Tag archives: SEC

COVID-19 Scams on the Rise and Enforcement on the Horizon

As COVID-19 continues to impact capital markets around the world, securities regulators in North America are responding to an increasing number of securities-related scams. Provincial securities regulators across Canada, as well as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, have now issued official warnings about fraudulent investment offerings and other scams that target investors.

Many of the alleged scams involve “pump and dump” tactics, where the perpetrators artificially inflate the price of a stock by releasing false information, then sell their stock before the market learns that the information was false. For example, on April 23, 2020, the Ontario Securities … Continue Reading

Alberta Securities Commission signs Enhanced Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen cross-border enforcement cooperation

In July 2019, the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) joined other signatories, including the Ontario Securities Commission and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), by signing the International Organization of Securities Commissions’ (IOSCO) Enhanced Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Consultation and Cooperation and the Exchange of Information (EMMoU).

This step by the ASC reflects an ongoing increase in cooperation among Canadian and foreign securities regulators in the context of increasingly globalized capital markets.

IOSCO

IOSCO was established in 1983 when 11 securities regulators from North and South America agreed to build … Continue Reading

US Tenth Circuit holds SEC can apply antifraud provisions extraterritorially in certain situations

One trend running through recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions is a sense of caution in expanding the scope of U.S. law to extraterritorial activities.  To that end, the Court has instructed that a statute does not apply extraterritorially unless the text clearly shows the U.S. Congress intended such a result.  Notably, the Tenth Circuit recently held that Congress has authorized the SEC to enforce the securities fraud laws extraterritorially in certain circumstances.  Foreign actors should take note of this potential expansion of the SEC’s enforcement powers.

One of the cornerstones — if not the cornerstone — in the Supreme Court’s … Continue Reading

Be Careful What You Say – SEC successfully concludes enforcement proceedings against robo-advisors for false advertising and misleading disclosures

On December 21, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled proceedings against two robo-advisors for making false statements about investment products and publishing misleading advertising. The proceedings were the SEC’s first enforcement actions against robo-advisors, providing guidance on some of the disclosure issues robo-advisors may face going forward.

Wealthfront proceedings

The first action involved Wealthfront Advisers, LLC  (Wealthfront), a robo-advisor holding approximately $11 billion USD in client assets under management. Among other things, the SEC found that Wealthfront made false statements regarding a proprietary tax loss harvesting program (the Tax Program) it applied … Continue Reading

The Hard Way – SEC announces first penalties and compliance roadmap for unregistered ICOs

On November 16, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced consent orders settling actions in respect of two unregistered initial coin offerings (ICOs), including the first fines levied against non-compliant ICO issuers made by the SEC to date.

The consent orders demonstrate the SEC’s willingness to follow through with enforcement proceedings against issuers of ICOs not in compliance with securities laws, and provide a roadmap for how existing ICOs can bring themselves into compliance going forward.

The parties – Airfox and Paragon

The issuers charged in the two SEC enforcement actions each raised substantial amounts … Continue Reading

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Long Reach

You are a third-party witness to a potential breach of U.S. securities laws, living in Québec, if you think that you are out of reach of the SEC, think again.  In United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. Ouellet, 2018 QCCS 4239, the Québec Superior Court did just that and granted an order compelling a resident living in Québec to produce documents and produce themselves for questioning in relation to an investigation in the U.S.

Background

As discussed in our previous post, the founders of PlexCoin token issuer PlexCorps are under investigation by securities regulators on both … Continue Reading

SEC to Resume Administrative Law Proceedings Following Supreme Court Ruling

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 21, 2018 decision in Lucia v. SEC, No. 17-130, holding that administrative law judges (ALJs) at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had been improperly appointed because they had been appointed by SEC staff rather than the President or the full SEC, which was discussed in our June 27, 2018 blog post, the SEC issued an August 22, 2018 order explaining how it would now proceed on pending cases affected by the Lucia ruling.

The SEC order stated that the SEC would begin to rehear some 128 cases that … Continue Reading

The Importance of Cooperation Among Interjurisdictional Securities Regulators: United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. Autorité des marchés financiers, 2018 QCCQ 4417

In the recent decision of United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. Autorité des marchés financiers, 2018 QCCQ 4417, the Quebec Court, Criminal and Penal Chamber held that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had the required interest under section 122 of the Code of penal procedure (CPP) to be allowed to examine materials seized by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the Quebec securities regulator, from persons under investigation. The CPP applies with respect to proceedings in view of imposing a penal (as opposed to criminal) sanction for an … Continue Reading

