Corporate Defense and Disputes

Important developments in U.S. securities law, white collar criminal defense, regulatory enforcement and other emerging issues impacting financial services institutions, publicly traded companies and private investment funds

Category Archives: SEC Enforcement

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Eleventh Circuit Considers Challenge to SEC Administrative Proceedings

Last week, in the consolidated cases of Charles Hill, Jr. v. SEC (No. 15-12831) and Gray Financial Group, Inc. v. SEC (No. 15-13738), the U.S. Court of Appeals for Eleventh Circuit heard oral argument on the question of whether federal district courts have jurisdiction to review constitutional challenges to SEC administrative enforcement proceedings. The Eleventh … Continue Reading

Regulatory And Litigation Hot Topics For Private Funds In 2016

Private investment funds are likely to face increased regulatory scrutiny and litigation risk in 2016, not only based on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s focus on the industry but also due to transparency and compliance initiatives of limited partners and other market developments. We have highlighted several areas that should be on the top of … Continue Reading

Top 10 Whistleblowing And Retaliation Events Of 2015

In 2015, we saw high-profile whistleblower litigation around the country under a variety of statutes (such as SOX and Dodd-Frank) that yielded decisions expanding the scope of protected activity and even limiting defenses to causation. We also saw significant activity from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower that caused employers to revisit … Continue Reading

SEC Once Again Sanctions The CCO of An Investment Advisory Firm

On November 19, 2015, the SEC announced a settlement with investment advisory firm Sands Brothers Asset Management, LLC for violating the Custody Rule, SEC Rule 206(4)-2, which requires that registered investment advisers who have custody of their clients’ assets put in place policies and procedures intended to safeguard those assets against loss, misuse or misappropriation. … Continue Reading

SEC Proposes Rules To Enhance Transparency And Oversight Of Alternative Trading Systems

The SEC announced this week its proposal to substantially overhaul the rules regarding alternative trading systems (“ATS”), often referred to as dark pools. The proposed rules would require firms operating ATSs to make additional disclosure about business activities that may present conflicts of interest between firms and ATS subscribers, and considerable information as to how … Continue Reading

SEC Charges Private Equity Firm and Four Executives with Failing to Disclose Conflicts of Interest

On November 3, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it had reached a settlement with Fenway Partners, LLC, a New York-based private equity firm, and several of the firm’s executives (the Respondents) in connection with a failure to disclose conflicts of interests to investors with respect to payments made by portfolio companies of … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Denies Review of Second Circuit Insider-Trading Case

The Supreme Court today refused to grant review of the Second Circuit’s restrictive insider-trading decision in United States v. Newman.  The Government, through the Solicitor General, had asked the Supreme Court to clarify the nature of the “personal benefit” that a tipper must receive in order to create liability for insider trading.  But the Supreme … Continue Reading

Coding Errors Lead To SEC Sanctions for High-Frequency Trading Firm

Mistakes in computer coding by a high frequency trading firm that went undetected for approximately four years were responsible for approximately 12.6 million orders that violated Reg NMS, according to an Order settling an enforcement proceeding with Latour Trading LLC, announced by the SEC on September 30.  These noncompliant orders involved more than $4.6 billion … Continue Reading

SEC Proposes Amendments to Rules Governing Administrative Proceedings

The Securities and Exchange Commission appears to be hearing the music.  In response to the many voices that have expressed dissatisfaction with the procedures used in SEC administrative hearings, the SEC today issued proposed amendments to the rules governing those hearings.  Those proposals are now subject to public notice and comment.… Continue Reading

SEC Again Rejects Constitutional Challenges to Administrative Enforcement Proceedings

The Securities and Exchange Commission again rejected constitutional challenges to the use of administrative enforcement proceedings presided over by Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”).  The Commission’s September 17, 2015 decision in In the Matter of Timbervest, LLC – the Commission’s second ruling on the constitutional issue in the past two weeks – rebuffed arguments that ALJ … Continue Reading

SEC Sanctions Senior Executives Of Failed Clearing Broker

On Thursday, the SEC announced charges against several senior executives of Penson Financial Services Inc., once the second-largest clearing broker-dealer in the country, and its parent corporation, Penson Worldwide, Inc., again highlighting the regulatory risks associated with supervisory responsibilities.… Continue Reading

