Improvements Needed Within the SEC’s Division of Enforcement

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The SEC’s Inspector General, H. David Kotz, released his most recent report: Program Improvements Needed Within the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.pdf-icon

The report is sort of a follow-up to the Madoff Report. The Office of the Inspector General conducted a review “to identify systemic issues that would prevent Enforcement from accomplishing its mission to enforce the securities laws and protect investors and determine from discussions with staff and supervisors which programmatic improvements are needed.”

The Inspector General’s 21 recommendations are:

  1. Establish formal guidance for evaluating various types of complaints (e.g., Ponzi schemes) and train appropriate staff on the use of the guidance. The guidance should address the necessary steps and key information required to be collected when conducting preliminary inquiries of various types of complaints, specify what information should be documented, and list whom should be consulted in other offices within the SEC with relevant expertise in various subject matters and other pertinent data.
  2. Ensure the SEC’s tip and complaint handling system provides for data capture of relevant information relating to the vetting process to document why a complaint was or was not acted upon and who made that determination.
  3. Require tips and complaints to be reviewed by at least two individuals experienced in the subject matter prior to deciding not to take further action.
  4. Establish guidance to require that all complaints that appear on the surface to be credible and compelling be probed further by in-depth interviews with the sources to assess the complaints validity and to determine what issues need to be investigated. Such guidance should also require that staff obtain all relevant documentation related to such complaints.
  5. Provide training to staff to ensure they are aware of the guidelines contained in Section 3.2.5 of the Enforcement Manual and Title 17 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 202.10 for obtaining information from media sources.
  6. Annually review and test the effectiveness of its policies and procedures with regard to its new tip and complaint handling system. Enforcement should also modify these policies and procedures, where needed, to ensure adherence and adequacy.
  7. Put in place procedures to ensure that investigations are assigned to teams where at least one individual on the team has specific and sufficient knowledge of the subject matter (e.g. Ponzi schemes) and the team has access to at least one additional individual who also has such expertise or knowledge.
  8. Train staff on what resources and information is available from the national specialized units and when and how assistance from these units should be requested.
  9. Make it mandatory that planning memoranda be prepared during an investigation and that the plan includes a section identifying what type of expertise or assistance is needed from others within and outside the Commission. The plan should also be reviewed and approved by senior Enforcement personnel.
  10. Require that after the planning memorandum is drafted, it is circulated to all team members assigned to the investigation, and all team members then should meet to discuss the investigation approach, methodology and any concerns team members wish to raise.
  11. Establish procedures so that junior-level Enforcement attorneys who are having difficulty with obtaining timely assistance from outside offices are able to escalate their concerns to senior-level management within Enforcement.
  12. Conduct periodic internal reviews of any newly implemented policies and procedures related to information sharing with Divisions and Offices outside of Enforcement to ensure they are operating efficiently and effectively and necessary changes are made.
  13. Require that the planning memorandum and associated scope, methodology and timeframes be routinely reviewed by an investigator’s immediate supervisor to ensure investigations remain on track and determine whether adjustments in scope, etc. are necessary.
  14. Ensure that sufficient resources, both supervisory and support, are dedicated to investigations upfront to provide for adequate and thorough supervision of cases and effective handling of the investigations.
  15. Put in place policies and procedures or training mechanisms to ensure staff have an understanding of what types of information should be validated during investigations with independent parties such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Depository Trust Company, and Chicago Board Options Exchange.
  16. Include in its complaint handling guidance proper procedures for ensuring complaints received even if an investigation is pending closure, are properly vetted.
  17. Conduct periodic internal reviews to ensure that MUIs are opened in accordance with any newly developed Commission guidance and examine ways to streamline the case closing process. Enforcement should also ensure staff have adequate time in which to complete these types of administrative tasks.
  18. Put in place a process to periodically remind staff of their responsibilities regarding impartiality in the performance of official duties and instruct staff where they can find additional information regarding impartiality.
  19. Establish or utilize an existing working group to analyze the OIG survey information regarding staff concerns over communication of program priorities and make recommended improvements to the Director of Enforcement.
  20. Establish or utilize an existing working group to analyze the OIG survey information regarding staff concerns regarding case handling procedures within Enforcement and make recommended improvements to the Director of Enforcement.
  21. Establish or utilize an existing working group to analyze the OIG survey information regarding staff concerns over working relationships within Enforcement and make recommended improvements to the Director of Enforcement.

Robert Khuzami, Director of Enforcement, responded to the Inspector General’s report (The response is in Appendix IV of the report.) and concurred with all 21 recommendations.

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