Category Archives: Securities Litigation & Enforcement

Shedding Light on Dark Pools

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement at an open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today, [November 18, 2015], the Commission considers proposing much-needed enhancements to the regulatory regime for alternative trading systems (“ATSs”) that trade national market system (“NMS”) stocks. I will support these proposals because they could go a long way toward helping market participants make informed decisions as they attempt to navigate the byzantine structure of today’s equity markets.


New Records in SEC Enforcement Actions

John C. Wander is a partner in the Shareholder Litigation & Enforcement practice at Vinson & Elkins LLP. This post is based on a Vinson & Elkins publication authored by Mr. Wander, Jeffrey S. JohnstonClifford Thau, and Olivia D. Howe.

In late October, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that under the leadership of chair Mary Jo White and enforcement director Andrew Ceresney, the SEC has continued to ramp up enforcement activity. In its 2015 fiscal year, the SEC reported filing a total of 807 actions for the year—including 507 independent enforcement actions, 168 follow-on actions, and 132 actions for delinquent filings—resulting in $4.19 billion in monetary penalties and disgorgements.

SEC Enforcement Actions Against Investment Advisers

Jon N. Eisenberg is partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

According to the SEC’s most recent financial report, as of August 2014, SEC-registered investment advisers managed $62.3 trillion in assets. Not surprisingly, investment advisers attract a great deal of attention from the SEC’s Enforcement Division. The Division of Enforcement’s Asset Management Unit has 75 professionals spread across all 12 SEC offices. The group has developed strong industry expertise: it includes more than a half-dozen former industry professionals and works closely with the examination teams of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, as well as with the Divisions of Investment Management and Economic and Risk Analysis. In the first 10 months of 2015, it brought over two dozen cases, resulting in over $190 million in settlements; nearly a dozen cases are being litigated.


Recap of the 2015 Proxy Season

Avrohom J. Kess is partner and head of the Public Company Advisory Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. This post is based on a Simpson Thacher presentation by Mr. Kess, Yafit Cohn, Arthur B. Crozier and Lissa Perlman. The complete presentation is available here.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP recently released a PowerPoint deck, titled “Recap of the 2015 Proxy Season: What Happened, Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead to 2016.”  The deck (available here) provides an overview of the 2015 proxy season, as well as in-depth analysis regarding key developments, proposals and trends from the proxy season.


The Delaware Courts and the Investment Banks

Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton, Theodore N. Mirvis, and William Savitt. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

A doctrinal innovation in Delaware law that first appeared a year ago is threatening to mature into a full-on trend: through the tort of “aiding-and-abetting” fiduciary breach, the Delaware courts, accepting the invitation of the stockholder-plaintiffs’ bar, have begun to take on the task of regulating the M&A advisory function of investment banks. In October 2014, the Court of Chancery awarded stockholder plaintiffs $76 million in damages against an investment bank for aiding and abetting breaches of the duty of care by the directors of Rural Metro, an ambulance company that was sold for a 37% premium in 2011 and was bankrupt by the time of trial. The novel theory of the decision was that conflicted bankers dispensed self-interested advice, which left Rural Metro’s directors uninformed and hence induced them to breach their duty of care in approving the sale. Although the directors were not liable for the breach (because they had settled and were exculpated at any rate), the court found that the bankers were.


Fund Advisers and Fee Disclosure in SEC Enforcement Action

Veronica Rendón Callahan is a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Securities Enforcement and Litigation practice. This post is a based on an Arnold & Porter memorandum by Ms. Callahan, Ellen Kaye Fleishhacker, Daniel M. Hawke, Robert E. Holton, and Kevin J. Lavin.

October 7, 2015, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (the Commission or SEC) entered into a settlement agreement with Blackstone Management Partners L.L.C., Blackstone Management Partners III L.L.C., and Blackstone Management Partners IV L.L.C. (collectively, Blackstone) regarding certain Blackstone fee and expense disclosure practices. Without admitting or denying the Commission’s findings, Blackstone consented to a cease-and-desist order and agreed to pay nearly $40 million to settle the charges consisting of $26,225,203 of disgorgement, $2,686,553 of prejudgment interest, and $10,000,000 of civil money penalties. This action represents a continuing focus by the SEC on fee and expense allocation and disclosure practices of private fund advisers. [1] It serves as a reminder of the need for advisers to private investment funds to review and revise as necessary their compliance and disclosure policies and procedures related to the allocation of fees and expenses.