Second Circuit: Dodd-Frank Protects Internal Whistleblowers

Today, the Second Circuit issued its highly anticipated decision in Berman v. Neo@Ogilvy, ruling (in a 2-1 decision) that Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protection provision applies to internal complaints (i.e., complaints that are made by employees within the company and not to the SEC).  This creates a circuit split; it is directly at odds with the Fifth Circuit’s … Continue Reading

SEC Rejects Constitutional Challenge to Administrative Proceeding

The Securities and Exchange Commission joined the raging debate about whether SEC administrative proceedings conducted by administrative law judges (“ALJs”) are unconstitutional if the ALJs have not been appointed in accordance with the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In a 3-2 decision in In the Matter of Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc., the Commission … Continue Reading

Seventh Circuit Rejects Court Challenge to Pending SEC Administrative Enforcement Proceeding

The Seventh Circuit has held that federal district courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction over challenges to ongoing SEC administrative enforcement proceedings where the challenger is already a party to those proceedings.  Instead, a party to a pending administrative proceeding must defend against the proceeding and then seek review from the SEC Commissioners and, eventually, the … Continue Reading

SEC Brings First Major Cyber Insider Trading Case Against International Hacking Ring

In an action that emphasizes the agency’s commitment to cybersecurity, the SEC recently charged 32 defendants with violations of the federal antifraud laws and corresponding SEC rules, stemming from an alleged $100 million conspiracy to steal and trade on material non-public information contained in corporate earnings announcements that were obtained by hacking into the computer … Continue Reading

SEC Sanctions Dark Pool Operator and Affiliated High Frequency Trader

In the latest round of regulatory action involving high frequency trading and dark pools, the SEC announced yesterday that it reached a settlement with ITG, Inc., and its affiliate Alternet Securities, Inc., imposing a $20.3 million sanction based on ITG’s misuse of confidential order information to benefit the firm’s proprietary high-frequency trading.… Continue Reading

New York District Court Preliminarily Enjoins SEC Administrative Proceeding

We blogged last week about a New York federal court’s decision in Duka v. SEC conditionally sustaining a facial challenge to an administrative enforcement proceeding conducted by Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In that case, Judge Richard M. Berman, of the Southern District of New York, held that SEC ALJs … Continue Reading

New York District Court Appears to Sustain Attack on SEC Administrative Proceedings

A federal District Judge in the Southern District of New York appears to have conditionally sustained a facial challenge to an administrative enforcement proceeding conducted by Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In an August 3, 2015 decision in Duka v. SEC, 1:15-cv-00357, Judge Richard M. Berman held that he had subject-matter … Continue Reading

Government Seeks Supreme Court Review In Second Circuit Insider-Trading Case

After months of will-he-or-won’t-he speculation about whether the U.S. Solicitor General would ask the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s restrictive insider-trading decision in United States v. Newman, the question has now been answered. The Government filed a certiorari petition on July 30, 2015 asking the Supreme Court to clarify the nature of the “personal … Continue Reading

SEC Sanctions Hedge Fund Advisory Firm For Improper Valuations of Illiquid Securities

Returning to an enforcement priority repeatedly articulated over the years (for example, here,  here and here), the SEC recently imposed sanctions on a registered investment advisory firm and two principals arising out of an alleged scheme to inflate the valuations of illiquid mortgage-backed securities held by private investment funds managed by the adviser. The SEC … Continue Reading

SEC’s Data-Driven Analysis Identifies Allegedly Improper Trade Allocations by Investment Advisor

Relying on a data-driven statistical analysis conducted by the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis (DERA), the SEC recently commenced administrative proceedings against an investment advisor, Welhouse & Associates, Inc., and its principal, charging them with improperly allocating profitable options trades to the principal’s own accounts while allocating unprofitable trades to the firm’s clients. The … Continue Reading

Senator Warren’s Letter to the SEC Chair Calls for More Aggressive Enforcement

Senator Elizabeth Warren recently released a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White, complaining that her leadership of the SEC over the past two years has been “extremely disappointing.” The Senator opined that the nation’s largest financial institutions are “mounting an aggressive effort to repeal, postpone, and dilute” the laws enacted by Congress following the … Continue Reading

SEC Awards Compliance Officer Whistleblower Bounty of Approximately $1.5 Million

Earlier today, the SEC announced that it would pay an unidentified compliance officer a whistleblower bounty award of between $1.4 and $1.6 million.   This is the second award that the SEC has made to a whistleblower with internal audit or compliance responsibilities.  According to the SEC, the recipient of the bounty award “had a reasonable … Continue Reading
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