Enforcement Policy Developments

There have been two moves in SEC leadership over the last week that warrant attention.

First, last week, the SEC announced that Division of Enforcement Co-Director Steven Peikin will leave the agency at the end of this week. Stephanie Avakian, who has served alongside Mr. Peikin as Co-Director, will remain Director upon Mr. Peikin’s departure.

During his three years of service as Co-Director, Mr. Peikin, together with Avakian, established the agency’s Cyber Unit, increased retail investor protections, and recently created the Coronavirus Steering Committee to combat COVID-related fraud.


Continue Reading SEC Leadership Changes Are Afoot

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is an independent regulatory body in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland (ROI) responsible for regulating auditors, accountants and actuaries. The FRC and its subsidiaries also play important roles in the oversight and development of corporate governance standards in the U.K. and ROI, such as the U.K. Corporate Governance and Stewardship Codes and the general standards for the accounting industry.

Founded in 1990, the FRC historically has tended to attract less attention than some of the better known and better funded U.K. enforcement bodies including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which regulates the U.K. financial services authority and Serious Fraud Office (SFO) which investigates and prosecutes serious or complex fraud and corruption in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  But any complacency or ignorance of the significance or broad range of powers and sanctions at the FRC’s disposal may come at a significant cost – the FRC’s enforcement activities are on the increase and the entity is becoming a major player in the U.K. regulatory environment.

The provisions governing FRC enforcement were originally set out in an Accountancy Scheme and Actuarial Scheme (the Schemes) – contractual arrangements between the FRC and the various accountancy and actuarial professional bodies.  Following the implementation of EU legislation in June 2016, however, a new Audit Enforcement Procedure (AEP) is used for all new audit matters.  The Accountancy Scheme continues to be used for non-audit matters and audit investigations that commenced before June 2016 while the Actuarial Scheme continues to be used for all actuarial investigations.


Continue Reading The Financial Reporting Council’s Bite Proves Worse than its Bark

In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced that he plans to introduce legislation aimed at limiting the scope of the Department of Justice’s False Claims Act dismissal authority. Specifically, Sen. Grassley’s anticipated legislation would require DOJ to state its reasons and provide whistleblowers who bring the cases an opportunity to be heard by the court whenever DOJ moves to dismiss a qui tam False Claims Act case.

Sen. Grassley, the author of the 1986 amendments to the FCA, described DOJ’s practice of dismissing charges in many of the FCA cases brought by whistleblowers as “especially ironic,” given the “massive increase” in government funding related to the COVID-19 response that has “created new opportunities for fraudsters trying to cheat the government.” According to Sen. Grassley, “[if] there are serious allegations of fraud against the government, the Attorney General should have to state the legitimate reasons for deciding not to pursue them in court.” Courts have been split on the justification DOJ must provide in moving to dismiss a case, with some courts ruling that DOJ has “virtually unfettered discretion” to dismiss qui tam suits, while other holding that DOJ must provide a “legitimate reason” for dismissal. Courts falling in the latter camp have set forth varying standards for how thorough DOJ must be in justifying a motion to dismiss a qui tam case. Sen. Grassley indicated that his proposed legislation would clarify these ambiguities and rein in DOJ’s dismissal authority.


Continue Reading Senator Grassley May Seek Limits on DOJ’s Authority to Dismiss Qui Tam FCA Complaints

On July 3, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued the second edition of the Resource Guide to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the 2020 Guide), the first full-scope overhaul of the Resource Guide since its issuance in 2012. As with the original edition, the 2020 Guide

On June 22, 2020 the Department of Justice Antitrust Division (Antitrust Division) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that they had signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to allow for more cooperation and communication between the two agencies.

Although these agencies have worked together in the past, this is the first time the Antitrust Division and the SEC have entered into a formal agreement. The agencies hope that this agreement will improve competition in the securities industry. As SEC Chairman Jay Clayton explained, “As competition is embedded in our securities laws, there are many policy areas where the missions of the SEC and DOJ’s Antitrust Division align, but where our respective areas of expertise differ. By formalizing the exchange of knowledge between our agencies, we aim to foster even greater collaboration and cooperation to ensure that we maintain the efficient and competitive markets that American investors rely on.”


Continue Reading New Cooperation Agreement Between the DOJ Antitrust Division and SEC

Amongst those who operate or act (whether voluntarily or not) within global law enforcement arenas, there has long been a tendency in some quarters to view the UK law enforcement landscape with less trepidation than that in the US.[1] For many years law enforcement agencies in the United States and particularly the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission – exponentially better funded and resourced – have drawn the limelight with billion-dollar bribery-related settlements such as the $1.78 billion settlement with Brazilian petrochemicals company, Petrobras, and the $1.01 billion settlement with Swedish telecommunications company Telia. There are signs, however, that a confluence of factors is now resulting in an increasingly aggressive posture being taken by UK law enforcement bodies and those who discount the appetite, powers and ability of those bodies may do so at their own peril.

Of all the UK law enforcement agencies, none has faced more apparent recent criticism and calls for reform than the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the agency charged with tackling the top level of serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption. The collapse of the 2019 trial of two former Tesco directors accused of false accounting (with the trial judge declaring that “I concluded in certain crucial areas the prosecution case was so weak it should not be left for a jury’s consideration”) was a high profile setback for the SFO, as was both the 2020 acquittal of three Barclays executives accused of making illegal payments to Qatar and the collapse of the case against the bank itself. Whilst it continues to defend itself against allegations that it is unfit for purpose and that a complete overhaul of the agency is necessary, the attacks appear to be having an unwelcome consequence for those in the SFO’s eyesight; namely, whilst the SFO faces increased scrutiny and the pressure of bringing significant prosecutions, there is likely to be much less shirking of high-profile investigations and, once an investigation is open, it will bring all its powers and expertise to bear. Put simply, once an investigation is opened, the SFO will play to win.


Continue Reading Ramped-Up Powers, Performance Anxiety and Political Pressure: A Perfect Storm for UK Law Enforcement Agencies?

On June 22, the US Supreme Court weighed in on a question it explicitly left open in Kokesh v. SEC – whether, and to what extent, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a civil enforcement action may seek “disgorgement” as “equitable relief that may be appropriate or necessary for the benefit of investors” under

Remarkably, we issued the advisory notice below a decade ago to serve as a guide for avoiding and managing the most sensitive matters before increasingly ambitious US state prosecutors – guidance that, following years of public corruption, pay-to-play and other high-profile financial matters, particularly in New York and California, is every bit as apt now

According to the European Commission,[1] fraud offences against the European Union (EU) budget cost the EU and its member states over €1 billion in losses in 2018, in addition to the annual losses of around €150 billion resulting from VAT fraud. With current criminal enforcement efforts across the EU apparently failing to effectively tackle such offences, the EU established the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to act as an independent and decentralized office with the power to investigate and prosecute crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption, misappropriation and cross-border VAT-related fraud.

Set to become fully operational in November 2020, based in Luxemburg, with its funding for 2020 increased by nearly 50%, the EPPO is expected to ramp up prosecutions of corporate crime concerning the EU’s financial interests and facilitate the recovery of misused EU funds. Previously, only national authorities could investigate and prosecute such offences within the scope of their own borders.


Continue Reading European Public Prosecutor to Take EU Finance Fraudsters to Task?