In Murray v. UBS Securities, LLC, 601 U. S. ____, 2024 WL 478566 (2024), the United States Supreme Court (Sotomayor, J.) held that whistleblowers do not need to prove their employer acted with “retaliatory intent” to be protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Instead, all whistleblower plaintiffs need to prove is that their protected activity was a “contributing factor” in the employer’s unfavorable personnel action. The decision establishes a lower burden of proof for whistleblowers alleging retaliation and, conversely, reaffirms a greater burden on employers who must demonstrate the absence of retaliation under the heightened “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard in order to prevail.Continue Reading United States Supreme Court Endorses Low Burden of Proof for Whistleblowers
Christopher Bosch is an associate in the Governmental Practice in the firm's New York office.
The United States Department of the Treasury has announced that it is working to address what it perceives as money laundering risks associated with investment advisers. Specifically, the agency asserts that absent consistent and comprehensive anti-money laundering (“AML”) and countering the financing of terrorism (“CFT”) obligations, corrupt officials and other illicit actors may invest ill-gotten gains in the U.S. financial system through hedge funds and private equity firms. Treasury indicated its intention to issue a proposal in the first quarter of 2024 that would apply Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) AML/CFT requirements, including suspicious activity report obligations, to certain investment advisers.Continue Reading Treasury Announces Renewed Push for Investment Adviser AML Rules
In Securities & Exchange Commission v. Govil, No. 22-1658, 2023 WL 7137291 (2d Cir. Oct. 31, 2023), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dealt a setback to the enforcement agenda of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) by limiting its ability to seek disgorgement under 15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(5) and (7) to situations in which the regulator can demonstrate investors have suffered pecuniary harm.Continue Reading Second Circuit Reins in SEC Disgorgement Powers
The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) has taken action against Genesis Global Capital, LLC (“Genesis”) and Gemini Trust Company, LLC (“Gemini”) (collectively, “Defendants”) in a recently-filed complaint alleging that the crypto companies violated federal securities laws by engaging in the unregistered offer and sale of securities in the form of their “Gemini Earn Agreements.” In doing so, the Commission not only relied upon the mainstay Howey Test for determining whether an agreement is a security, but also summoned Howey’s lesser-known cousin, the Reves Test, notably leading with the latter in its complaint.Continue Reading SEC Showcases Lesser-Known Legal Theory in Crypto Lending Suit
Over the last year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has been laser-focused on the use of personal devices by employees of the large Wall Street banks to conduct company business. The SEC’s investigations have focused on whether the banks complied with the “books and records” requirement that they preserve all communications that relate to Company business. The SEC has asserted that certain “off-channel” business communications not captured in company systems run afoul of this basic record keeping requirement. Not surprisingly, during the pandemic and with the increase in remote work, the SEC has determined that violations have been widespread. Continue Reading SEC Shifts Focus on Employees’ Off-Channel Business Communications to Investment Advisers
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) voted on Wednesday to adopt a new rule requiring companies listed on a national securities exchange to claw back incentive-based executive compensation that was erroneously awarded on the basis of materially misreported financial information that requires an accounting restatement. Continue Reading SEC Adopts New Executive Compensation Clawback and Disclosure Rule
A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has implications for whistleblowers under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act” or “The Act”). In Hong v. SEC, No. 21-529 (2d Cir. July 21, 2022), the Court held that a person who provides the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) with information about potential securities laws violations is entitled to receive a whistleblower award under Section 21F of the Securities Exchange Act (15 U.S.C. § 78u-6)if the SEC itself brings a qualifying action, but not when the SEC shares the whistleblower’s information to other agencies who then bring an action in partial reliance upon it. The decision sets definitive limits on the reach of the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower incentives and may affect the calculus for individuals considering whether to risk their personal and professional careers to come forward with information of wrongdoing.Continue Reading Second Circuit Limits Scope of SEC Whistleblower Incentives
Last week, Coinbase Global Inc. (“Coinbase”) headed off confrontation with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) by announcing it was shelving a much ballyhooed digital asset lending product, Lend. The announcement came two weeks after Coinbase revealed that it had received a Wells notice from the SEC warning the company of its plans to sue over Coinbase’s planned October Lend launch.
Continue Reading A September to Remember: Coinbase Avoids SEC Clash by Dropping Crypto Lend Product
In Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Fowler, No. 20-1081, 2021 WL 3083655 (2d Cir. July 22, 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court judgment awarding the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) civil penalties, disgorgement, and injunctive relief in a securities fraud action against a broker engaged in unsuitable and unauthorized high-frequency trading. The district court entered its judgment following a jury trial finding the defendant guilty of violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, and Sections 17(a)(1), 17(a)(2), and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933. On appeal, defendant asserted that the action was subject to a five-year statute of limitations imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 2462 despite the parties having entered into tolling agreements. Defendant also argued that the civil penalties assessed against him were excessive, and the disgorgement award failed to properly account for legitimate business expenses as required by Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, 140 S. Ct. 1936 (2020). After reviewing its text and legislative history, the Second Circuit concluded in this matter of first impression that § 2462 is non-jurisdictional and, therefore, the district court had the power to hear the case in light of the parties’ tolling agreements. The decision is important because it reaffirms the enforceability of tolling agreements between the SEC and its investigative quarries. The court also rejected defendant’s arguments alleging improper civil penalty and disgorgement calculations.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Upholds Enforceability of SEC Tolling Agreements
The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James (“NYAG”) has filed a lawsuit to shut down technology company Coinseed. The state has accused the firm of selling unregistered securities in the form of digital tokens and operating as an unregistered broker-dealer while making material misrepresentations about the company, its management team, and fees charged to investors in connection with cryptocurrency trades.
Continue Reading New York Attorney General Sues to Shutter Cryptocurrency Trading Firm Coinseed
For the first time outside of the originating case itself, a federal appeals court was called upon to apply the principles governing disgorgement in SEC enforcement actions established by the United States Supreme Court’s high-profile decision in Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, No. 18-1501, 2020 WL 3405845 (U.S. June 22, 2020) (blog article here). In Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Yang, No. 19-55289, 2020 WL 4530630 (9th Cir. Aug. 6, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed a district court order, issued some eighteen months before the Supreme Court spoke in Liu, awarding the SEC disgorgement. In an unpublished memorandum decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the disgorgement awards and remanded the case to the district court to explicitly determine whether the awards comported with the requirements for such relief under Liu. The Yang decision drew attention because it served as an example of how the high court’s decision is impacting appellate review of disgorgement awards. If Yang is any indication, courts of appeal will be remanding cases to district courts with instruction to reach specific findings regarding compliance with Liu’s disgorgement requirements.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Reverses SEC Disgorgement Award and Remands in First Decision Post-Liu