Posts Tagged ‘SEC enforcement’

The SEC Whistleblower Program Year in Review

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday August 30, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jordan A. Thomas, partner at Labaton Sucharow LLP and former assistant director at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and is based on a Labaton Sucharow publication by Mr. Thomas and Vanessa De Simone.

Four years ago this month, with the country still reeling from financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act–the most sweeping financial reform effort since the Great Depression. The goal of Dodd-Frank was as ambitious as its scope; as President Barack Obama remarked, the legislation would “restore markets in which we reward hard work and responsibility and innovation, not recklessness and greed.”

…continue reading: The SEC Whistleblower Program Year in Review

The Corporate Value of (Corrupt) Lobbying

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday August 18, 2014 at 8:51 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Alexander Borisov of the Department of Finance at the University of Cincinnati, and Eitan Goldman and Nandini Gupta, both of the Department of Finance at Indiana University.

Despite the fact that corporations and interest groups spent about $30 billion lobbying policy makers over the last decade (Center for Responsive Politics, 2012), there is a lack of robust empirical evidence on whether firms’ lobbying expenditures create value for their shareholders. Moreover, while the public perception of the lobbying process is that it involves unethical behavior that may bias rather than inform politicians, this is difficult to show since unethical practices are not typically observable. In our recent ECGI working paper, The Corporate Value of (Corrupt) Lobbying, we identify events that exogenously affect the ability of firms to lobby, and find that firms that lobby more experience a significant decrease in market value around these events. Investigating the channels by which lobbying may add value, we find evidence suggesting that the value partly arises from potentially unethical arrangements between firms and politicians.

…continue reading: The Corporate Value of (Corrupt) Lobbying

SEC Charges Corporate Officers with Fraud

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday August 17, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from R. Daniel O’Connor, partner focusing on securities enforcement at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray Alert authored by Mr. O’Connor, Marko S. Zatylny, Kait Michaud, and Michael J. Vito.

On July 30, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) advanced a novel theory of fraud against the former CEO (Marc Sherman) and CFO (Edward Cummings) of Quality Services Group, Inc. (“QSGI”), a Florida-based computer equipment company that filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The SEC alleged that the CEO misrepresented the extent of his involvement in evaluating internal controls and that the CEO and CFO knew of significant internal controls issues with the company’s inventory practices that they failed to disclose to investors and internal auditors. This case did not involve any restatement of financial statements or allegations of accounting fraud, merely disclosure issues around internal controls and involvement in a review of the same by senior management. The SEC’s approach has the potential to broaden practical exposure to liability for corporate officers who sign financial statements and certifications required under Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”). By advancing a theory of fraud premised on internal controls issues without establishing an actionable accounting misstatement, the SEC is continuing to demonstrate that it will extend the range of conduct for which it has historically pursued fraud claims against corporate officers.

…continue reading: SEC Charges Corporate Officers with Fraud

Hedge Funds and Material Nonpublic Information

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday July 31, 2014 at 9:03 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jon N. Eisenberg, partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP, and is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The last thing hedge funds need is another wake up call about the risks of liability for trading on the basis of material nonpublic information. But if they did, a July 17 article in the Wall Street Journal would provide it. According to the article, the SEC is investigating nearly four dozen hedge funds, asset managers and other firms to determine whether they traded on material nonpublic information concerning a change in Medicare reimbursement rates. If so, it appears that the material nonpublic information, if any, may have originated from a staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee, was then communicated to a law firm lobbyist, was further communicated by the lobbyist to a political intelligence firm, and finally, was communicated to clients who traded. According to an April 3, 2013 Wall Street Journal article, the political intelligence firm issued a flash report to clients on April 1, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.—18 minutes before the market closed and 35 minutes before the government announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would increase reimbursements by 3.3%, rather than reduce them 2.3%, as initially proposed. Shares in several large insurance firms rose as much as 6% in the last 18 minutes of trading.

…continue reading: Hedge Funds and Material Nonpublic Information

SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser for Prohibited Transactions and Retaliating Against Whistleblower

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday July 27, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David A. Vaughan and Catherine Botticelli, Partners at Dechert LLP, and is based on a Dechert legal update authored by Mr. Vaughan, Ms. Botticelli, Brenden P. Carroll, and Aaron D. Withrow.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) issued a cease and desist order on June 16, 2014 (the Order) against Paradigm Capital Management, Inc. (Paradigm) and its founder, Director, President and Chief Investment Officer, Candace King Weir (Weir). [1] The Order alleged that Weir caused Paradigm’s hedge fund client, PCM Partners L.P. II (Fund), to engage in certain transactions (Transactions) with a proprietary account (Trading Account) at the Fund’s prime broker, C.L. King & Associates, Inc. (C.L. King). Paradigm and C.L. King were allegedly under the common control of Weir. The Order further alleged that, because of Weir’s personal interest in the Transactions and the fact that the committee designated to review and approve the Transactions on behalf of the Fund was conflicted, Paradigm failed to provide the Fund with effective disclosure and failed effectively to obtain the Fund’s consent to the Transactions, as required under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act).