Copy and Paste Securities Fraud? The U.S. Supreme Court to Decide

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear a case where an investment banker copied and pasted misstatements from his boss into emails that, at his boss’s request, he sent to prospective debenture purchasers.  In Lorenzo v. Securities and Exchange Commission, 872 F.3d 578 (D.C. Cir. 2017), a divided United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the investment banker was not the “maker” of the misstatements, but nevertheless affirmed the SEC’s determination that he committed securities fraud under a fraudulent scheme theory.  The Supreme Court will thus be faced with the … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Holds SEC Administrative Law Judges Improperly Appointed

On June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that administrative law judges (ALJs) at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had been improperly appointed because they qualified as “Officers of the United States” under the “Appointments Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, who under the Constitution may be appointed only by the President, a court of law, or heads of departments.  Lucia v. SEC, No. 17-130Because the SEC’s ALJs had been selected merely by SEC staff, the Court held that they had not been lawfully appointed and therefore lacked constitutional authority to issue sanctions and penalties … Continue Reading

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Proposes “Best Interest” Standard for Retail Broker Dealers

On April 18, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced proposed rules that would require broker-dealers to act in the best interests of their retail clients when recommending investments. The SEC opened the proposed rules to a 90 day comment period.

This announcement follows a March 15, 2018 decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that vacated the so-called “Fiduciary Rule” promulgated by the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) covering retirement fund investment advice. The Fiduciary Rule, in actuality a package of seven rules that broadly reinterpret the term “investment advice fiduciary” and related exemptions codified … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Holds Individuals Must Report to the SEC to Qualify as Whistleblowers under Dodd-Frank

On Wednesday, February 21, 2018, the Supreme Court resolved a circuit split by unanimously holding that an employee must report suspected securities law violations to the SEC in order to qualify as a whistleblower entitled to protection from retaliation under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Dodd-Frank”).  Dodd Frank’s anti-retaliation protections do not extend to employees who only report such concerns internally to their employer.

In 2010, Congress passed Dodd-Frank, which, among other things: (1) provides for the payment of monetary awards to whistleblowers under certain circumstances whose tips to the SEC lead to the … Continue Reading

SEC takes action in respect of rogue Canadian ICO issuer

On December 1, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commenced a civil action in the U.S. District Court against PlexCorps (also known as PlexCoin and Sidepay.ca) and its principals, Dominic Lacroix and Sabrina Paradis-Royer, seeking civil remedies including injunctive relief, an order freezing all of the defendants’ assets and disgorgement.  The SEC alleges that the defendants marketed and sold securities called PlexCoin in violation of anti-fraud and registration provisions of U.S. securities law.  On December 4, 2017, the SEC obtained an order freezing the assets of PlexCorps, Lacroix and Paradis-Royer.  This case represents the SEC’s first fraud … Continue Reading

SEC action against hedge fund raises difficult questions for investment advisers

The SEC recently extracted a settlement from a hedge fund that raises difficult compliance-related questions for investment advisers. On August 21, 2017, Deerfield Management Company L.P. (“Deerfield”), a hedge fund and registered investment adviser, paid approximately $4.6 million to settle SEC charges that Deerfield failed to create and enforce policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent the misuse of material, nonpublic information in violation of Section 204A of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The allegations centered on confidential information that Deerfield analysts had obtained from a political intelligence firm. The SEC had previously charged certain of those analysts with … Continue Reading

Mitigating Securities Litigation Risk From Software Problems

Public companies can face significant securities litigation risk over defective algorithms, data errors and software glitches. As securities class action filings continue to increase across the board, plaintiffs lawyers have attacked numerous companies over stock price declines that occur after software problems are revealed. Recent court decisions denying dismissal in securities class actions against Fitbit and OSI Systems illustrate the risks that technology companies face when there is a gap between their public disclosures and the actual status of their software, including undisclosed defects in software algorithms. Short sellers have also targeted companies with negative investigatory “reports” over alleged software … Continue Reading

SEC ruling on The DAO signals increased acceptance of blockchain-based securities

On July 25, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a statement on the regulatory significance of offers and sales of digital assets carried out using distributed ledger or blockchain technology.  That statement followed the SEC’s Report of Investigation into The DAO, an unincorporated organization designed to issue tokens administered on a distributed ledger that would allow the holder to share in the anticipated earnings of the organization. The DAO and its structure drew a great deal of attention after a hacker stole approximately 1/3 of its assets.

The SEC’s investigation, as summarized in the Report of … Continue Reading

Only 61% of issuers address cyber security in their risk factor disclosure. Is your company one of them?

Earlier this year, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released the results of a review of the disclosure of 240 issuers in the S&P/TSX composite index on cyber security issues.  The review found that only 61% of issuers addressed cyber security in their risk factor disclosure, 20% of these issuers had identified a person or group responsible for cyber security, and “few” issuers disclosed that they had been subject to cyber-attacks but none disclosed these as material.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC)’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) also conducted a survey on … Continue Reading

LexBlog