Securities and Exchange Commission

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

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

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued proposed amendments to the Securities Exchange Act [1] (the “Exchange Act”) that would significantly broaden the definition of “exchange” for purposes of regulation under the Exchange Act (“Proposed Rule”).[2] Designed to address a “regulatory gap,”[3] the Proposed Rule would cover “platforms for all kinds of asset classes that bring together buyers and sellers.”[4]  Under the Proposed Rule, communication protocol systems—trading systems that offer the use of non-firm trading interest and provide protocols to bring together buyers and sellers of securities—would have to register with the SEC as an exchange unless otherwise exempt.[5]  As we previously reported, this amendment, if passed, likely would have a significant impact on the decentralized finance (“defi”) industry.
Continue Reading SEC Proposed Amendments Could Significantly Impact DeFi Companies

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

A Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) plan to create a registration exemption for certain finders has generated a mixed response.  The nearly 90 comments received by the SEC by the November 12, 2020 close of the comment period reflect a clear divide along predictable lines.  Broker-dealers, issuers, and some practitioners lauded the proposal for bringing regulatory clarity to what has long been a cloudy issue while regulatory groups and investor advocates criticized the plan for allowing unregistered finders to conduct brokerage activities without sufficient investor protection mechanisms.
Continue Reading SEC Proposal to Exempt Finders from Registration Generates Split Reaction