Office of Administrative Law Judges
About the Office
In an Order Instituting Proceedings, the Commission directs that an Administrative Law Judge conduct a public administrative proceeding to determine whether the allegations in the Order are true and to issue an Initial Decision in a specified period of time. Administrative Law Judges are independent judicial officers who in most cases conduct hearings and rule on allegations of securities law violations initiated by the Commission's Division of Enforcement. They conduct public hearings at locations throughout the United States in a manner similar to non-jury trials in the federal district courts. Among other actions, they issue subpoenas, conduct prehearing conferences, issue defaults, and rule on motions and the admissibility of evidence. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the parties submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Administrative Law Judge prepares an Initial Decision that includes factual findings, legal conclusions, and, where appropriate, orders relief.
The Commission may seek a variety of sanctions through the administrative proceeding process. An Administrative Law Judge may order sanctions that include suspending or revoking the registrations of registered securities, as well as the registrations of brokers, dealers, investment companies, investment advisers, municipal securities dealers, municipal advisors, transfer agents, and nationally recognized statistical rating organizations. In addition, Commission Administrative Law Judges can order disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil penalties, censures, and cease-and-desist orders against these entities, as well as individuals, and can suspend or bar persons from association with these entities or from participating in an offering of a penny stock.
Initial Decisions and significant orders are posted on the Commission's website under Administrative Law Judges and appear in legal research forums. Parties may appeal an Initial Decision to the Commission, which performs a de novo review and can affirm, reverse, modify, set aside, or remand for further proceedings. Appeals from Commission action are to a United States Court of Appeals.