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SEC ups enforcement actions, imposes second-highest penalties


The SEC took the most enforcement actions for violations of securities laws in four years during its latest fiscal year and ordered the second-highest amount of money related to those actions in history, the agency announced Tuesday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed 784 enforcement actions in fiscal 2023, a 3% increase over fiscal 2022, and the highest number since fiscal 2019, when it conducted 862 enforcement actions. The agency engaged in 501 stand-alone — or original — enforcement actions, an 8% increase over fiscal 2022.

The SEC achieved the second-highest total amount of financial remedies — $5 billion — in its history in fiscal 2023. That total was eclipsed only by the $6.4 billion it obtained in fiscal 2022. The money ordered in fiscal 2023 comprised $1.6 billion in civil penalties and $3.4 billion in disgorgement. Each of those figures also was the second-highest in agency history.

The enforcement statistics represent the official tally for fiscal 2023, which was released a couple of weeks after SEC Chair Gary Gensler previewed the numbers in a speech in Washington. The agency’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

“The investing public benefits from the Division of Enforcement’s work as a cop on the beat,’ Gensler said in a statement Tuesday. “Last fiscal year’s results demonstrate yet again the Division’s effectiveness — working alongside colleagues throughout the agency — in following the facts and the law wherever they lead to hold wrongdoers accountable.”

As a highlight of its enforcement year, the SEC pointed to the $400 million in civil penalties it obtained from investment advisory firms, broker-dealers and credit rating agencies to settle charges that they violated record-keeping rules by failing to monitor their employees’ use of personal devices and messaging apps to conduct business.

The SEC also touted obtaining a total of $850,000 from nine advisory firms that violated the new marketing rule in the way they portrayed hypothetical performance. It also cited a combined $1 million in a civil penalty, disgorgement and prejudgment interest it ordered from Titan Global Capital Management for failing to comply with the marketing rule.

The agency distributed $930 million to victimized investors, a decrease from $937 million in fiscal 2022. Both totals were substantially higher than those achieved in fiscal 2021 ($521 million) and fiscal 2020 ($602 million). The SEC returned $1.2 billion to investors in fiscal 2019.

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