Reading SEC Hits Two Investment Advisers With “AI Washing” Enforcement Actions

On March 6, 2023, a divided SEC, and based on a 3-2 vote, adopted its final climate change disclosure guidelines. The guidelines as adopted are significantly watered down from the draft guidelines originally proposed; for example, the final guidelines do not require  disclosure of so-called Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions (GGE). As discussed below, the new guidelines will almost certainly face legal challenge. The SEC’s March 6, 2024, press release about the new rules can be found here. The actual rules themselves can be found here. An SEC fact sheet about the new rules can be found here.Continue Reading SEC Adopts Final Climate Change Disclosure Guidelines – What Next?

Largely as a result of an influx of new actions in the fiscal fourth quarter, new SEC accounting and auditing enforcement actions increased in FY 2023 (which ended September 30, 2023) according to a new Cornerstone Research report. The number of new accounting and auditing enforcement actions increased by 22% in FY 2023, compared to the 8% increase in the overall number of enforcement actions during the fiscal year. While the number of accounting and auditing enforcement actions increased in FY 2023, aggregate monetary settlements in accounting and enforcement actions decreased 7% during the fiscal year.Continue Reading SEC Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Actions Increased in FY 2023

In my recent wrap-up of the top D&O stories of 2023, I noted that one of the key developments during the past year was California’s adoption of new climate change disclosure requirements, which were enacted at a time when there was the added prospect that the SEC would finally release its own climate change disclosure guidelines by April 2024. While the California requirements have not yet been implemented and the final SEC disclosure guidelines have not yet even been released, there are growing signs that these climate change-related disclosure requirements may face significant hurdles and challenges.

It is not news that the SEC disclosure guidelines, whenever they are finally released, likely will face significant legal challenges, as I have previously noted on this site (here). However, this past week, in a Congressional hearing before a House Financial Services subcommittee, as reported in a January 18, 2024, Law360 article (here), spokespersons for conservative and business interests reiterated their belief that the SEC’s climate change disclosure guidelines, as proposed, reflect “several deficiencies,” and likely will face significant legal challenges.Continue Reading Climate Change Disclosure Requirements Face Hurdles and Challenges

The risks and opportunities that AI presents have emerged quickly and may be evolving even faster; the whole AI phenomenon has developed much more quickly than legislators’ and regulators’ ability to respond. Among the many AI effects that regulators and other observers are struggling to assess is the extent of the AI-related litigation potential, including but not limited to the prospects for AI-related corporate and securities litigation.Continue Reading SEC Chair Warns Against “AI Washing”

The SEC has been an active cop on the beat, as reflected in its recently released Enforcement Division statistics for the 2023 fiscal year, ended September 30, 2023. Both the total number of SEC enforcement actions and the number of “standalone” enforcement actions rose in FY 2023 compared to the prior year. The agency also filed the most enforcement actions against public companies since FY 2019. In addition, the SEC obtained the second highest annual amount of financial remedies in SEC history. Continue Reading SEC Stats Show the Agency is an Active Enforcement Cop

In what the Wall Street Journal called a “milestone” in the SEC’s efforts to address public companies’ cybersecurity disclosures, the SEC has filed a civil enforcement action against software company SolarWinds and its Chief Information Security Officer, Timothy Brown. The agency alleges that the company repeatedly misled investors by understating the company’s cyber vulnerabilities and the ability of hackers to penetrate the company’s systems. According to statements from agency officials, the action is intended to send a message about cybersecurity disclosures and disclosure controls. A copy of the SEC’s complaint can be found here. A copy of the SEC’s October 30, 2023, press release about the action can be found here.Continue Reading SEC Files Cybersecurity Disclosure Suit Against SolarWinds and Exec

In a lengthy and detailed opinion, the Fifth Circuit has rejected two petitions challenging the SEC’s approval of Nasdaq’s board diversity rules. The rules require most Nasdaq-listed companies to have women and minority directors on their boards or explain why they don’t. The petitioners had argued that the rules violated constitutional free speech and equal

The reach and scope of the federal securities laws is a concern most obviously relevant to publicly traded companies. However, as I have emphasized previously, private companies are not immune from scrutiny under the federal securities laws. The SEC has in fact an extensive history of pursuing enforcement actions against private companies for alleged federal securities laws violations; one needs to go back no further than the high-profile enforcement action brought against the supposed blood testing company Theranos for an example of this phenomenon in action.

A recent memo from Wiley law firm underscores these points about the exposures of private companies; as the memo’s authors put it, “private entities should be aware that an aggressive SEC can investigate and penalize them (and their executives), even if they are not directly involved in issuing securities.” The law firm’s September 23, 2023, memo, entitled “Think Because You Are a Private Company the SEC Is Not Your Problem? Think Again,” can be found here.Continue Reading Private Companies and SEC Enforcement Actions

A unit of Deutsche Bank has agreed to the entry of a cease-and-desist order and to the payment of a $19 million penalty in connection with an SEC enforcement action in which the agency alleged that the unit had made materially misleading statements about its use of ESG factors into its research and investment recommendations. The ESG-related enforcement action was accompanied by a separate anti-money laundering (AML) enforcement action against the unit, Deutsche Bank’s New York-based investment advisor subsidiary, DWS Investment Management Americas (DWS), in which DWS agreed to pay a separate $6 million penalty. The ESG-related action, which apparently involved the SEC’s Climate and ESG Task Force, highlights the ways in which companies seeking to be proactive on ESG-related issues can attract claims. The action also underscores the fact that the SEC is scrutinizing ESG-related disclosures.Continue Reading Deutsche Bank Unit Hit with SEC Penalties Over ESG Claims