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SEC Releases FY2018 Enforcement Report as Data is Scrutinized

A lengthy report in the New York Times scrutinized the SEC’s Division of Enforcement’s record during the Trump Administration. The report, which analyzed enforcement actions initiated from May 18, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2018, found that both the number of enforcement actions and the amount of penalties charged to large corporations had fallen during the Trump Administration. SEC enforcement leaders criticized the methodology supporting the New York Times’ conclusions as “deeply flawed.”In a speech before the New York Times story was published, Enforcement Chief Stephanie Avakian said the enforcement program should be measured by its impact and not necessarily by the number of actions brought. The report was released before the Division of Enforcement published its FY18 Annual Report, showing that in 2018 the SEC brought 821 enforcement actions, up from 754 in 2017. In 2016, enforcement actions totaled 868. The SEC assessed $3.945 billion in disgorgement and penalties in 2018 compared to $3.7 billion in 2017. Commissioner Hester Peirce in a speech also appeared to address criticism of the SEC’s enforcement statistics.  “People outside of the Commission who are pushing us to meet numerical and penalty targets are unwittingly distracting us from protecting investors and the markets,” Peirce said.