The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations has published an letter to CEOs of SEC Registered Firms about the importance of compliance programs during this time of “financial and market turmoil.”
December 2, 2008
Dear CEO of SEC-Registered Firm:
During this time of financial and market turmoil, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations of the Securities and Exchange Commission reminds leaders of SEC-registered firms, including broker-dealers, investment advisers, investment companies and transfer agents, of the critical role played by your firm’s compliance programs in helping to meet your obligations under the securities laws. Your firm’s compliance function is critical to assure that your operations comply with the law and rules for industry participation and to ensure that the interests of your customers, clients and shareholders are protected. Moreover, compliance is a vital control function that helps to protect the firm from conduct that could negatively impact the firm’s business and its reputation.
While many firms are considering reductions and cost-cutting measures, we remind you of your firm’s legal obligation to maintain an adequate compliance program reasonably designed to achieve compliance with the law. As SEC Chairman Cox noted recently, “[E]xperience has taught us again and again that giving short shrift to regulatory compliance subjects a company’s investors, employees, management, directors, and every other stakeholder to unacceptable risks….[C]ompliance programs have made huge strides in recent years in becoming more formalized and more robust…. Now more than ever, companies need to take a long-term view on compliance and realize that their fiduciary responsibility requires a constant commitment to investors. That means sustaining their support for compliance during this market turmoil, and beyond it as well.” http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2008/spch111308cc.htm
Firms must be vigilant and proactive in preventing, detecting and correcting problems that could occur. Firms should pay attention to ensuring that their interactions with investors meet high standards, that sales and trading practices are appropriate, that financial, valuation and risk controls are followed, and that all disclosure obligations are met — as well as meeting all other obligations in conformity with the securities laws.
By fulfilling their obligations, regulated firms in the financial services industry can help to restore and bolster public confidence in the fairness and integrity of our markets and market participants. Providing adequate resources to compliance programs and functions and ensuring that CCOs and compliance personnel are integrated into the activities of the firm are essential to that process.
Thank you for your focus on this important matter.
Very truly yours,
Lori A. Richards