This Outline highlights key U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC" or the "Commission") and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") enforcement developments and cases regarding broker-dealers during 2011.
The SEC brought a record number of enforcement actions in FY 2011.1 In its first complete fiscal year since the Division of Enforcement's extensive reorganization, the Commission filed 735 enforcement actions. Although senior Commission officials continue to caution that statistics alone do not tell the whole story, the measures traditionally used to assess the SEC's enforcement activity demonstrate that, in FY 2011, the Division of Enforcement vigorously pursued securities law violators.
Last year there were also a number of important enforcement developments at the Commission, including the SEC's first ever deferred prosecution agreement, the finalization of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower rules, and the continued focus on individual liability in enforcement actions. The SEC also started the process of seeking Congressional approval to enhance its penalty authority and reportedly began leaning toward filing negligence charges rather than scienter based fraud claims in connection with certain cases.
In 2011, the SEC's long-standing settlement practice, which includes defendants neither admitting nor denying the allegations against them, came under increasing judicial attack. In March 2011, Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York took issue with this practice in connection with his review of a proposed settlement between the SEC and a corporation and two individual defendants. Judge Rakoff ultimately approved the agreement and reserved for another time the substantial questions the SEC's settlement practices raised. That time came in November 2011, when Judge Rakoff rejected another SEC settlement with a large financial institution, finding that the proposed agreement was neither fair, reasonable, adequate nor in the public interest. That case is now on appeal to the Second Circuit.