Building a Dynamic Framework for Offering Reform

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s recent Keynote Address at the 47th Annual Securities Regulation Institute. The full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

I am very pleased to be here to help kick off the 47th Annual Securities Regulation Institute. As some of you know, I am no stranger to this program, nor is the SEC staff. I have participated since my early days as U.S. Attorney, and its tremendous success is largely due to its tireless organizers. For many years, that work was led by Anita Shapiro, who is now the President of PLI, along with Laura Shields. Laura has now taken over from Anita, and she will surely continue the program’s record of excellence. Thank you both for all that you do to make this program such a great one year after year.

I have selected a topic that I think is well-suited for a conference of such endurance and importance: how the Commission is building a more proactive and responsive regulatory framework to better assess the impact of regulatory changes on investors and issuers over time in the context of securities offerings. As your opening panelists will no doubt discuss, this important area has seen tremendous regulatory change over the last ten years, including significant new rules in the past year.


Building Effective Relationships with Regulators

Norm Champ is a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the former Director of the Division of Investment Management at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. This post is based on a Keynote Address by Mr. Champ at the CFO Compliance & Regulation Summit.

Today [September 10, 2015] I will try to bring together my experience at the SEC in the Division of Investment Management and the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations to talk about how you can build effective relationships with regulators. Each business, no matter what the industry, must decide what strategy it is going to pursue with regulators. As a former CCO of an investment management business and a former regulator, I propose that you follow a strategy of constructive engagement with the regulator in your industry. I know there are those who disagree with that strategy and advocate a posture of avoidance of your regulator and even those who advocate a strategy of opposition to your regulator. I have dealt with that advice in my ten years in a regulated financial services business and seen it in action in five years as a regulator. I’m going to argue that the strategies of avoidance and opposition are misguided and that constructive engagement is the only viable choice for a business seeking an effective relationship with its regulator.


Enforcement Discretion at the SEC

David Zaring is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Zaring.

The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act allowed the Securities & Exchange Commission to bring almost any claim that it can file in federal court to its own Administrative Law Judges. The agency has since taken up this power against a panoply of alleged insider traders and other perpetrators of securities fraud. Many targets of SEC ALJ enforcement actions have sued on equal protection, due process, and separation of powers grounds, seeking to require the agency to sue them in court, if at all.

The SEC has vigorously—and, my article argues, correctly—defended its power to choose where it sues. Agencies have always enjoyed unfettered discretion to choose their enforcement targets and their policy making fora. Formal adjudication under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which is the process SEC ALJs offer, has been with us for decades, and has never before been thought to be unconstitutional in any way. It violates no rights, nor offends the separation of powers; if anything scholars have bemoaned the fact that it offers inefficiently large amounts of process to defendants, administered by insulated civil servants who in no way threaten the president’s control over the executive branch. Nonetheless, because defendants, advised by high profile lawyers, have raised appointments clause, due process, equal protection, and right to a jury trial claims against the agency, the article reviews the reasons why these claims will fail, and discusses the timing issues that have led the two appellate courts to address the claims to dismiss them as prematurely brought.


SEC Proposed Amendments to Rules for Administrative Proceedings

Barry R. Goldsmith is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Goldsmith, Joel CohenMarc J. Fagel, Monica K. Loseman, and Mark Schonfeld.

On September 24, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it had voted to propose amendments to rules governing its administrative proceedings. SEC Chair Mary Jo White noted that the “proposed amendments seek to modernize our rules of practice for administrative proceedings, including provisions for additional time and prescribed discovery for the parties.” [1] These proposals follow the SEC’s June 2014 announcement that it intended to bring more cases through administrative proceedings rather than in federal court [2] and the release of the Division of Enforcement’s May 2015 guidance entitled “Approach to Forum Selection in Contested Actions,” explaining how the SEC chooses between administrative proceedings and federal court to litigate its claims. [3]

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