The SEC Speaks: Aggressive Enforcement to Intensify in 2011

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Early each year, the SEC hosts its most important conference: The SEC Speaks. At the conference, the chairman, the commissioners, and the heads of the various divisions summarize the SEC’s activities of the previous year and indicate priorities and major initiatives of the SEC for the coming year. This year the conference was held on February 4–5. Judging from the comments of the commissioners and staff, it was clear early on that the SEC’s reforms of the past year will be supplemented by more aggressive enforcement, despite the agency’s stressed resources.

Chairman Mary Shapiro began the conference by focusing on the importance of investor protection and the SEC’s role as “the investor’s advocate.” The chairman highlighted that court-ordered disgorgements were up 20% in 2010 and the amount of penalties tripled. The SEC pipeline of significant cases remains full, encouraging the Commission’s efforts to increase efficiency and coherence in investigations. Towards that end, the agency has created a centralized database housing tips and complaints that allows examiners and investigators to review tips received nationwide. The database will soon provide improved search and analysis capabilities and, budget permitting, will implement analytics that uncover market trends.

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