Securities enforcement

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

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

Andrew Milne

In a March 2021 paper entitled “Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance” (here), the UK government set out a number of proposed reforms in order to try to increase trust in corporate governance, including, among other things, proposed new company reporting requirements. In the following guest post, Andrew Milne discusses the potential implications for UK directors from the reform proposals under consideration. Andrew is a Senior Associate at the CMS law firm, and a co-author of the UK Chapter in Directors’ Liability and Indemnification. I would like to thank Andrew for allowing me to publish his article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Andrew’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: UK Sarbanes Oxley?

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?

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

Now that the Presidential election has been called for Joe Biden, it is time to start asking what a Biden Presidency may mean, including in particular what SEC enforcement and regulatory activity might look like under a Biden Administration. As discussed below, the likelihood is that we will see a more active SEC enforcement division and a shift back toward a more active regulatory approach.
Continue Reading What Does the Biden Victory Mean for the SEC?

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

John Reed Stark

On February 27, 2020, the SEC announced that it had settled charges against the actor Steven Seagal on charges that he had failed to disclose compensation he received for promoting an initial coin offering. In the following guest post, John Reed Stark, President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, takes a look at three important takeaways from the SEC’s order against Seagal. A version of this article originally appeared on Securities Docket. I would like to thank John allowing me to publish his article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is John’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Takeaways from the SEC’s Fight with Steven Seagal

John Reed Stark

In a series of recent actions, the SEC has demonstrated its aggressive approach toward cryptocurrency regulation and enforcement. In the following guest post, John Reed Stark, President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, takes a detailed look at the SEC’s recent actions and considers the actions’ implications. A version of this article originally appeared on Securities Docket. I would like to thank John for his willingness to allow me to publish his article on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is John’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: The SEC Triples Down on its Cryptocurrency Crackdown

Driven in significant part by the new actions filed as part of the SEC’s Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative, the number of SEC enforcement actions against public companies and subsidiaries remained at “near-record levels” in the first half of fiscal year 2018, according to a recent report. The report, published by Cornerstone Research in collaboration with the NYU Pollack Center for Law & Business and entitled “SEC Enforcement Activity: Public Companies and Subsidiaries Midyear FY 2019 Update,” states that the enforcement activity levels in the first half of FY 2019 continued “a resurgence of activity that began in the second half of FY 2018.” The report can be found here. A May 15, 2019 press release describing the report can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Public Company Enforcement Activity Remained Near Record Levels in FY2019’s First Half