…continue reading: SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser for Prohibited Transactions and Retaliating Against Whistleblower

2014 Mid-Year Securities Enforcement Update

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday July 20, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Marc J. Fagel, partner in the Securities Enforcement and White Collar Defense Practice Groups at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn publication; the full publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Our mid-year report one year ago presented an exciting opportunity to discuss a time of great change at the SEC. A new Chair and a new Director of Enforcement had recently assumed the reins and begun making bold policy pronouncements. One year later, things have stabilized somewhat. The hot-button issues identified early in the new SEC administration—admissions for settling parties, a growing number of trials (and, for the agency, trial losses), and a renewed focus on public company accounting—remain the leading issues a year later, albeit with some interesting developments.

…continue reading: 2014 Mid-Year Securities Enforcement Update

2014 Mid-Year Update on Corporate Non-Prosecution and Deferred Prosecution Agreements

Posted by Joseph Warin, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, on Wednesday July 16, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: Joseph Warin is partner and chair of the litigation department at the Washington D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The following post and is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert; the full publication, including footnotes and appendix, is available here.

As the debate continues over whether and how to punish companies for unlawful conduct, U.S. federal prosecutors continue to rely significantly on Non-Prosecution Agreements (“NPAs”) and Deferred Prosecution Agreements (“DPAs”) (collectively, “agreements”). Such agreements have emerged as a flexible alternative to prosecutorial declination, on the one hand, and trials or guilty pleas, on the other. Companies and prosecutors alike rely on NPAs and DPAs to resolve allegations of corporate misconduct while mitigating the collateral consequences that guilty pleas or verdicts can inflict on companies, employees, communities, or the economy. NPAs and DPAs allow prosecutors, without obtaining a criminal conviction, to ensure that corporate wrongdoers receive punishment, including often eye-popping financial penalties, deep reforms to corporate culture through compliance requirements, and independent monitoring or self-reporting arrangements. Although the trend has been robust for more than a decade, Attorney General Eric Holder’s statements in connection with recent prosecutions of financial institutions underscore the dynamic environment in which NPAs and DPAs have evolved.

…continue reading: 2014 Mid-Year Update on Corporate Non-Prosecution and Deferred Prosecution Agreements

A New Tool to Detect Financial Reporting Irregularities

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday July 9, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Dan Amiram and Ethan Rouen, both of the Accounting Division at Columbia University, and Zahn Bozanic of the Department of Accounting and MIS at Ohio State University.

Irregularities in financial statements lead to inefficiencies in capital allocation and can become costly to investors, regulators, and potentially taxpayers if left unchecked. Finding an effective way to detect accounting irregularities has been challenging for academics and regulators. Responding to this challenge, we rely on a peculiar mathematical property known as Benford’s Law to create a summary red-flag measure to capture the likelihood that a company may be manipulating its financial statement numbers.

…continue reading: A New Tool to Detect Financial Reporting Irregularities

Pre-Flight Checklist: 2014 Update

Posted by Eric Geringswald, Corporation Service Company, on Thursday July 3, 2014 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: Eric Geringswald is Director of CSC® Publishing at Corporation Service Company. This post is an excerpt from the 2014 Edition of The Directors’ Handbook, by Thomas J. Dougherty of Skadden, Arps.

In this year’s Foreword, Dougherty differentiates the need for directors to focus on their core mission of informed oversight and vigilance rather than merely reacting to the constant influx of “daily corporate governance commentary,” and explores other front-burner issues, such as the marked increase in SEC enforcement actions and other recent SEC initiatives; the continuing trend of class action suits as de facto settlement instruments; proxy advisory firm priorities for directors; and new guidance from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) that recommends that audit committee directors discuss internal auditing deficiencies with their auditors.

…continue reading: Pre-Flight Checklist: 2014 Update

A Few Things Directors Should Know About the SEC

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday June 27, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the Twentieth Annual Stanford Directors’ College; 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.

The SEC today has about 4,200 employees, located in Washington and 11 regional offices across the country, including one in San Francisco that is very ably led by Regional Director Jina Choi, who is here [June 23, 2014]. Many of you have likely had some contact with our Division of Corporation Finance, which, among other things, has the responsibility to review your periodic filings and your securities offerings. Some of you that work for or represent a company that we oversee know our staff in our National Exam Program, and I imagine a few of your companies know something about our Enforcement Division staff. Our other major divisions are Investment Management, Trading and Markets and the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis.

So that is just a quick snapshot of the structure of the SEC and as you undoubtedly know, the SEC has a lot on its regulatory plate that is relevant to you—completion of the mandated rulemakings under the Dodd Frank Act and JOBS Act, adopting a final rule on money market funds, enhancing the structure and transparency of our equity and fixed income markets, reviewing the effectiveness of disclosures by public companies, to name just a few. But what you may not be as focused on is the mindset of the agency on some other things that are also relevant to you as directors.

…continue reading: A Few Things Directors Should Know About the SEC

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