The SEC last week announced a summary of enforcement statistics and actions for the past year. In fiscal year 2015, it brought 807 enforcement actions, including 507 “independent actions for violations of the federal securities laws.” That number represents a nearly 23 percent increase over the 413 independent actions filed in 2014. The remainder were either actions for delinquent filings or “administrative proceedings seeking bars against individuals based on criminal convictions, civil injunctions, or other orders.” This split of “independent actions” versus others may be in response to a recent paper suggesting that the SEC inflates enforcement statistics by pursuing easier to prosecute actions, such as those for delinquent filings. According to the announcement, the SEC obtained orders for $4.19 billion in disgorgement and penalties compared to $4.16 in FY 2014.
The announcement highlighted “first-of-their-kind cases,” including the action against UBS for failing to disclose certain features of order types in its dark pool to all subscribers, the action against BlackRock for failing to disclose a portfolio manager’s conflict of interest to the fund board, and the action against First Eagle in the “distribution-in-guise” initiative. SEC Chair Mary Jo White called the results “very strong” and argued that “[v]igorous and comprehensive enforcement protects investors and reassures them that our financial markets operate with integrity and transparency.”