Articles Tagged with SEC Division of Enforcement

On November 15, 2017, Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin, the Co-Directors of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement, published the Division’s Annual Report for fiscal year 2017.  Avakian and Peikin emphasized the Division’s commitment to enforcing the federal securities laws in order to “combat wrongdoing, compensate harmed investors, and maintain confidence in the integrity and fairness of our markets.”  They also emphasized their goals of shielding investors, discouraging misconduct, and reprimanding and penalizing those who violate the federal securities laws.  To accomplish these goals, five core principles, according to Avakian and Peikin, will serve as the Division’s road map.

First, the Division will focus primarily on retail investors, who Avakian and Peikin believe are not only the most common market participants, but also are the most susceptible and least equipped to handle financial loss.  The Division plans to keep confronting violations of the securities laws that can have a strong impact on retail investors, such as accounting fraud, sales of unsuitable products, Ponzi schemes, and pump and dump schemes.  The Division has also established a Retail Strategy Task Force to formulate competent methods of confronting securities law violations that affect retail investors.  The Retail Strategy Task Force will work with the SEC’s examination staff and the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy to pinpoint risk areas common to retail investors. Continue reading

The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently settled charges against a New Jersey private fund administrator, Apex Fund Services (“Apex”), for failing to notice or correct what it contended were clear indications of fraud by two of its clients, ClearPath Wealth Management (“ClearPath”) and EquityStar Capital Management (“EquityStar”). The SEC’s Division of Enforcement noted that Apex failed to “live up to its gatekeeper responsibility” and thereby enabled the fraudulent activities of these two investment advisers.

Apex provided accounting and administrative services to various private funds, including several managed by ClearPath and EquityStar. Its duties as fund administrator included keeping records, preparing financial statements, and preparing investor account statements. The SEC charged both ClearPath and EquityStar with securities fraud in enforcement actions, finding that ClearPath had allegedly misappropriated fund assets and used fund assets for unauthorized investments, and that EquityStar had allegedly made materially false and misleading statements to investors and prospective investors of its funds regarding undisclosed withdrawals of fund assets.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is taking an increased interest in examining chief compliance officers (CCO) to determine whether enforcement action should be taken against them. At the Investment Adviser Association’s annual compliance conference, CCOs were given a number of stern warnings. Director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management Robert Plaze spoke about changes and improvements being made by the SEC. He warned CCOs that a newly created Asset Management Unit, which is part of the Division of Enforcement, “is dedicated to suing you.” He also claimed that the new unit will be staffed with people who understand the asset management business. It will also collaborate with both the Investment Management Division and the agency’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations. Mr. Plaze stated that the unit will make the SEC’s oversight of registered investment advisers more efficient, allowing it to be able to perform more effective examinations. These warnings should concern CCOs who have taken a supervisory role within their firm.

The SEC has the authority to impose sanctions on people who are associated with a broker-dealer or an investment adviser if those people have reasonably failed to supervise. Both broker-dealers and investment advisers employ legal and compliance personnel to provide advice to them and their firms regarding the application of laws and regulations. One major issue that arises is whether the CCO is considered a supervisor within the firm. If so, the CCO could be subject to sanctions by the SEC for failure to supervise.
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