In 2020, the SEC dedicated substantial resources to address the emerging threats presented by COVID-19 and the ensuing dynamic market conditions. From mid-March through the end of the fiscal year, the Division’s Office of Market Intelligence triaged approximately 16,000 tips, complaints, and referrals (a roughly 71% increase over the same time period in 2019), and the Division opened more than 150 COVID-related inquiries and investigations and recommended several COVID-related fraud actions to the Commission.
At the same time, across the enforcement division, there was focus on highlighting and learning about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Together, with their partners in the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion and the Office of the Chairman, the SEC facilitated many large and small group discussions across the country in an effort to educate and communicate openly around these issues.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the SEC still brought more than 700 enforcement cases during FY 2020. While the number of cases the Commission filed was fewer than 2019, the financial remedies ordered set a new high. Additionally, the number and amount of whistleblower awards exceeded prior years. Awards issued in 2020 accounted for roughly 37% of the total number of individuals awarded over the entire life of the whistleblower program.
Overall, the SEC brought 715 enforcement actions in FY 2020, 405 of which were standalone actions. Seventy-two percent of those standalone cases included charges against one or more individuals. In addition, the Commission obtained judgments and orders totaling approximately $4.68 billion in disgorgement and penalties – the highest amount on record.
As a result of its efforts, the SEC barred or suspended 477 wrongdoers and suspended trading in securities of 196 issuers. Additionally, the Division triaged approximately 23,650 tips, complaints, and referrals and opened 1,200 new inquiries and investigations. The Commission also distributed more than $600 million to harmed investors.
The numbers don’t lie: COVID-19 disruptions didn’t stop the SEC from enforcing regulations in 2020. Now more than ever, your firm must be proactive and innovative with its compliance strategies to stay ahead of risk in 2021 and beyond. Download our 2021 CCO Playbook to access the latest resources, and for an in-depth look at specific SEC enforcement actions in 2020, view the complete annual report, and read the SEC’s 2021 examination priorities here.