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
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
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case that will address the question of whether or not a claimant alleging that his employer fired him in retaliation for whistleblowing must prove that the employer acted with retaliatory intent. The court’s consideration of the case has important implications for claimants under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s anti-retaliation provisions, because claimants could face significantly greater difficulty in establishing their claims if they must prove that the employer acted with subjective intent to retaliate. The case could also have important implications for retaliation claims under other federal whistleblower protection laws. The Court’s May 1, 2023, order agreeing to take up the case can be found here.Continue Reading Supreme Court To Consider Whether Whistleblower Must Show Retaliatory Intent
In the midst of its battles with Elon Musk over Musk’s attempt to walk away from his proposed takeover of the company, Twitter was rocked by the news that a whistleblower had sent Congress and federal agencies explosive reports of “major security problems” at the company. According to the news reports, the whistleblower’s disclosure not only detailed privacy and cybersecurity vulnerabilities at Twitter, but also included allegations that company management had misled its own corporate board and government regulators about the vulnerabilities. Among other things, these revelations triggered a Congressional inquiry. And now, a plaintiff shareholder has launched a securities class action lawsuit against the company and several of its executives, based on the whistleblower’s allegations. As discussed below, the complaint has several interesting features.
Continue Reading Twitter Hit with Cybersecurity-Related Securities Suit Over Whistleblower Allegations
Fines and other recoveries in SEC enforcement action hit record levels during the agency’s fiscal year ended September 30, 2020, even as pandemic-related work closures dampened the number of enforcement actions the agency was able to file, according to the SEC Enforcement Division’s annual report released Monday. The SEC scored a record total of $4.6 billion in recoveries, largely as a result of big fines and disgorgements in a few large matters, while the 405 new standalone enforcement actions the agency filed was the lowest number in six years. The Enforcement Division’s annual report can be found here. The agency’s November 2, 2020 press release about the report can be found here.
Continue Reading Despite COVID-19 Disruptions, SEC Recoveries at Record Levels in FY 2020
In the following guest post, Matt Stock and Jason Zuckerman take a look at five ways that the SEC whistleblower program has affected both corporate compliance and the SEC’s enforcement efforts. Matt and Jason represent whistleblowers worldwide in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation claims. My thanks to Matt and Jason for allowing me to publish their 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 Matt and Jason’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: How the SEC Whistleblower Program Has Changed Corporate Compliance and SEC Enforcement
In addition to all of the other risks, liabilities and exposures arising from cybersecurity concerns, you can now add the possibility of a whistleblower action for cybersecurity fraud. According to a July 31, 2019 press release from counsel for the whistleblower involved (here), Cisco Systems has agreed to an $8.6 million settlement in what the press release claims is the “first cybersecurity whistleblower case ever successfully litigated under the False Claims Act.” Cisco has agreed to pay the amount to settle allegations that the company knowingly sold vulnerable and defective video surveillance software to federal, state, and local government agencies, exposing the systems to unauthorized access. As discussed below, this development even further expands the range of concerns companies must take into account when assessing their cybersecurity exposures. An August 12, 2019 memo from the Jones Day law firm about the settlement and its implications can be found here.
Continue Reading Cybersecurity Whistleblower Claim under the False Claims Act Settled
Among the agencies largely closed by the current partial U.S. federal government shutdown is the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 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 what the SEC’s closure means for the processes and responsibilities that constitute the agency’s watch. Stark calls on the country’s political leaders to end the stalemate and re-open the government, including the SEC. Every day the shutdown continues, and the SEC staff remain at home, Stark says, the risks to U.S. markets increase. A version of this article originally appeared on Securities Docket. I would like to thank John for allowing me to publish his article as a guest post. 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: Why the Shutdown Must End
The high-profile November 18, 2018 arrest in Japan of Carlos Ghosn, the Chairman and former CEO of Nissan (and of several other car companies) on charges of misleading the Japanese government and investors about his compensation made the front pages of the world’s papers. Continuing revelations, including the recent indictment of Ghosn and other company executive, continue to roil the company. On December 11, 2018, an institutional investor and holder of U.S.-traded Nissan ADR’s initiated a securities class action lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit is interesting in and of itself but also with respect to how it reflects several recent securities litigation filing trends.
Continue Reading Nissan Chairman’s Arrest and Pay Disclosure Leads to U.S. Securities Suit
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on February 21, 2018 that the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation provisions protect only whistleblowers that make a report to the SEC, and do not apply to whistleblowers who report internally. The Court’s ruling, which resolved a circuit split on the question of who was entitled to the Act’s provisions, will significant limit the scope of the anti-retaliation protections. The Court’s February 21, 2018 opinion in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers can be found here.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Adopts Narrow View of Who Can Rely on Dodd-Frank Act’s Anti-Retaliation Protections