May defendants charged in SEC administrative proceedings challenge the constitutionality of those proceedings in federal district court? The determination of whether district courts have subject matter jurisdiction over such challenges has become the critical prelude in the ongoing controversy over the SEC’s seemingly arbitrary use of its “home court” alternative to pursue claims and remedies against violators of the federal securities laws.
Dodd Frank gives the SEC the power to impose civil penalties in cease-and-desist proceedings before an administrative law judge (ALJ) against any person who violates federal securities laws. Previously, the SEC could only bring such cases in federal court, except against persons associated with regulated entities. Now, the SEC has the ability, and complete discretion, to prosecute these claims and seek the same relief administratively or in district court. Administrative proceedings create significant disadvantages for defendants who face accelerated hearing schedules and lack important procedural rights they would have the ability to assert in district court.