In our paper, SEC Investigations and Securities Class Actions: An Empirical Comparison, we compare investigations by the SEC with securities fraud class action filings involving public companies. Critics of securities class actions commonly contrast those suits with enforcement actions brought by the SEC. According to those critics, the SEC is superior to plaintiffs’ lawyers both in targeting defendants and securing sanctions against them. With respect to targeting, critics of securities class actions claim that the settlement dynamics of class actions encourage plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring a high proportion of non-meritorious suits. If companies must pay substantial costs when they are unjustifiably targeted, the deterrent value of class actions is diluted. With regard to sanctions, class action settlements are almost always paid by the company and its directors’ & officers (D&O) insurance; the corporate officers responsible for the fraud rarely contribute. By contrast, SEC enforcement actions commonly lead to payments from the responsible officers; the SEC also has the authority to bar individuals from serving as directors and officers of public companies, a career death sentence for the individual subjected to a bar. Critics of class actions argue that the combination of more precise targeting of suits and more individual sanctions yields a stronger deterrent punch for SEC enforcement relative to class actions.
Posts Tagged ‘Adam Pritchard’
In my paper, Revisiting “Truth in Securities Revisited”: Abolishing IPOs and Harnessing Private Markets in the Public Good, I explore the possibility of doing away with initial public offerings. In their place, I propose an expanded system of company registration under which companies would have to trade in private markets for a seasoning period, with mandatory disclosure, before they would be allowed to sell their shares to the public at large. I argue that such system would promote not only efficient capital formation, but also investor protection.
Under the current regime, companies can stay private until one of three triggering events occurs: 1) the company lists its shares for trading on a securities exchange; 2) the company makes a registered public offering; or 3) the company exceeds 2,000 shareholders. Typically, companies trigger public company status through an initial offering of shares, with simultaneous listing of those shares on an exchange. The decision to make an initial public offering, however, is frequently made because the company is pushing the limit on the number of shareholders as a result of prior private issues to employees and early-round investors.