SEC's Insider Trading Focus Provides Insight Into Enforcement Priorities
In just the last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued at least 36 subpoenas to brokerage houses and hedge funds as the agency continues to make it clear that it means business when it comes to insider trading. Last month, federal authorities arrested 20 individuals connected with the now defunct Galleon Group.
It isn’t an overstatement to say that federal authorities have embarked on a new era of insider trading investigations and prosecutions – and taken on targets (i.e. hedge funds) that heretofore were not on the Commission’s radar screen with respect to insider trading matters.
As the SEC and Department of Justice (DOJ) ramp up their investigations to potentially include brokers that executed some of the suspect trades, it is increasingly apparent such vigorous – and new – actions continue to serve as a centerpiece of the federal government’s efforts to restore confidence in the markets.
Considered in concert with other actions the Commission has taken this year, it is clear that the Enforcement Division has expanded its field of focus beyond just the equities markets to include previously under regulated areas of the marketplace. This is no surprise, given that Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami promised back in August that those who seek to harm investors would be sought and punished. Indeed, he has telegraphed the new enforcement philosophy and enforcement priorities.
At a time of high unemployment and persistent anger towards Corporate America in general, and the financial services industry in particular, the SEC will continue its aggressive policing of the markets and protection of investors. That individual investors know the government “is on their side” is a powerful message that will be sent again and again.
Today’s corporate leaders would be wise to follow Lloyd Blankfein’s approach at Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon’s at J.P. Morgan. The regulators are coming. One might as well meet them at least halfway – if not all the way. By implementing new approaches before being forced to do so, the private sector can ensure that the credit for leading in this era of reform is not the public sector’s alone.
Michael W. Robinson is Senior Vice President and Chair of the Corporate Practice at Levick Strategic Communications, the nation's top crisis communications firm, and a contributing author to Bulletproof Blog. Connect with Levick on Twitter: @Levick.