In a post last week, I noted that in FY 2021 the SEC had flied fewer enforcement actions against public companies compared to FY 2020. However, according to the SEC’s recently released fiscal year end enforcement activity report, the number of new enforcement actions overall (that is, inclusive of both public and private companies) increased by 7 percent in FY 2021. The SEC’s November 15, 2021 press release detailing the agency’s enforcement statistics can be found here. The enforcement action statistical breakdown for FY 2021 can be found here.
Continue Reading New SEC Enforcement Actions Overall Increased in FY 2021

As I have noted on this site, the SEC has in recent months filed SPAC-related enforcement actions, including the action filed in July 2021 against Stable Road Acquisition Corporation (discussed here), and the Y, 2021 action filed against Nikola Motors founder Chad Milton (discussed here). These matters were not, however, the first SPAC-related SEC enforcement actions; there have been others previously, including the September 2020 SPAC-related enforcement action against music streaming company Akazoo, S.A. In something of a milestone regarding SPAC-related actions, on October 27, 2021, the SEC announced that it had reached a settlement of the Akazoo enforcement action. The SEC’s October 27, 2021 press release about the settlement can be found here. The October 27, 2021 Agreed Final Judgment in the Enforcement Action can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Enters Settlement in SPAC-Related Enforcement Action Against Akazoo

The standard view of the Biden Administration SEC under the leadership of Gary Gensler is that the agency will take a more active enforcement approach than was the case during the prior administration. Two developments in the past few days certainly support this standard view. First, in a speech last week, new SEC Enforcement Division Director Gurbir Grewal indicated that the agency will be requiring admissions of wrongdoing in some enforcement settlements. Second, in a statement the next day, SEC Chair Gensler announced that the agency would revitalize the rulemaking process with respect to rules regarding clawbacks of erroneously awarded compensation. As discussed below, these moves evidence a more aggressive approach to the enforcement of the securities laws. The text of Grewal’s October 13, 2021 speech can be found here. Gensler’s October 14, 2021 statement about the compensation clawback rules can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Moves on Admissions and Compensation Clawbacks Underscore Tougher Enforcement Approach

In a series of statements, comments, and staff actions, the SEC has in recent months evinced a growing concern with SPAC-related activities in the financial marketplace. The agency has now brought its first SPAC-related enforcement action (at least during the current era) against Momentus, Inc., a SPAC-merger target; Stable Road Acquisition Corp., the SPAC itself; and several other participants involved in the SPAC transaction, including the SPAC sponsor. This proceeding may be the first of many. The SEC’s July 13, 2021 press release about the proceedings can be found here. The SEC’s administrative order instituting cease-and-desist proceedings can be found here. The SEC’s separate civil action complaint against the CEO of the merger target can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Charges SPAC, Merger Target, and Others with Securities Law Violations

On June 15, 2021, the SEC announced that that it had settled charges that a title insurance company’s cybersecurity disclosure controls and procedures violated the agency’s public company reporting requirements. The title insurance company, First American Financial Corp., which neither admitted or denied the charges, agreed to a cease-and-desist order and to pay a penalty. The charges do not represent the first time the SEC has pursued actions against a company for cybersecurity-related disclosures, but they do underscore the agency’s focus on cybersecurity disclosure-related issues, a topic that may be a source of increased focus ahead.
Continue Reading Title Insurance Company Settles SEC Cybersecurity Disclosure-Related Charges

In recent years, the SEC has established itself as an active cryptocurrency enforcement agency, according to a new report from Cornerstone Research. The report, entitled “SEC Cryptocurrency Enforcement: Q3 2013 – Q4 2020,” details that between July 2013 and year end 2020, the agency initiated a total of 75 enforcement actions and 19 trading suspension orders against respondents involved with digital assets. The report also shows that the agency’s cryptocurrency activity has steadily increased throughout the 2013-2020 period. A copy of the report can be found here. Cornerstone Research’s May 11, 2021 press release about the report can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Establishes its Cryptocurrency Enforcement Credentials

Is the SEC staff about to issue guidelines specifying that the safe harbor for forward looking statements does not apply to SPAC merger transactions? An April 28, 2020 exclusive report on Reuters (here) says that the SEC is considering taking the step. If the agency were to issue guidance restricting the availability of the safe harbor for SPACs, it could significantly restrict SPAC’s use of target company projections in advance of de-SPAC mergers, and even further slow the already cooling SPAC market. The SEC’s possible action is discussed further in an April 29, 2021 post on the Cooley law firms PubCo blog, here.
Continue Reading Are SEC Guidelines on SPAC Projections Ahead?

If things these days for the rest of you are the way they are for me, then all of you are basically finding out that SPACs are taking over your life. All SPACs, all the time. Wall to wall SPACs. At one level, this development should come as no surprise, as the sheer volume of SPAC activity is nothing short of astonishing. According to SPACInsider (here), since January 1, 2020, there have been a total of 554 SPAC IPOs completed – 308 in the three and a half months of 2021 alone. A further 261 SPAC IPO Registrations are currently pending. A staggering 435 post-IPO SPACs are currently in the process of trying to identify merger partners.  Along with this wave of financial activity has come an accompanying flow of SPAC-related news and information. I have identified below just a few of the many SPAC-related items that crossed my desk in the last week; the selected items underscore the opportunities and risks involved in the SPAC-crazy world that we all now inhabit. And as also noted below, there could be some hints of a slowdown as well.
Continue Reading All SPACs, All the Time

President Biden’s nominee to head the SEC, Gary Gensler, faced a grilling today before the U.S Senate banking committee as his nomination  proceeds through Congress. Although the outcome of his nomination technically remains uncertain, his eventual confirmation seems likely. With that possibility in mind, it seems timely to look ahead at some of the issues the agency may address and initiatives the agency may advance under the new administration.  As it is, because of some initiatives that already underway, it is possible to project where we might be headed, at least to a certain extent.
Continue Reading What’s Ahead at the SEC?

The SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower received a record 6,911 whistleblower tips during FY 2020, which ended September 30, 2020. The nearly 7,000 reports represent a nearly 33% increase over the number of tips received during the prior fiscal year, according to the Office’s recently released annual report. The Office also made awards representing a record high annual dollar value and to a record annual number of individual award recipients during the fiscal year.  A copy of the November 16, 2020 report can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC: Record Number of Whistleblower Tips and Awards During FY 2020