On October 11, 2016, the SEC announced its enforcement results for fiscal year 2016, which ended on September 30th. Press Release No. 2016-212. In total, the SEC continued its trend of increased enforcement activity by filing 868 enforcement actions, a new single-year high, which included “a record 548 standalone or independent enforcement actions” and “judgments and orders totaling more than $4 billion in disgorgement and penalties.” In comparison, the SEC filed 807 enforcement actions (507 standalone or independent actions) in fiscal year 2015, and 755 enforcement actions (413 standalone or independent actions) in fiscal year 2014. Touting its recent successes, SEC Chair Mary Jo White announced in the press release that “[o]ver the last 3 years, we have changed the way we do business on the enforcement front by using new data analytics to uncover fraud, enhancing our ability to litigate tough cases, and expanding the playbook bringing novel and significant actions to better protect investors and our markets.”
This past fiscal year marked new highs for the SEC in the number of cases involving investment advisers or investment companies, as well as enforcement actions related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Other significant actions the SEC highlighted involved “combating financial fraud and enhancing issuer disclosure,” holding “attorneys, accountants and other gatekeepers accountable for failure to comply with professional standards,” “enhancing fairness among market participants,” “rooting out insider trading schemes,” “fighting market manipulation and microcap fraud,” “halting international and affinity-based investment frauds,” “policing the public finance markets,” and “cracking down on misconduct involving complex financial instruments.”
Under the whistleblower program, the SEC this past year awarded a record $57 million to 13 whistleblowers, brought the first standalone action for retaliation against a whistleblower, and charged multiple companies for Rule 21F-17 violations, which prohibits any action impeding an individual from communicating directly with Commission staff about possible securities laws violations.
In addition, the SEC announced victories in five federal jury or bench trials this year, including its first ever victory “against a municipality and one of its officers for violations of the federal securities laws.”