Reasons Why the SEC Wants to Regulate Political Contributions


The SEC has proposed a New Rule on Political Contributions by Certain Investment Advisers to prevent advisers from participating in pay to play practices affecting the management of public pension plans. They had proposed a similar rule in 1999. Many of the comments to that rule said that pay to play was not a problem in the management of public funds.

Now, the SEC thinks that pay to play is a significant problem in the management of public funds by investment advisers. In recent years, the SEC and criminal authorities have brought a number of actions charging investment advisers with participating in pay to play schemes. Here are some of the incidents they cite in the proposed pay to play rule.


  • The SEC brought a case against the mayor of Birmingham and other defendants, alleging that while the mayor served as president of the County Commission of Jefferson County, he accepted undisclosed cash and benefits through a lobbyist as a conduit from the chairman of a Montgomery, Alabama-based broker-dealer, in return for awarding municipal bond business and swap transactions to the broker-dealer. See SEC v. Larry P. Langford et al., Litigation Release No. 20545 (Apr. 30, 2008).



  • Paul J. Silvester, the former Treasurer of the State of Connecticut, agreed to invest $200 million of state pension funds in return for the investment adviser providing consulting contracts valued at approximately $1 million each to two of his friends.SEC v. Paul J. Silvester et al., Litigation Release No. 16759 (Oct. 10, 2000); Litigation Release No. 20027 (Mar. 2, 2007); Litigation Release No. 19583 (Mar. 1, 2006); Litigation Release No. 18461 (Nov. 17, 2003); Litigation Release No. 16834 (Dec. 19, 2000);
  • Sanctions against William A. DiBella, the former Majority Leader of the Connecticut State Senate, and his consulting firm, North Cove Ventures, L.L.C. for their roles in aiding and abetting then Treasurer of the State of Connecticut, Paul J. Silvester in a fraudulent investment scheme.SEC v. William A. DiBella et al., Litigation Release No. 20498 (Mar. 14, 2008). See also
  • A judgment against Ben F. Andrews, Jr. in connection with a fraudulent scheme involving the investment of Connecticut state pension fund money. U.S.. v. Ben F. Andrews, Litigation Release No. 19566 (Feb. 15, 2006);
  • In November 1998, the then-Connecticut Treasurer invested $75 million of the Connecticut state pension fund with Thayer IV. In connection with this investment, Thayer, through Malek, agreed to hire a consultant at the Treasurer’s request. This consultant, who was paid nearly $375,000 by TC Management IV, had no previous involvement with the proposed investment and ultimately performed no meaningful work on the deal. In the Matter of Thayer Capital Partners, TC Equity Partners IV, L.L.C., TC Management Partners IV, L.L.C., and Frederick V. Malek, Investment Advisers Act Release No. 2276 (Aug. 12, 2004);
  • The principal of an investment adviser provided $2 million in consulting contracts to associates of the Connecticut State Treasurer to secure the decision to invest $200 million in state pension funds in his funds. In the Matter of Frederick W. McCarthy, Investment Advisers Act Release No. 2218 (Mar. 5, 2004);
  • An aide to the Connecticut State Treasurer received a $1 million consulting contract from an investment adviser with whom the Treasurer had invested $200 million in Connecticut state pension funds. In the Matter of Lisa A. Thiesfield, Investment Advisers Act Release No. 2186 (Oct. 29, 2003).
  • The indictment of the former mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in connection with his conviction for, among other things, requiring payment from an investment adviser in return for city business. U.S. v. Joseph P. Ganim, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 29367 (2d Cir. 2007)


  • A partner at Lazard Freres & Co. was found liable for conspiracy and wire fraud for fraudulently paying $40,000 through an intermediary to Fulton County’s independent financial adviser to secure an assurance that Lazard would be selected for the Fulton County underwriting contract. United States v. Poirier, 321 F.3d 1024 (11th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom., deVegter v. United States, 540 U.S. 874 (2003)


  • A broker-dealer, two of its officers and a city official were involved in a scheme to defraud the City of Atlanta in connection with the purchase and sale of certain securities while providing substantial, undisclosed monetary benefits to the city’s investment officer who was authorized to select a broker-dealer for the transactions. See In the Matter of Pryor, McClendon, Counts & Co., Inc. et al., Securities Act Release No. 7673 (Apr. 29, 1999); Securities Act Release No. 8062 (Feb. 6, 2002); Exchange Act Release No. 48095 (June 26, 2003); Securities Act Release No. 8245 (June 26, 2003); Securities Act Release No. 8246 (June 26, 2003).


New Mexico

  • An investment adviser was barred from association with any broker, dealer or investment adviser for paying kickbacks to the Treasurer of the State of New Mexico. In the Matter of Kent D. Nelson, Investment Advisers Act Release No. 2765 (Aug. 1, 2008);  I
  • Conviction of the former treasurer of New Mexico for requiring that a friend be hired by an investment manager in return for accepting a proposal from the manager for government business.
  • Conviction for attempted extortion of the former treasurer of New Mexico’s successor for requiring that a friend be hired by an investment manager at a high salary in return for the former treasurer’s willingness to accept a proposal from the manager for government businessU.S. v. Vigil, 523 F. 3d 1258 (10th Cir. 2008)

New York

  • The deputy comptroller and a “placement agent” engaged in corruption and securities fraud for selling access to management of public funds in return for kickbacks and other payments for personal and political gain. SEC v. Henry Morris, et al, Litigation Release No. 21036 (May 12, 2009).

North Carolina

  • Alleged pay to play activities involving North Carolina’s state treasurer. Moore Defends Pension System, by Rick Rothacker & David Ingram for the Charlotte Observer (Feb. 25, 2007) (discussing )


  • Reginald Fields, Four More Convicted in Pension Case: Ex-Board Members Took Gifts from Firm, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER (Sept. 20, 2006) (addressing pay to play activities of members of the Ohio Teachers Retirement System).


That is a big list of bad behavior is short period of time.

Maybe the SEC has a point.

Although I am not sure if the proposed SEC rule will stop it.

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