SEC from A to Z in 2015
Dec. 30, 2015
Here are some SEC stories and topics that made headlines in 2015.
In December, the SEC issued a staff report with a review of the definition of accredited investor and an analysis of potential approaches to update and modify it.
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy issued 30 alerts and bulletins this year.
In June, the SEC named Richard Best as Director of the Salt Lake Regional Office.
In December, the SEC charged two Bitcoin mining companies and their founder with conducting a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors. The case follows a 2014 Investor Alert warning about the risks of investing in Bitcoin and other virtual currency-related investments.
The Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) continued its focus on cybersecurity this year with a new round of examinations into how registered broker-dealers and investment advisers protect customer data. OCIE also issued a risk alert and guidance to investment companies and advisers.
In October, the SEC adopted rules to permit crowdfunding. “There is a great deal of enthusiasm in the marketplace for crowdfunding, and I believe these rules and proposed amendments provide smaller companies with innovative ways to raise capital and give investors the protections they need,” said SEC Chair Mary Jo White.
The SEC proposed rules to enhance operational transparency and regulatory oversight of dark pools and other ATSs that trade stocks listed on a national securities exchange.
In May, the SEC named Andrew “Buddy” Donohue as the agency’s Chief of Staff. In this role, Donohue serves as senior adviser to Chair Mary Jo White on all policy, management, and regulatory issues.
In February, the SEC named Pamela Dyson as Chief Information Officer, a position that oversees the agency’s information technology functions.
The Division of Enforcement brought 807 enforcement actions in fiscal year 2015, and obtained orders for $4.2 billion in penalties and disgorgement.
This year, the SEC created an Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee to focus on the structure and operations of the U.S. equities markets.
Over the past year, SEC examination teams conducted nearly 2,000 formal examinations of registrants, an increase over each of the prior five fiscal years. The examinations resulted in the return of approximately $120 million to investors.
The Office of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Services responded to nearly 17,000 requests for SEC documents and records this year.
In May, the SEC named David Grim as Director of the Division of Investment Management.
A 2015 working paper by an SEC economist examined the prevalence of high-frequency trading and its role in the financial markets.
The SEC charged 87 individuals with insider trading in fiscal year 2015. Many of these cases involved complex insider trading rings, which were cracked by the Enforcement Division's innovative uses of data and analytics to spot suspicious trading.
In September, the SEC commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Investment Company Act and Investment Advisers Act.
The SEC’s Investor.gov attracted more than 1.2 million new visitors, up 20 percent compared to the prior year.
In October, the Commission adopted “Regulation Crowdfunding,” which will permit individuals to invest in securities-based crowdfunding transactions subject to certain investment limits. The adoption marks the completion of all significant rulemaking under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act.
In January, the SEC named Walter Jospin as Director of the Atlanta Regional Office.
Form 10-K was one of the top search terms on SEC.gov in 2015. The annual report on Form 10-K provides a comprehensive overview of a public company's business and financial condition and includes audited financial statements.
In October, the SEC named Michael Liftik as a Deputy Chief of Staff at the agency.
This year, the Division of Enforcement broadened its efforts to combat microcap fraud to encompass significant actions involving international schemes, professionals associated with microcap frauds, and recidivist offenders.
In July, Chair Mary Jo White led a multi-agency event at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to support Military Consumer Protection Day. The event focused on how service members and their families can best protect themselves and their finances from fraud and identity theft.
The Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations expanded its ability to analyze massive amounts of data to detect potential violations, hiring skilled technologists and developing its National Exam Analytics Tool (NEAT) that enables examiners to access and systematically analyze such data.
The SEC’s microcap fraud-fighting initiative, Operation Shell Expel, uses technology to scour the over-the-counter (OTC) marketplace and identify dormant companies ripe for abuse. In 2015, the initiative resulted in the trading suspension of 128 inactive penny stock companies.
In August, the SEC adopted a final rule that requires a public company to disclose the pay ratio of the compensation of its chief executive officer (CEO) to the median compensation of its employees. The new rule, mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, provides companies with flexibility in calculating this pay ratio, and helps inform shareholders when voting on “say on pay.”
Chair Mary Jo White announced a new rulemaking database that provides “one-stop shopping” to better understand the development of new rules.
In August, the SEC adopted rules to increase transparency in the security-based swap market by establishing a comprehensive, efficient process for security-based swap dealers and major security-based swap participants to register with the SEC.
In August, the SEC named Shamoil Shipchandler as Director of the Fort Worth Regional Office.
The SEC expanded its social media presence by adding Twitter accounts for its Boston, Fort Worth, Atlanta, and San Francisco regional offices.
The SEC brought its first actions against underwriters under the Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation (MCDC) initiative, a voluntary self-reporting program targeting material misstatements and omissions in municipal bond offering documents.
The SEC and other regulators issued a joint report analyzing the significant volatility in the U.S. Treasury market on October 15, 2014 and offered next steps to strengthen monitoring and inter-agency coordination.
The SEC’s Whistleblower Program awarded eight whistleblowers with total awards of approximately $37 million in fiscal year 2015. The SEC’s Whistleblower Program has paid more than $54 million to 22 whistleblowers since the Commission’s new whistleblower rules went into effect in August 2011.
The SEC named Marc Wyatt Director of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations and leader of its National Exam Program.
The Division of Economic and Risk Analysis finished the development of a new eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) rendering engine that enables filers to quickly render and evaluate their XBRL exhibits, helping them detect errors in advance of submission.
The Division of Enforcement obtained orders for more than $4 billion in penalties and disgorgement this year — that’s 9 zeros!