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: Securities Regulatory

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SEC’s 2016 Examination Priorities Focus on Retail Investors, Market Wide Risk and Use of Data Analytics

The recently issued Examination Priorities for 2016 reveals that the SEC’s priorities are organized around the same three thematic areas as last year: (i) retail investors, including retirement investments; (ii) market-wide risks; and (iii) the SEC’s increasing analysis of data to identify problematic activity.… Continue Reading

FINRA Arbitration Task Force Fails To Reach Consensus On Many Major Issues

The FINRA Dispute Resolution Task Force issued its final report last week, making certain recommendations designed to improve the arbitration process. More notably, however, the Task Force reported that it was unable to reach agreement on a number of more controversial issues, reflecting deep divisions among practitioners in this area.… Continue Reading

SEC Proposal Would Limit Investment In Derivatives By Investment Companies

Recognizing the substantial risks inherent in many derivatives transactions, and the substantial leverage that is often imbedded in derivatives, the SEC last week announced its proposed new rules that would impose limits on the exposure to derivatives for investment companies, which include mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and closed-end funds, and create other regulatory requirements. Exposure … 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 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 Chair Calls for Reexamination of Treasury Market Regulations in Light of High Speed Electronic Trading

On October 20, 2015, SEC Chair Mary Jo White gave the keynote address at the “Evolving Structure of the U.S. Treasury Market” conference organized by the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The conference and speech follow this summer’s Joint Staff Report analyzing the significant volatility that the U.S. … Continue Reading

SEC to Conduct Second Round of Cybersecurity Examinations

On September 15, 2015, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a Risk Alert announcing its second round of examinations of registered investment advisers and broker-dealers under its cybersecurity examination initiative.… Continue Reading

FINRA Bars Former President Of Broker-Dealer Along With Former Registered Representatives

Reflecting increased regulatory willingness to discipline principals and supervisors, FINRA recently announced that it had imposed an industry bar on the former president of a defunct broker-dealer, along with five registered representatives who likewise were barred in all capacities. FINRA also barred two former principals from continuing to act in a principal capacity and imposed … Continue Reading

Big Loss For Plaintiffs In High Frequency Trading Cases

Last week, SDNY Judge Jesse Furman issued a 51 page decision in In Re: Barclays Liquidity Cross and High Frequency Trading Litigation dismissing all of the cases consolidated under the MDL.  In these cases, investor plaintiffs asserted  federal securities law claims under Section 10(b) and 6(b) of the Exchange Act against seven stock exchanges, Barclays … 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

SEC Flexes Its Enforcement Muscle For Securities-Based Swaps

The broad definition of a “swap” in the Dodd-Frank Act, read literally, would encompass many transactions that Congress never intended to cover, so the SEC and the CFTC have jointly promulgated regulations that provide that many of those transactions are not treated as swaps.  However, a recent SEC Investor Alert, stating that fantasy stock trading … Continue Reading

Pay-to-Play Rule: SEC Announces Compliance Date for Ban on Third-Party Solicitation of Government Entities

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) set a compliance date of July 31, 2015 for the ban on payments to third parties for the solicitation of advisory business from any government entity under Rule 206(4)-5 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Pay-to-Play Rule). At the same time, the SEC also clarified in … Continue Reading

Regulators Fail To Identify Cause Of Abnormal US Treasury Trading on October 15, 2014

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the SEC and the CFTC issued a Joint Staff Report analyzing the significant volatility in the U.S. Treasury market on October 15, 2014.  The analysis, however, “did not reveal a clear, single cause … Continue Reading

The Battle Lines Continue to Form Over the DOL’s Fiduciary Proposal

Earlier this month, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (“SIFMA”) released its “Proposed Best Interests of the Customer Standard for Broker-Dealers” – an alternative to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) proposed regulation addressing the standard of care for broker-dealers and other financial professionals who provide retirement investment advice.  Unlike the DOL’s proposed rule, … Continue Reading

UK Regulators Address Manipulation of Trading Benchmarks and Other Misconduct

Concluding a year-long review, UK regulators issued the final report of the Fair and Effective Markets Review Committee last week, making a number of recommendations intended to restore confidence in the trading markets for fixed income, currency and commodities (“FICC”) in the wake of past misconduct. The report noted the substantial fines that have been … Continue Reading

FINRA CEO Criticizes DOL Fiduciary Proposal (Again)

Last week, Richard Ketchum, Chairman and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), doubled-down on his recent criticism of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) proposed regulation addressing the standard of care for broker-dealers providing retirement investment advice. Speaking at FINRA’s annual conference, Chairman Ketchum said that, while he supports a “best interests of … 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

FINRA Introduces Revised Sanction Guidelines

FINRA recently released updated and revised Sanction Guidelines and an accompanying Regulatory Notice that, among other things, call for stricter penalties against broker-dealers who commit fraud or violate suitability rules. The revisions are effective as of May 12, 2015. The Sanction Guidelines, first published in 1993, are intended to assist FINRA’s adjudicators in determining the … Continue Reading

FINRA Chairman: SEC Should Lead on Uniform Fiduciary Standard

On May 1, 2015, Richard Ketchum, Chairman and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), reaffirmed his support for a uniform fiduciary standard for broker-dealers. Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Chairman Ketchum emphasized that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) – and not the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) … Continue Reading

CFTC Whistleblower Awards On The Horizon

In a recent interview with Law360 (subscription required), Chris Ehrman, the Director of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Whistleblower Office, predicted that the number and size of the CFTC’s whistleblower awards will increase in the near future. Ehrman also said that the agency will conduct “straight marketing” to ensure that potential whistleblowers are aware … Continue Reading

Delaware Legislature to Consider New Fee-Shifting Legislation

On April 29, 2015, Senator Bryan Townsend introduced legislation that would amend the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) to ban fee-shifting bylaws for Delaware stock corporations (non-stock corporations would continue to be able to adopt fee-shifting bylaws). The bill, Senate Bill No. 75, would also confirm the Court of Chancery’s decision in Boilermakers Local 154 … Continue Reading

SEC Rule Change Would Require High-Frequency Traders to Register with FINRA

On March 25, 2015, the SEC proposed an amendment to Rule 15b9-1 that would require high-frequency trading firms to register with FINRA.  According to the SEC, the proposed amendment will better align the scope of Rule 15b9-1 with today’s market structure. Rule 15b9-1, as presently written, exempts certain market participants from the requirement under the … Continue Reading

Proposed FINRA Rule Would Require Associated Persons Who Develop Algorithmic Trading Strategies To Register as Equity Traders

In the latest regulatory action addressing high frequency and other algorithmic trading, a recent FINRA Regulatory Notice seeks comment on a proposed rule change under which persons associated with a member firm would be required to register as Equity Traders under Rule 1032(f) if they are primarily responsible for the design, development or significant modification … Continue Reading
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